‘Age ain’t nothing but a number’, crooned Aaliyah, in her track of the same name. Lyrics that became suddenly apt when we discovered an impressive statistic about ‘olderpreneurs’; enterprising individuals aged over 50 building successful businesses. Find out what that statistic is and meet some of the people who turned to entrepreneurship later in life:
In a survey conducted by O2 Business it was found that a quarter of all over 55 year olds surveyed have aspirations to be an ‘olderpreneur’ saying they would love to become their own boss. Over the past two decades, the number of people working beyond state pension age nearly doubled from 753,000 in 2003, to 1.4 million in 2011. Better health in older age groups means that senior entrepreneurship is being seen as a much more viable option – while changes to state pension and incapacity benefits have made it a life-changing move for some. But whatever the reason, the numbers of senior entrepreneurs is at an all-time high, with success rates rocketing too. Consider this: around 70% of businesses started by silver entrepreneurs last longer than three years. As statistics go that isn’t half bad – but when you learn that only 28% of new businesses set up by their younger counterparts do as well, you’ll probably start to wonder what the big silver secrets are.
We know we did – which is why we’ve asked three inspiring olderpreneurs to take us through their journey to small business success, and gleaned some essential small business tips that you can use in your own ventures.
Anne Williams: Linchpin PA
Linchpin PA is a virtual office support service based in the north of England that saves small businesses the cost of employing extra staff.
“It’s been fantastic,” said Anne, reflecting on her journey to date: “I wouldn’t change anything for the world”.
“I was made redundant at 50”, Anne told us. “I wasn’t getting any interviews so I started thinking about starting my own business. I did some research, discovered the Virtual Assistant business – and it was a no brainer for me.”
Anne’s advice: “It’s worth thinking about drafting in a professional help for areas you’re not savvy in – especially for IT,” she says. “That’s been my biggest challenge to date. When you’re working for other companies, you have someone looking after things for you, but when you’re responsible for keeping websites running and more, it pays to have professional help.”
Tony Palmer: Crystal Mountain Glass
Crystal Mountain Glass is a glass engraving business carrying out bespoke and commercial orders, as well as offering a range of glass and crystal products.
“I’d been employed all my life, but I became unwell when I was 50, and by 52, I had been diagnosed with M.E.,” Tony tells us. Thanks to his sickness rates, he couldn’t survive redundancy.
“I went to the job centre and told them my situation, but given my age and health they basically shook their heads,” he recalls. “I sat down with my wife and went through all my work and interests to date. Glass engraving kept coming up. I cashed in my pension and set up Crystal Mountain Glass. While I won’t say it’s made me a millionaire, it’s going well!”
Tony’s advice: “Get as much information as you can to help you make informed choices,” he says. He received support from the Prince’s Trust’s PRIME organisation (The Prince’s Initiative for Mature Enterprise), which gave him information about the requirements of setting up a business in addition to supporting him with media coverage. “They pointed me in the direction of free courses in areas such as bookkeeping, which was invaluable as I’d never done that sort of thing before. Just don’t be afraid to ask if you don’t know.”
Pandora Brown: Panda Berry Restaurant
Panda Berry is a London-based restaurant specialising in Caribbean cuisine, that also runs as a travelling catering business serving at events and festivals all over the country.
“Why did I set up business? I was working as a nurse, was getting tired, and wanted something for myself and for my grandchildren,” Pandora tells us in a brief hiatus during her lunchtime rush.
Unlike Anne and Tony, Pandora had already run businesses before. “I had shops back home in Jamaica selling clothes, so when it came to setting up Panda Berry, I knew what I was doing. Having said that, the biggest challenge is how tiring it is running your own business!”
In the future, Pandora is hoping to expand to bigger premises in more central locations in London.
But was she daunted by the prospect of beginning her business in the first place?
“No! I love my life. It’s later on, but I’m only 60, I’m still young. If I push for another 10 years, it shall all be well.”
Pandora’s advice: “You have to give it 110%. But anything is possible with hard work. It’s really important to do your research into whatever your trade is, so that you’ll be as prepared as possible.”