Silver Entrepreneurship: Starting a Business as an Older Adult
Perhaps the thought of giving up work is unimaginable and a life of leisure unappealing.
If so, entrepreneurship may be calling.
Setting up your own business, while challenging, is an avenue pursued by many older adults, who bring a wealth of wisdom and experience to the role.
If you’re thinking of investing in an opportunity, let’s dive in.
What is silver entrepreneurship?
Silver entrepreneurs are over 50’s who utilise their experience to create a business in later life.
Types of business owners vary considerably, from part-time, freelancers, or founders, whose motivations are multifaceted.
Extra holiday money, increased pension contributions and the excitement of running a business are all contributing factors.
And evidence demonstrates that this type of work is on the up.
Research commissioned by Audley Villages in 2018 showed that the over-50s are setting up their own businesses at a faster rate than any other age group and are now employing 10 million people.
Nick Sanderson, chief executive of Audley Group, said: “For too long, entrepreneurship has been viewed as the preserve of the young. However, this is simply not the case and it’s insulting to overlook the economic contribution of older business owners.”
Although money ranks high on the list of motivators, there are also a host of health and wellbeing factors in play.
Benefits of entrepreneurship in later life
Entrepreneurship in later life affords many benefits:
There’s nothing quite like sparking an idea and executing on it. Perhaps it’s a long-held dream and now that the kids are grown and you’re financially secure, there’s the freedom to take the risk. Waking up to work on a passion-driven business provides an unrivalled buzz.
Becoming an entrepreneur is tough. Attempting to overcome the initial inertia and market your product or service requires significant energy. But this investment can deliver a huge emotional return on investment if your project takes off. In this way, you know that the effort you pour into your business will ultimately be rewarded in time.
Many over 50’s are drawn to business and entrepreneurship after experiencing life as an employee. If you’ve spent your whole career working for somebody else, the freedom of being your own boss and calling the shots is exhilarating. You set your own schedule, decide what to work on and with who, while making your vision a reality.
After a busy career, many retirees may feel listless in later life. After all, work contributes to a deep sense of identity. Creating your own occupation can, therefore, conjure a renewed direction and purpose. In fact, many of Mirthy’s public speakers experience such satisfaction due to their talks and their work in connecting the local community.
In a time where those in later life are forced to work for longer and pensions aren’t as secure, creating your own income stream can make sound financial sense. And although many entrepreneurs may not begin with money in mind, it’s certainly a bonus. As well as providing entertaining talks, our speakers find that supplementing their income with their speaker fees is an added reward.
Types of entrepreneur
There are many flavours of entrepreneurship. Let’s look at three:
Many older adults supplement their income as freelancers. In this role, they can capitalise on existing career skills and apply them in self-employment. Many such positions can be performed remotely and there’s reduced risk to the freelancer, as the service-based model normally requires no upfront capital. While trading time for money isn’t for everyone, freelancing is often a good gateway to other business models.
Whereas freelancing is often performed on a smaller scale and requires one-on-one work with clients, some entrepreneurs might assume the role of founder, performing an executive function and employing others to deliver a product. If you have the idea and capital to make this work, removing yourself from service delivery allows you to focus on the strategy and direction of the business, accelerating growth.
Partnership or collective
Often we work better in teams. Not only can it be more enjoyable to work with a friend or family member, but it can also help dilute the risk and responsibilities, both emotional and financial. When seeking a cofounder, it’s often sensible to find someone who possesses the skills you lack, so as to leverage your abilities more effectively.
Types of business
Here are some examples of the type of business you could create. However, often, businesses exist as hybrids of the following models.
You needn’t be an inventor and bring something completely new to the world. Indeed, many successful businesses sell existing information or physical goods. Perhaps you start right from the source and manufacture your own product, or alternatively outsource or white label from other companies. Other entrepreneurs choose retail arbitrage, buying cheap goods and selling them on for profit.
As we’ve already mentioned with freelancing above, service-based businesses are usually the easiest place to start. You take an existing skill that’s in demand and position yourself before your target audience. The only downside? Manpower. When scaling your business, you only have so many hours in the day, especially when delivering the service yourself. To grow quickly, hiring staff is essential.
Online businesses have exploded in our technological utopia, and for good reason. The barrier to entry is practically zero. With minimal website hosting fees, you can be up and running in a few hours, making this a largely risk free investment. Then it’s simply a matter of attracting your target audience. Online businesses make money in various ways, from advertising, affiliate revenue or digital goods. Also, many of these models mix online and offline activities, such as e-commerce.
