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Older entrepreneurs on the rise

6th March 2019

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Start-up culture always seems to focus on the millennials or younger generations with their side hustles, Ted Talks and Instagram empires. Yet there is a growing number of “oldertrepreneurs” in their 50s, 60s and beyond who have an equal amount of energy and motivation to launch a business.

A survey from the Institute of Directors, for example, found that 53% of their members identified as entrepreneurs and 67% of members were over 50. Separate research shows that the number of people older than 55 who own a business jumped by 63% in 10 years to 2017.

Being older might bring unique challenges to finding business success – ageism and caring responsibilities, for example – but life experience and determination are not to be underestimated when it comes to business success. In fact, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that older entrepreneurs see more professional success than their younger counterparts, due to factors like industry experience and financial security.

One success story is Tim Latham, who worked in the corporate world and the RAF before founding Unretired, a business which prepares employees for retirement, last year at age 59.

“I once attended a ‘survival programme’ aimed at corporate partners who were working in a high stress environment – they were keeling over with heart attacks and getting divorced,” he says. “As I moved into my late 50s, I wondered, was there anything of that quality and rigour for employees as they approach retirement?”

Tim smiles in a suit
Tim Latham, founder of Unretired

Tim sells his concept to large city firms, with a half-day class at £4,900 and a two-day course at £9,900, incorporating experts in areas such as yoga and nutrition. He believes that entrepreneurs, especially older ones, are not always as driven by the idea of money, but rather an idea they believe in. He practices what he preaches by eating well, getting good sleep and doing regular exercise.

“Unless you’re working on something you’re passionate and excited about, it might be easier to get blown off course and give up when things get sticky,” he believes.

Tim also puts an emphasis on interpersonal skills and using your networks for business success.

“Networks are very important at any time but if you’re starting a venture later, there’s a time compression element here – years go by faster,” he says. “In your 50s and 60s, you want to get your idea off the ground. The more traditional forms of marketing and advertising are important, sure, but almost inevitably the people you have met along the way will help you in some way and accelerate that progress.”

Deborah stands in a high street in a fashionable outfit.
Deborah Mills, founder of Cab For Mrs Mutton

Another entrepreneur who advocates leveraging your network is Deborah Mills, the founder of blog, fashion consulting and events initiative, Cab For Mrs Mutton. She started the business seven years ago, in her early 50s, after a long and successful career in advertising.

“Don’t be frightened to ask people for help, as otherwise it can be lonely and intimidating,” Deborah says. “Use your networks. My idea of hell was to organize and host large events, but I have friends who are happy to do it. A small business should be like a corner shop – it needs to get everyone involved to work.”

And it’s not just the twenty-somethings becoming style influencers on Instagram. Deborah has embraced the platform to show off her style and advertise personal shopping services, which can cost a few hundred pounds for an afternoon.

“It started off as a blog which I just put out there, and over time I built up a list of subscribers and added features like the style advice. Not everyone wants to read blogs these days – they want Instagrammable content.”

Deborah believes that one of the biggest problems is getting your name out there, so advised ordering business cards and being “shameless” in handing them out to everyone you meet.

“My advice is to still just go for it and see what happens – whenever you do something new it’s unlikely you will be the only one doing it. Other people do it in their own way.”

Angela Spencer, an entrepreneur and regional director of the Athena Networking group, agreed that other business people should help each other, rather than compete and bring each other down.

Angela smiles in a grey top
Angela Spencer, entrepreneur and regional director of the Athena Networking group

At 46, she has launched several businesses, including a multi-million pound nursery group which she sold in 2018, and a company called Babyopathy to help young children and parents focus on their wellbeing via music therapy, aromatherapy, and nutrition. She is also writing a second book about baby wellness. Angela is busier than ever, and she has two children and an eight-month-old grandchild living at home.

“I see that working mums and grandmothers feel very guilty – and they shouldn’t. I’ve always said to my mums at nursery and through Babyopathy that quality time is better than quantity,” she says.

“It is also about being disciplined, so you can switch off and have that quality time for yourself and for your kids. Mealtimes are great for that,” she adds. “I’d say that 10 minutes of meditation or walking in nature can have the same or better effect than a day at the spa. Not that I’d say no to a day in the spa!”

Angela's latest venture is Cannabeenz, small chocolate beans infused with Cannabidiol (CBD), a legal compound found in cannabis, launching this month. She discovered that Cannabidiol was effective in reducing her back pain, but competing products out there had too much chocolate for someone who wanted to consume it every day.

Again, her network came in handy, as she paired up with her sister, Tina, and a chef called Paul Jones.

“I was making it for years for my family and friends,” she says. “I did it in chocolate as the natural taste is vile. I was making this product in my downtime from my other businesses, and this turned out to be another venture in itself.”

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