One of the things I am asked about most often as I meet with customers and aspiring entrepreneurs is whether age should be a barrier to setting up your own business.
I say ‘absolutely not’. In fact, my business, cult beauty brand Studio 10 Beauty, was formed just 18 months before my fiftieth birthday.
Lots of the women I meet are smart, experienced and would build incredible businesses, but shy away from it, believing that they are somehow less ‘valuable’ or valid in the world of work. Often they feel that they may be ‘past it’, unable to cope with the inevitable risks and knocks of growing a business from the ground up.
In my experience, this simply isn’t the case and most of the exciting businesses I meet now are founded by women with maturity, in their fifties and beyond.
I absolutely believe that the years both pre-and post-50 are less about the age of invisibility now and more the time women step into their brilliance, free of so many of the anxieties that beset younger women.
In fact, in the US in the last ten years, more than one in three new businesses were started by late-bloomers, most aged 55-64, making them the most entrepreneurial age demographic. The Prince’s Initiative for Mature Enterprise also found that of over 4.17m self-employed workers in the UK, 42 percent are over 50.
An article published in fab after fifty suggested that our changing lifestyles and expectations may be behind the shift.
Hilary Farnworth, senior lecturer at the London Metropolitan University Business School, who specialises in work with older women says:
“Later in life, many women can often face an identity crisis, shaken by divorce, kids flying the nest or even being made redundant. Dramatic changes such as these lead women to search for new ways to reconstruct their identity and define who they are, with many women finding a sudden new lease of life and discovering a more enterprising-self”.
I say GREAT! Why should getting older be any kind of barrier to creating the life you want? Here are the key skills that you can bring to a new business that make it viable for you:
It’s a rare woman who gets to her forties, fifties and beyond without facing some of life’s tougher knocks.
From business failures to relationship transitions, to bereavements, we know what the tougher side of life looks like and we’ve learned that no matter how tough it gets, we can survive it.
In the technological age, so many young entrepreneurs that I meet fail to understand that all businesses take time to develop, mature and grow. Many take silly risks in a bid to get results ‘now’ and see their business fail thus.
We know that overnight success is rare, and usually comes after months or often years of hard work unseen. And we’re ok with that.
The Ability to Learn New Skills:
Never has any generation had to change and adapt as fast as ours. Mobile phones, tablets, computers, wearable technology, social media.
The business landscape is unrecognisable from when we started our careers but we’ve learned to roll with it, adapting to each new change as it arrives, and seeing it as the opportunity it is, without getting lost in it.
An Understanding of Human Nature:
You don’t get to your fifth decade without learning a thing or two about how people tick. And that means that you can shift and adapt your approach to meet them. You can use those skills to motivate, inspire, lead and sell (and probably already do).
Even if you don’t have tons of experience in the business you wish to set up you do have a skillset that can be transferred. Whether it’s managing a home, or a corporation. Handling conflict between siblings or nations. You don’t have to know everything but you can take what you do know and use it effectively.
Worked in an office as an administrator for 30 years? Great – managing the paperwork side of your new venture is going to be a cinch. Spent a decade touring the world? Fantastic – you’ll have resourcefulness in your skillset – vital for entrepreneurs. Given your life to raising children? Excellent – it’s highly likely you can multi-task with the best of them.
The point is that no matter what your business, you will have areas you are strong at, and areas you need to develop in. And neither of those things should be held back by your date of birth.
Next Month – Grace shares her advice for developing new skills to support your business and career goals