During the economic downturn, franchises became a haven for successful executives and managers in their 30s and 40s who were out of work yet highly skilled and looking for independence. However, this is not the only demographic that has increasingly turned to franchises as a relatively secure and financially successful small business opportunity.

Baby Boomers in their 50s and 60s are investing in franchise opportunities more and more. In fact, at the West Coast Franchise Expo in November, 27 percent of attendees were 51 or older, compared to 22.5 percent in 2008, Jim Mastandrea, the show director for MFV Expositions, which produces franchise expo events, told MarketWatch. Furthermore, at a similar event on the East Coast, the number of 50-plus attendees jumped from 21.5 percent to 24 percent, Mastandrea adds.

The recent spike in franchise ownership among Baby Boomers has increased concurrently with other employment trends for this generation, including a desire or need to work longer, being removed from the work force - possibly as a result of downsizing - and their own unique qualifications.

While becoming an entrepreneur at a young age may be one of the hottest new trends, Baby Boomers have a wealth of experience, knowledge and credit that their younger counterparts often lack. Consider a report the source cites from Experian that shows individuals aged 50-59, on average, have a credit score 43 points higher than people in their 30s, making being approved for loans or other types of financing much easier.

But what can a franchise do for Baby Boomers? To begin with, most experts acknowledge that franchises are less risky than, say, owning a sole proprietorship. Since franchises come furnished with an already-recognizable brand name and proven successful marketing campaign, they are generally believed to be less likely to fail than an independent small business.

However, if Baby Boomers are looking for a laid-back career or new business, a franchise may not be the correct choice. Despite having numerous support networks and venues to access help, opening a franchise unit is in some ways similar to launching a business from the ground up - franchisees must solicit new clients, obtain financing, hire employees and purchase equipment, the source notes.

Additionally, Baby Boomers are affecting franchise opportunities as consumers as well. Regardless of their ages, franchisees will need to learn how to sell to this population and may even want to take advantage of niche markets such as money management and nursing homes that will balloon in size with this large demographic.

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