Increasing numbers of women over 50 are starting up businesses and becoming ‘olderpreneurs’.
At London Metropolitan University Fiona Colgan at the Comparative Organisation and Equality Research Centre (COERC) and The Centre for Microenterprise (CME) ran a research project on older women and self employment.
We found that 50+ women entering a new phase as business starts ups have needed to reconstruct their identity, discard any negative epithets which have been holding them back, and promote themselves in this new phase as women entrepreneurs. Many have gone through a social process with family and friends as they re-define their priorities, their use of time and space, and tackle the challenges of earning via micro business.
Our tips for older women starting businesses
- Use the web more for start–up support & factual information. There is a lot of information out there – Prowess 2.0 for a start. Seek out workshops, books, websites to follow on Twitter.
- Map your support and use it: friends & family support is great for encouragement, though they are not always the best advisers to check viability of your business idea. Where family is not supportive plan your negotiating strategy.
- Grow into your new identity: you are now a women entrepreneur, a business owner, as well as possibly being mother, grandmother, and any other permanent roles. Ditch any non useful identities which society is trying to give you e.g “pensioner.”
- Become visible: get out there and network. Use the phone, email, and social media to follow up and keep in contact.
- Find a business mentoring scheme – they do exist. If you complete PRIMEs free training courses for 50+ start-ups, you can apply for free mentor for 6 months.
- Develop a brief one sentence description of your business and how it benefits customers. This is often known as an “elevator pitch”. There will be many times where you’ll need to be upbeat, memorable and brief to make a strong impression.
What we think policy makers should take on board
- Micro businesses (95% of our women started one person businesses) are a valid part of the economy – stop ignoring them and support them.
- Training is vital if UK plc is to utilize its older women resources as entrepreneurs and make sure they contributing to the economy. It costs less to train and support an older woman entrepreneur than to pay Jobseekers Allowance, for what may well be a maximum of 16 years. If she was made redundant at 50 , under the new rules, she may not reach state pension age till 66.
- Extend NEA (New Enterprise Allowance) for Jobseekers and the period it is paid over- it is far too short. Women often start up part time with very small businesses- the rules of NEA are loaded against women.
- Train local Jobcentre managers about NEA, and make them aware of local project and local training workshops.
- Face to Face support : women 50+ told us they want face to face support.
- Pilot a national scheme for mid career and older women starting self employment.
- Fostering older women as entrepreneurs could have social benefits such as decreasing women’s poverty in older age and isolation; both factors which cost the government a great deal.
She is now beginning her 6th career:having been a lecturer in entrepreneurship, the manager of the Centre for Micro Enterprise at London Metropolitan University,a partner in an IT training sme, an education manager in BT, and a college librarian, Hilary has recently started a new portfolio career in business support in London, and isLondon areamentor co-ordinator for PRIME the organisation for 50+ enterprise.