How ‘olderpreneurs’ can thrive

Increasing numbers of women over 50 are starting up businesses and becoming ‘olderpreneurs’.

At London Metropolitan University Fiona Colgan at the Comparative Organisation and Equality Research Centre (COERC) and The Centre for Microenterprise (CME) ran a research project on older women and self employment.

We found that 50+ women entering a new phase as business starts ups have needed to reconstruct their identity, discard any negative epithets which have been holding them back, and promote themselves in this new phase as women entrepreneurs. Many have gone through a social process with family and friends as they re-define their priorities, their use of time and space, and tackle the challenges of earning via micro business.

Our tips for older women starting businesses

  • Use the web more for start–up support & factual information. There is a lot of information out there – Prowess 2.0 for a start. Seek out workshops, books, websites to follow on Twitter.
  • Map your support and use it: friends & family support is great for encouragement, though they are not always the best advisers to check viability of your business idea. Where family is not supportive plan your negotiating strategy.
  • Grow into your new identity: you are now a women entrepreneur, a business owner, as well as possibly being mother, grandmother, and any other permanent roles. Ditch any non useful identities which society is trying to give you e.g “pensioner.”
  • Find a business mentoring scheme – they do exist. If you complete PRIMEs free training courses for 50+ start-ups, you can apply for free mentor for 6 months.
  • Develop a brief one-sentence description of your business and how it benefits customers. This is often known as an “elevator pitch”. There will be many times where you’ll need to be upbeat, memorable and brief to make a strong impression.

What we think policy makers should take on board

  • Micro businesses (95% of our women started one-person businesses) are a valid part of the economy – stop ignoring them and support them.
  • Training is vital if UK plc is to utilize its older women resources as entrepreneurs and make sure they contributing to the economy. It costs less to train and support an older woman entrepreneur than to pay Jobseekers Allowance, for what may well be a maximum of 16 years. If she was made redundant at 50 , under the new rules, she may not reach state pension age till 66.
  • Extend NEA (New Enterprise Allowance) for Jobseekers and the period it is paid over- it is far too short. Women often start up part time with very small businesses- the rules of NEA are loaded against women.
  • Train local Jobcentre managers about NEA, and make them aware of local project and local training workshops.
  • Face to Face support : women 50+ told us they want face to face support.
  • Pilot a national scheme for mid-career and older women starting self-employment.
  • Fostering older women as entrepreneurs could have social benefits such as decreasing women’s poverty in older age and isolation; both factors which cost the government a great deal.

3 thoughts on “How ‘olderpreneurs’ can thrive”

  1. Really useful advice here Hilary.

    Having worked with women who fit into this category I know that reinvention is indeed a key element in the decision to start their own business. The Baby Boomers are certainly not keen on adding ‘pensioner’ to their identity – at least not in its current definition… but then again, they’re not keen on being labelled as ‘olderpreneurs’ either!
    (I was moved to write a blog post about this very term some time ago here: )

    • Yes, I agree with you that olderpreneur isn’t a term that business owners over 50, freelance workers over 50 would use to describe themselves. Its more a word used as a headline. I liked your blog. Re-invention is very personal, and I’ve found it fascinating to work with many older women who have suddenly realized the term “businesswoman” or “business owner” does actually apply to them and they can use it when introducing themselves.Some of them found it useful to apply new labels to themselves which they liked, as it helped to deal with some of the more sceptical family members who didn’t always give them 100% support when they started. Which is another story.
      And as for the word “pensioner” – don’t lets even go there!

  2. Hello Hilary
    Found you here via She’s Ingenious – although I am a chap I registered there whilst doing a few creative things a few years ago….and now looked it up again having found my own “olderpreneur” niche and looking for some networking links I am 53 and in career phase 3!

    My blog details are below.

    My niche is helping great innovators (both sexes) tell appealing stories in order to secure funding, partnership or simply inform customers and clients what they do…and why they do it.

    Would some free content be of use to your members to help in preparation of their professional pitches and presentations, elevator pitch help etc?



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