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Workshops help older adults start businesses

San Juan College Enterprise Center receives $16,000 grant to implement AARP Foundation's Work for Yourself@50+ program

Leigh Black Irvin
lirvin@daily-times.com
Judy Castleberry, director of San Juan College's Enterprise Center, works on Nov. 22 at her office in Farmington. Through a grant from the AARP Foundation, the Enterprise Center will offer a program called Work for Yourself@50+, which is aimed at helping adults 50 and older succeed in launching their own businesses or starting a new career.
  • San Juan College was among 17 grant recipients nationwide that received funds to offer the Work for Yourself@50 program.
  • The program aims to help low- and moderate-income adults 50 and older succeed in starting small businesses.
  • Starting next month, four workshops will be offered monthly at various locations in San Juan County.
  • The program also offers participants free classes after the end of the workshops, as well as referrals for other assistance.

FARMINGTON — A growing number of people over the age of 50 are switching employment directions or re-entering the workforce after retirement, whether for economic or social reasons.

Many of these adults look at starting their own businesses, and grant from the AARP Foundation aims to help them succeed.

The foundation awarded San Juan College's Enterprise Center a $16,372 grant to help low- and moderate-income adults 50 and older find success in self-employment through a program called Work for Yourself@50+. The college was among 17 grant recipients nationwide.

The grant will fund four two-hour workshops in December through March at various locations in San Juan County.

Judy Castleberry, director of the Enterprise Center, said baby boomers — those born in the years right after World War II  — outnumber millenials when it comes to starting businesses. She said about half of new business owners are adults over age 50 who have worked several different careers.

"I think it’s a myth that 22-year-olds are the ones starting most of the businesses," she said. "Most don’t have the resources and many of them are fighting debt. People who are over 50 may have a little less debt, they’ve worked for someone else and they say, 'I can do that myself.' These are people who’ve hit the time in their life where they’re ready to do something different."

Castleberry said the Work for Yourself@50+ workshops will allow participants to explore options, find a focus, make a plan and connect with resources in the community to help them start a new business or a new career.

"I also like that they warn about fraudulent businesses that some people can be scammed into," Castleberry said.

Judy Castleberry, director of San Juan College's Enterprise Center, poses for a photo on Nov. 22 at the center in Farmington. Through a grant from the AARP Foundation, the center will offer a program called Work for Yourself@50+, which is aimed at helping adults 50 and older succeed in launching their own businesses or starting a new career.

Support doesn’t end after participants complete the workshop. Those who take the workshop will also be provided two referrals for other assistance or sources of information that might help them reach their goals.

Post-workshop classes on topics like Microsoft Excel will also be offered for free under the program.

"We also wanted to make it kind of a networking thing, and we will see if they might want to form a networking group and keep meeting monthly. I think there’s value in people supporting each other," Castleberry said.

The Enterprise Center is looking for people who are engaged in arts or crafts hobbies they want to move beyond the craft show-level, as well as those who want to channel their expertise into becoming consultants.

Farmington resident Art Allison operates a his business, 5 Star Security, out of the Enterprise Center, which helps "incubate" small businesses by allowing them to operate at the center while providing them resources to get off the ground.

Allison’s company, which he founded in 1986, provided security services to various facilities on the Navajo Nation until 2011.

That's when Gov. Susana Martinez appointed him to serve as the state's Secretary for Indian Affairs, and his business faltered.

Allison, who is in his late 60s, is now trying to get the business going again. He said he plans to attend the Work for Yourself@50+ workshop to get ideas on how to proceed.

"I’m hoping to eventually go nationwide, and I need a program like this in order to get me started again with a business plan, find out what resources are available, etc.," he said.

Allison said many baby boomer Native Americans, like himself, worked to develop tribal enterprises. And although they were well paid, retirement benefits were not an option at that time, he said.

"I think for many of us over 50, it’s a good time to get into a small business because most of us have 40 years or so still to work. It’s a good time to build a business and at the same time build a retirement," Allison said. "I feel like I still have a lot of energy. I saw my grandfathers ranching until their late 90s, and hopefully those genes are also in me to have that kind of longevity."

Leigh Black Irvin is the business editor for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4621. 

Workshop information

  • 9 to 11 a.m. Dec. 1 at Farmington Museum, 3041 E. Main St.
  • 2 to 4 p.m. Jan. 18 at San Juan College West, 69 County Road 6500 in Kirtland
  • 2 to 4 p.m. Feb. 15 at Aztec HUB, 119 E. Chuska St.
  • 2 to 4 p.m. March 16 at Bloomfield Multicultural Center, 333 S. First St.

To register, call 505-566-3699 or email castleberryj@sanjuancollege.edu. Pre-registration is not required.