Local businesses tend to be the traditional brick and mortar setups we see on the high street. From hairdressers to beauty clinics and restaurants, these setups generally cater to a single geographical area, with chains established for expansion into new territories. This may be a great option if you spot opportunities for specific businesses in your area. However, be prepared for a slightly higher risk profile, with upfront costs including the rent and rates of hiring a premises, shop fitting and any initial inventory.
Startups seem to be all the rage these days, and many of the big brands we rely on today began as tiny operations in a garage or living room. Although technology companies are the trend, many successful startups also incorporate offline activities, like Airbnb. The same is true of Mirthy – what can easily start as an online interaction is then taken offline through our speaking events. Startups may either be privately funded or backed by venture capital.
Over 50’s entrepreneurship tips
Innovation vs imitation
Many would-be entrepreneurs look at the likes of Steve Jobs and Bill gates, assuming that they have to revolutionise industries with groundbreaking innovation.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Many successful businesses are built on established industries and in fact, it’s often safer to do so, especially for first-time entrepreneurs.
Competition is a healthy sign that there’s an existing demand for your product or service.
Whereas you might want to approach it from a unique angle and differentiate yourself from competing offers, targeting an existing subset of customers is beneficial.
What problem do you solve?
This is likely the most fundamental question to ask before sinking your life savings into a venture.
Humans have many core concerns, but deep down, we’re programmed for survival. For that, we need good health, resources like food and shelter, romantic relationships and social connection, to name but a few.
Anything which limits our access to such factors can be considered a pain point. The more successfully you can solve such pain points, the better the business.
Let’s take health as an example. If someone has acute back pain and you have the ultimate elixir, then it’s an easy sell.
So, ask yourself, what problems can you solve?
Try to get paying clients immediately
A mistake many new entrepreneurs make is that they tinker with an idea for too long before validating their model.
It’s all very well playing with the perfect logo or getting your packing looking just so, but if you don’t have any paying clients, it’s all for nought.
Therefore, it’s wise to test your assumptions quickly and ensure a good product-market fit.
When you’ve proven demand for your product, you can start optimising your systems and processes for improved client acquisition.
Understand your audience
Many entrepreneurs mistakenly assume that they already know their audience. In business, it’s essential to understand your target demographic inside out.
This is something we also recommend to our hosts, who often experience much more success when they know their audience and topic and can successfully combine the two.
In this way, you’ll grasp the challenges that keep them awake at night and communicate your solution effectively.
Before investing too much time, energy or money, speak to your potential customers. Get them on the phone and completing surveys to gather feedback.
Follow your passion
One of the best ways to intimately understand your audience is to be one of them.
If you’re a garden aficionado and comprehend the challenges your fellow gardeners face, you’ll be perfectly positioned to capitalise on your knowledge and create a green-fingered business.
It’s far easier to start a project around an existing passion, which will help you overcome the inevitable challenges along the way.
That said, you must still ensure it’s financially viable with a sizeable enough target market.
If you try to be everything to everyone, you’ll be nothing to no-one.
Who would you prefer to see for your heart operation; a surgeon who does everything, or one who’s dedicated his whole career to the speciality, actively researching and developing the field?
If you’re like most of us, you’d choose the latter, and it’s no different in business.
Picking a small area of expertise and becoming the best at solving that particular problem will not only improve your performance, but allow you to communicate more clearly with your target audience.
Test test test
Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of blindly pushing forwards and if their business fails, they’re unsure why.
It’s essential, therefore, to track your actions and analyse the results.
Luckily, such testing has never been easier, with a plethora of online tools to interpret audience behaviour and overall business health.
With data in hand, you can identify poorly performing areas of the business and iterate for improvement.
Pivot when necessary
Even the best ideas don’t always pan out.
And in the disruption-driven world of digitisation and automation, the importance of being an agile business can’t be overstated.
Being open to new approaches and strategies will allow you to weather industry storms, sidestep your competitors and create a sustainable, future-proofed organisation.
As you can see, starting a business in later life can be extremely rewarding.
There are fewer barriers to entry than ever and older adults can bring a wealth of experience to bear over their younger counterparts.
Not only does entrepreneurship offer lucrative financial reward but also significant health and wellbeing benefits in later life.
At Mirthy, we offer the opportunity for motivated older adults to do something they love while earning some pocket money on the side.
In addition, our hosts are a force for good, bringing communities closer together through interactive events on varied topics.
If you’d like to pursue an interesting sideline in self-employment, why not become a Mirthy host?
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