TechTown’s Charlton Wins $100K Purpose Prize

Randal Charlton, who recently announced he’s stepping down as TechTown’s executive director to lead a program aimed at assisting baby boomers who want to become entrepreneurs, has just been awarded the 2011 Purpose Prize. This annual $100,000 award honors social entrepreneurs over 60 who use their experience and passion to effectively address societal challenges. Charlton was one of five winners nationally.

“I am humbled and honored to have been selected to receive the Purpose Prize award, which I owe to the entrepreneurial spirit of the people of Detroit and the team I have worked with at TechTown,” Charlton said in a press release. Before leading TechTown, Charlton was instrumental in starting 14 companies. During his tenure at TechTown, the incubator was transformed from a nearly empty industrial building into a thriving entrepreneurial hub that supports more than 250 companies, having trained more than 2,200 entrepreneurs.

On Tuesday, Charlton transitioned to his new role as executive in residence for BOOM! The New Economy, a TechTown-affiliated venture that offers training, one-on-one mentoring, and internships to people over 50 exploring second careers as entrepreneurs.

According to new research released by Civic Ventures, a San Francisco-based think tank devoted to boomers, work, and social purpose, approximately 25 million people—one in four Americans ages 44-70—are interested in starting businesses or nonprofit ventures in the next five to 10 years. The research, which was funded by the MetLife Foundation, also found that compared to aspiring entrepreneurs in this age group without a social mission, these potential “encore” entrepreneurs are more likely to be women, African American, involved in their communities, and motivated by faith. Older entrepreneurs also start businesses with a more local, regional, or state focus (67 percent) as opposed to national or international, and two out of three report they need $50,000 or less to get started.

“In a sea of bad economic news, it’s heartening that millions of people with experience want to take matters in their own hands and launch their own ventures to meet social needs in their communities,” said Marc Freedman, founder and CEO of Civic Ventures and author of “The Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage Beyond Midlife.”

To read the entrepreneurial success stories of Randal Charlton and rest of the 2011 Purpose Prize winners, click here.

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