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'Olderpreneurs' profit from experience

Your working life doesn't have to wind down after you turn 50. For many people that's when things really start to accelerate, says Harvey Jones

Growing numbers of 'olderpreneurs' are striking out by setting up their own business. 

There are now nearly 1.8 million self-emplyed people over the age of 50- up one fifth on 2008- according to the Office for National Statistics, and one in five over-50s is now self-employed, a higher proportion than for ay other age group. Growing numbers are also running their businesses past the traditional State retirement age, with 22 percent of part-time self-employed workers now aged 65 or over, up from 14 percent in 2001.

Although some turned to self-employment after struggling to find a job following redundancy, others seized the opportunity to persue a dream they had nurtured for years. Older entrepreneurs have experience, wisdom, knowledge, and possibly some capital behind them, say, from a pension or inheritance. They also have more staying power. More than 70 percent of businesses started by people in ther 50s survive for at least five years, against just 28 percent for younger people, according to a survey by Age UK.

Whether your dream is making cakes, running a tea shop, designing clothes or setting yourself up as a consultant, starting a business could give you a whole new career.


Seven out of 10 new businesses now start at home, with the over 50s among the most active, says Emma jones, founder of small businiess support agency Enterprise Nation.

She sees a growing number of over 50s turn their passion, hobby or skill into a new business.

"They are spotting a gap in the market and building a company that not only brings in some welcome extra cash, but also puts them in control of their own destiny," she says.

This age group has the skills and experience to make a difference to their lives in a really positive way she adds. "Many are harnessing low-cost technology to grow global businesses, often run from their own living rooms."

While some people love retirement, more than eight out of 10 pensioners say that they retired too early and wished they had carried on woring for longer, according to a SunLife survey of more than 50,00 over 50s. Nearly one in five earn money in retirement, supplementuing their pension by renting out rooms through Airbnb, selling items on eBay, doing private tutoring or selling crafts and home-made cakes.

SunLife marketing director Ian Atkinson says people in thier 50s 60s and 70s are feeling git, healthy and sharp. "Many have made big changes to their work lives, wither dropping to part time, or giving up stressful careers to do something they are mor passionate about For many, turning 50 offers a brand new start."

It suddenly did for Dave Marchant, a successful bussinessman who decided to become a lumberjack at the age of 50. "I was overweight, my quality of life was low, and I was keen for something different. Then I remembered how happy I was as a boy, working with my grandfather, outside in the woods."

Dave completed several tree surgery training courses at college and now runs sustainable firewood and tree management business Cooadecae Serices. The business is based near Bridgennd, Wales and employs three people, with the wood used ti make durniture or sold for log burners.

Dave was helped by charity PRIME Cymru, The Prince's Initiative for Mature Enterprise in Wales, which provides practical support to people over 50 who want to remain economically active. “It was a massive leap of faith leaving behind a lucrative career but it’s the best thing I’ve ever done,” he says.

David Pugh, chief executive of PRIME Cymru, says that as the pension age steadily rises, more older people will remain economically active.

“The over-50s have a huge wealth of skills and life experience that they can often turn into successful businesses and reap the rewards. This can be a fantastic opportunity to develop another career in later life.”

Darren Farnell, head of small business at Barclays, says: “Life experience, previous employment skills and personal capital are big advantages for older people.” Choose something you are passionate about, then do your research and plan carefully. “It helps if you may been involved in the industry or the sector, you can draw on a working lifetime of experience and contracts.”

He says you should be clear about your unique selling point (USP) and draw on your life experiences. “Be honest on your strengths and, more importantly, weaknesses – for example, if that’s computer skills or social media, find someone who excels in these areas.”

Seek help from support agencies, your local Chambers of Commerce, and business introducer networks. “You don’t have to jump in feet-first; you may be able to start up your business while still employed, to test the market.”

Finally, there is one thing every would-be entrepreneur must do. “Network, network, network,” Mr Farnell adds. Before getting started, you should ask some serious questions. Who are your potential customers? What can you give them that they cannot get elsewhere? Who are your competitors? What do they do well? What can you do better? How will you spread the word? How much money do you need to get started? Can social and digital media drive your business?

Pension freedom reforms allow growing numbers of over-55s to raise the funds they need by dipping into their pension pots, although this can be a risky strategy if you have no other form of retirement savings. If you claim certain benefits, such as JobSeeker’s Allowance, Income Support or the Employment & Support Allowance, you might even get government support from the New Enterprise Allowance, which provides money and support to business start-ups.

Paolo Piana, mentor and development officer at PRIME Cymru, says do not be afraid to try. “Everyone questions whether they can turn their business dream into reality. There is only one way to find out.”

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