Commercial success is, by no means, the exclusive privilege of the young. Ang Lee was a house husband until he became a director at 31, Ray Kroc sold paper cups before founding McDonald’s at 52 and Vera Wang reached forty before she became a designer.
These stories aren’t simply tasty, bitesize biography fodder; they hold a valuable message. Your lightning bolt of inspiration can strike at any time in your life - and we really mean any time, even once you’ve retired and believe that your days in the business world are over.
Older entrepreneurs are taking the British business scene by storm, and they don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon - the level of self-employment in the over 50s age group has crept up to one fifth in recent years, according to age support charity group Age UK - a lot higher than the self-employment rate across all other age bands.
That’s not all. 70% of ‘olderpreneur’ businesses survive past the first five years, as opposed to the 28% of small businesses begun by the young - an inspiring success rate which is plausibly a little to account for the rising percentage of elderly people participating in entrepreneurial activity - a figure which reached 7.1% last year, the highest recorded rate so far.
There’s a lot of reasons as to why innovative OAPs might be donning their black suits and ties again - including low interest rates, the end of final-salary pensions, earlier retirement and the desire to reinvent themselves - inspirations that could, potentially, add billions to the UK economy in coming years, particularly when we consider our dramatically ageing population.
With a predicted 23% of the UK population to be comprised by those over 60 by 2030 - a 250% increase - several OAPs are looking forward to many more decades in good health, so it’s not really any wonder that they’re beginning to dip their toes back into the entrepreneurial sea.
So what gives these ‘olderpreneurs’ the business edge over savvy young startups?
Margaret Manning, founder of women’s over-60s news and advice site, Sixty and Me, believes older entrepreneurs have an all-important ‘edge’ in business due to having greater empathy and a wider perspective than some of the younger business bosses out there.
The elderly have raised families, ‘navigated the corporate jungle’ and seen the world, so (theoretically) find it easier to connect with potential partners and other helpful connections in a genuine and knowledgeable manner.
The elderly also seem to have benefits beyond possessing a lifetime of business experience - at their older age, they have different experiences to base their new business ventures on, and can appeal to a wider demographic (both old and young).
Paul Murray launched his HR consultancy in 2012, at age 63, after learning how little he would actually receive from his pension pot - inspiration that perhaps would not have struck a younger entrepreneur, with no experience of the dilemma. Similarly, Benjamin Franklin was seventy-six when he invented Bifocals. Innovation has no age-limit.
Keep your costs low, leverage your networks, partner with somebody if you need that helping hand and, ultimately, don’t be discouraged by your age if you want your business to be a success: if the passion for your business is there, there’s every possibility that you can achieve great things with it.
Grandparents across the nation no longer need to adopt the ‘in my day’ adage - this is your day, and it’s looking mighty positive.