According to the 2013 report of the UK Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, only an average of 4% of over 50s started entrepreneurship between 2002-08, lower than the 5% and 7% for 18-29 and 30-49 age demographics, respectively. But since 2013, the figure of seniorpreneur activity spiked to 6.5%, now equal to that of 18-49-year-olds.
PRIME’s Director of Partnerships Nicky Templeton says, “There are those who go down this route out of necessity, but we are also seeing a growing trend of over 50s starting up a business because they want to make a positive change and take their destiny into their own hands.” A recent report by Prime (PDF) shows how entrepreneurship can counter the many employment issues faced by the Britain’s ageing workforce.
Since UK has entered the recovery period after the financial crises, entrepreneurship is looking more attractive than ever.
As with all attractive things, there are naysayers. Sun Microsystems Co-founder Vinod Khosla said, “People under 35 are the people who make change happen. People over 45 basically die in terms of new ideas.” Mr. Khosla further claimed that older entrepreneurs are unable to be innovative because they are constantly “falling back on old habits”.
These close-minded assumptions have been debunked many times over.
With the increase of life expectancy, many over-50s see their retirement as a second youth in which to do what they’ve always wanted to do, and have the means to fund it, at that. Holidays top the bucket list of retirees, but so do businesses and being their own boss.
Ambition and passion revisit after the obligations are done.
Many seniorpreneurs in the UK breathe a sigh of relief after college and mortgage are taken care of, and harness their experience and expertise into business, whether or not they continue what they’ve always done before, or do a complete 180 degree turn toward something they love–knitting, pet sitting, carpentry, pottery–turned into profitable businesses.
Some of the biggest and wealthiest companies were kickstarted by their founders over the age of 50. And looking at the HOW it started, Khosla’s claims of older people not being able to embrace change and new ideas are proven false.
Raymond Kroc used to sell milkshake machines, driving around the US. He came upon a drive-in restaurant in San Bernadino, California, and he successfully persuaded the owners Richard and Maurice McDonald to franchise their business. Raymond Kroc was 52. He purchased and spread the McDonald’s we know today.
John Pemberton was a pharmacist and physician who created an alternative to morphine: Pemberton’s French Wine Coca. But a temperance legislation made his concoction illegal. So he had to reformulate and remove the wine. He replaced it with sugar, creating the Coca Cola we know today. He was 55.
Colonel David Harland Sanders kept getting fired as a railroad fireman. He was also a farmer and an insurance agent, not to mention a steamboat pilot. All those skills went into his small service station, and he also managed to convince franchisees to work with him, giving us the KFC we know today. He was 65.
Traits That Triumph
Why do older entrepreneurs succeed? Traits like risk-taking is shared with younger entrepreneurs, but there’s no denying seniorpreneurs have an edge over younger people.
- They are well-educated. Not just through higher education, but through experience, training, and years and years of encounters with different types of people.
- Speaking of people, seniorpreneurs arrive at their startup with a huge network to back them, encourage them, and be among their first clients and customers.
- They have access to capital. They fund their startups with savings, not loans. If there are loans, it’s on average a small percentage.
- And like Colonel Sanders and Raymond Kroc, seniorpreneurs get the wisdom rep, charisma and expertise that makes other people–investors or employees–trust them and work with them.
Like many people around my age we are redefining what retirement is all about. Our generation is not satisfied with just sitting around waiting for time to pass. We’re breaking the rules and making our latter years mean something.
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