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Five entrepreneurs over 50 who have showed how starting a business is done

According to the Prince's Initiative for Mature Enterprise, there are 4.17m self-employed workers in the UK, of which 42 per cent are over 50. Here are five entrepreneurs, aged 52 and over, that didn't let old age stop them.
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An ever-growing wave of “olderpreneurs” has suggested that British people don’t have to hang up their business boots when they hit the retirement age. Take McDonald’s founder Raymond Kroc, for example. He didn’t found the fast food chain until he was 52.

He’s far from being the only one. Here are five entrepreneurs who reveal how old aged helped them, and which problems got in the way.

Tony Palmer – 52

At 52, Palmer was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome.

“My employer knew what was going on, but I was dismissed and the Job Centre didn’t give me much hope of finding a new job at that age,” he said. “There’s a bias towards younger people, so starting your own business can be the best option for many over-50s who lose their jobs.”

After much thought, he decided to take his hobby, glass-engraving, and turn it into a viable business. It only took him six months, from being let go at work to the establishment of the business, to have Crystal Mountain Glass up and running.

“I contacted PRIME first, because the charity provides advice about starting a business to the over-50s,” Palmer said. “It was a good starting point. They advised me to contact other organisations such as HMRC,which offers seminars on VAT, starting your own business and keeping your own books. 

Palmer explained that he hadn’t faced any “age-related challenges”.

“During my career I’ve done many jobs,” he said. “This gave me a lot of experience I could bring to my business. I was an electrician; I’ve worked in a warehouse; I worked for the ambulance service, too. In the jobs I’ve done, I had loads of experience of working with computers and I’ve done admin work, both of which have been very useful since I’ve been running my own business.”

Having self-funded his business, he never had to approach a bank for finance either. He noted that were he at a young age, specifically with the“added pressure of young children”, then he may have faced more hurdles along the way.

“A younger person may have the added pressure of young children, which older business people don’t usually have,” he said. “Olderpreneurs also tend to be more cautious about managing money, I’d say, which can be a great benefit.”

Read more about olderpreneurs:

Carol Doyel – 54

Previously, Doyel had been a successful estate agent for several years before the housing bubble burst in 2008. But she didn’t want to leave things at that. She decided to launch an online magazine at a time when many publications were going out of print.

“I’m an entrepreneur at heart and it seemed like a good time to start my own business,” she said.

Doyel has aimed her magazine at an audience she knows all too well: women over the age of 50.

“It’s a very desirable demographic,” she said. “Women aged 50-plus control a lot of wealth – they may not own it, but they mostly make the decisions and manage that wealth. And as consumers they represent major buying decisions in almost every category from toilet paper to cars.”

The website, LivingBetter50, caters to a wide range of topics with articles offering advice from cutting a pomegranate to strategies for media interviews.

Doyel suggested that many readers, much like herself, are women prepared to start their “second act”. 

“Their husbands have seen a reduction in income, or for business owners, a reduction in their revenue, and often that’s required women to step up,” she said. “Some of them become the bread winners. And there are many women who lose their spouses [through death or divorce]and are facing that challenge.”

Sam Taylor – 71

Taylor was a successful businessman who retired at the age of 63 after his company floated on the stock market. However, eight years later he chose to swap the leisure life in Spain he had been saving for in order to start an online business in Scotland.

“Six months into retirement, I couldn’t really hack it. I was bored and I missed the buzz of business,” Taylor explained. He briefly dabbled in directorship roles and angel investment before deciding that he wanted to return to self-employment.

He said: “During that time my wife was doing textile art and we got to a position where she had built up a considerable amount of material. We were talking one night and decided we needed to start selling some of it.”

By combining his business experience with her artistic skills, they founded Creative Arts Gallery. The Gallery seeks to promote online the work of Scottish artists, designers and makers and now boasts more than 200 individual pieces by over 30 Scottish contemporary artists.

Co-founder Jo Taylor, aged 66 when the company was created, said: “The current trend towards online retailing offered a perfect opportunity to bring the work of Scottish artists to an appreciative global audience.”

But Primarily, Taylor suggested that their age played a pivotal part in their success.

“What you bring to the party at that age is your experience and contacts,” he explained. “We also knew we could work together because we have the best part of 30 years experience doing so. To us, age is no barrier at all. If you’re mentally alert and physically fit, there’s no reason why you can’t do it.”

Read on to find out how experience has helped olderpreneurs in the education and HR sectors.

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About Author

Shané Schutte

Shané Schutte is a senior reporter at Real Business, with a particular specialism in employment and business law, human resources, information technology and sales/marketing.

Real Business