Women in their 50s are the fastest growing group of new businesses in the UK. There are good and some not so good reasons for that. But whatever your reason for taking the entrepreneurial leap in your 50s you have some fantastic advantages.
Just a few of the following list – of 10 reasons to start a business when you’re over 50 – will help propel your business. And if you can think of any more, please share them in the comments at the end of the article!
1. Freedom to be yourself
Reaching 50 may be the first time in your life that you have the freedom, from other people’s expectations, to really be yourself.
“I feel like there was new freedom to pursue my dreams when I turned 50. No worry about balance, no worry about people liking me or not, in fact at 50 I seem to take on more risk than ever in my life. I love this phase of my life and business,” says Hazel M Walker, who runs her own coaching and networking company ‘She Said’.
2. Experience to build on
You have been there, done it and probably have the t-shirt. From half a lifetime of work and learning to manage all types of people and situations – making mistakes and growing from them – and yes, lots and lots of great achievements – you are now in a position to make all that wisdom start to work for you.
Sue Grogan of Joined-up Working says: “I’m now 54 and am running my own small consultancy. I think if I’d tried this when I was younger I would have given up due to all the obstacles – wisdom does come with age and knowing what makes people tick.”
3. Energy and Zest
Postmenopausal women often have a new surge of energy. Anthropologist Margaret Mead called it ‘postmenopausal zest.’ It inspired her to personally challenge the view of older women as being ‘over the hill’ as well. When David Frost asked her on TV how she managed to keep up a pace that would exhaust women half her age, she replied: “It might have killed me at that age. I attribute my energy to my postmenopausal zest.” Too right!
The nest is likely to be empty. The 30s and 40s are when women’s lives are usually busier than ever with career and family demands. For many women it isn’t until they hit their 50s that they finally have some time to think.
You may well have cash on your hands for the first time as well. Maybe you’ve finally paid the mortgage off, got a redundancy payment, benefited from an inheritance or even a pension. Be careful with your nest egg if you do have one to fall back on. Prove your business idea in a small way before you pile your cash behind it. It takes time to establish a new business and those with a buffer are more likely to last the course.
The older you are the more people you know! And there’s a lot of truth in the old adage: “It’s not what you know, but who you know that matters.” So make sure that you make the most of connections old and new. LinkedIn is a great way to keep your network fresh.
7. You understand the massive and growing ‘silver’ market
The over 55s have on average twice the discretionary spending power of their younger counterparts. It is estimated that this group own 70% of the net worth of all households. Most companies do a terrible job of appealing to this valuable market segment, either ignoring them completely or coming up with angles which are often patronising and sometimes offensive. Maybe it’s because their marketing departments are often so ‘youthful’. You, by contrast, are in tune with the needs and wants of this most valuable market segment!
7. You know yourself
Building relationships is essential in most businesses. And it is much easier to understand and empathise with others when you are comfortable with yourself. The more you’ve been through, the more likely you are to have got there.
8. You’ve dealt with failure
Few people reach 50 without some experience of failure. You have to feel sorry for those who’ve led entirely gilded lives, as one wise friend said ‘you don’t know who you really are until you’ve had a comeuppance!’ A significant failure can be a blessing: giving you the push you need to follow a dream at last.
9. You are more likely to succeed in business
Starting in business when you’re over 50 seems to increase your chances of success. Research from Aston University finds that 48% of the over 50s succeeded after 5 years in business compared to only 29% of those aged 18–49 years old. They put this down to experience, contacts and capital built up over long careers.
10. You’ve years of work still in you and lots to give
June Zaft founded her business Country Walks 17 years ago aged 52. ” I continue to find the challenges uplifting and stimulating,” she says. “I feel very privileged to have a business which still remains a passion and which I fully intend to maintain until I drop. I firmly believe that ‘work’ keeps you young and providing you enjoy good health and fitness, age is no barrier.”
So there you have it. Starting a business is a big step, but if you are over 50 there might just never be a better time. What do you think? Please share you thoughts and experience below.
About Erika Watson
Hi, I am the founder and editor of Prowess, so the person to get in touch with if you have any ideas, queries or feedback: erika [a] prowess.org.uk. I run my own business too: Greenwell Consulting a communications company focusing on Enterprise, Environment & Equality. See here for details of our Start-up and Business Development workshops.