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An entrepreneur at any age

Diane Hall


Portrait of happy old businessman using tablet

A free, eight-week online course for seniors was launched recently by an entrepreneur in Dorset. Aimed at the over-50s, the initiative helps participants to start their own business.

Suzanne Noble, 60, feels that the pandemic has not just hit those starting their careers, but those nearing the end of their working life, too. Statistics show that one in four furloughed workers were over 50, and though age discrimination is unlawful, proving you’ve been discriminated against because of your age is difficult. Some people in this age bracket, who may still have ten to fifteen working years left in their careers, are finding it difficult to get back into the workplace following redundancy or a period of ill-health.

5.5 million businesses were launched in 2021 alone. Small enterprises make up more than 99% of all commerce in the UK and they’re responsible for employing three-fifths of the entire UK workforce.

The flexibility of working for yourself is certainly an attractive proposition if employers aren’t giving you a chance. You can also dial your own business up or down to help you cope with any long-term health issues, and some people enjoy a sense of security when in control of their own future.

Whether you’re 60 or 16, however, a successful business largely stems from the product/service it sells, just as much as the person behind the tiller, so to speak. There must be a viable market for said product; the trick then is to get that product under the noses of the customers who are likely to buy it, and this is where things can go awry without guidance from people like Suzanne.

Depending on the industry/sector they worked in during their career, it’s quite possible that those on Suzanne’s course may not have any experience of marketing a product/service. Alternatively, they may have sat on an idea for a business for many years but not had the confidence or impetus to launch their enterprise whilst working. It may also be that self-employment becomes an attractive solution after all other doors have closed for them.

Older woman looking at camera in living room with laptop

Older woman looking at camera in living room with laptop

Suzanne’s support includes digital skills and incorporating such as social media in new businesses’ marketing initiatives. Though some older people are infrequent users of the internet, they will undoubtedly bring plenty of other skills to an enterprise—and, after all, ICT skills/digital literacy can be taught. For example, older entrepreneurs:

  • Wil have lived through various trends and watched them come and go; they will have experience of what works and what doesn’t

  • Will be able to talk to people of all ages

  • Understand budgeting and financial planning

  • Will be less likely to sweat the small stuff

  • May have a large network of friends, family and contacts

  • Are unlikely to feel the need to prove themselves

  • Will be more likely to launch a social enterprise/give back to the community

  • Will likely focus on one idea and develop it thoroughly, as opposed to chasing every opportunity that presents itself

  • Are less likely to feel overwhelmed balancing work life and home life

I’ve read a few stories of people who retired from their job at 65 but who then found themselves at a loss of what to do with all their spare time. Not everyone wants to play endless rounds of golf and not everyone has the financial means to travel the world when they put their working life behind them. Retirement can seem like a long, meaningless stretch without a focus, and this has seen some retirees enjoy a new lease of life through entrepreneurship. Some older entrepreneurs, whilst they undoubtedly enjoy topping-up their pension provision, aren’t in it for the money—having a reason to get up each day is the real motivation behind their businesses.

Given how many small businesses exist, it’s clear that they form the backbone of the UK. It’s better for all of us if those enterprises are run by people of all ages, as this diversity trickles down into the products and services offered to us consumers.

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