Business Ideas for Women over 50
More and more people are starting a business later in life. Photograph: Alamy
With pension pots shrinking, many retired people are starting a small business. We meet three older entrepreneurs
Entrepreneur Sam Taylor was 63 when he retired. He'd worked hard all his life, had a company that floated on the stock market and made enough money to live a life of leisure in southern Spain. So why, eight years later, did he swap sipping sangrias in the sun for starting an online art business in his native Scotland?
"Six months into retirement, I couldn't really hack it. I was bored and I missed the buzz of business, " the founder of Creative Arts Gallery explained. After a brief spell as a business angel and directorship roles in Edinburgh he realised the only way he was going to enjoy his later years was 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. We recognised that online retail was becoming much more acceptable and thought, let's put my business experience and her artistic talent together and set up an online art gallery."
The site now boasts more than 200 individual pieces by over 30 Scottish contemporary artists. But the couple are not alone in choosing to be their own boss. According to the Prince's Initiative for Mature Enterprise, there are currently 4.17 million self-employed workers in the UK, of which 42% (1.75 million) are over 50. That's up from 38% in 2008. About 1.4 million are between 50 and 64, and 375, 000 are 65-plus.
While no business is a breeze to get off the ground, Sam says their age (he is 71 and she is 66) played a key 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."
For other retirees, the main motivation for starting a business is financial. New analysis of HMRC figures shows UK workers can expect to see their incomes plummet by more than a third when they reach retirement, while in some areas of the UK the fall is almost to a half.
Going solo with his own company helped Colin King keep his pension pot full. If you're going to retire you need a huge amount saved to live reasonably well, the 60-year-old explained. So, when he realised five years ago that there wasn't enough, the former owner of a successful garden centre set off in a completely new direction, founding an online business which provides fun, educational quizzes for schoolchildren.
"Whatever business you do, you've got to accept the fact that it might not go right, " Colin says. "When you get to my age, there's not as many years to put it right again. So, in the early days of our business that was our main worry – the fact that we might end up losing our money. But as we gradually spent more on the site and it became increasingly popular, it was evident that there was a market for what we're doing."
As with any business venture, its success rides on the quality of the idea it's founded on. Being able to spot the lucrative money-makers from the turkeys is a skill which thankfully comes with age, Colin reveals. Once you've been burnt two or three times, he says, you know the pain of something going wrong and appreciate the need to only develop sound ideas.
One thing essential for setting up any business in the 21st century is an understanding of how to use technology – something many older people still struggle to embrace, claims Colin.
"Certainly our particular business is all technology and over the last 10 years it's become essential to like it, " he says. "Fortunately that's never been a problem for me, but friends of my age won't even have a mobile phone and just don't like the idea of it. So, you've got to have some sort of empathy with new tech and appreciate the value of some of these services out there. We wouldn't have got our business off the ground without it."
The potential financial rewards of owning your own business is clearly a huge draw for many older entrepreneurs facing the prospect of retirement with a meagre pension. But the job satisfaction of being your own boss can be equally attractive.
Swedish entrepreneur Sune Larsson started his business providing serviced offices in Stockholm 10 years ago when he was 50. After a series of meaningless jobs, the drudgery of full-time employment took its toll and he decided to bet all his chips on making his business idea work.
His main aim was to gain greater work-life independence. And it's something which he achieved because of the freedom which being older often brings.
The 60-year-old said: "You don't have any small children at home any more, so you don't have to sacrifice your time with your family and can concentrate on your business without having a bad conscience. The downside is that you have to keep fit and you can't be ill. You have to be there and I have to find lots of energy, especially at the startup stage."
Are you one of the increasing number of older entrepreneurs reaping the rewards of starting your own business? Tell us why you decided to shun retirement and share advice with others considering to do the same in the comment section below.