6 benefits of older entrepreneurship

by Catherine Rickwood

Becoming an entrepreneur in later life is an attractive proposition for many people over 50. In fact terms such as greypreneur, silverpreneur, second-career entreprenuer, and third-age entrepreneur have emerged in response to this increasing trend.

According to this article, in 2014 people of retirement age started 7,400 businesses contributing to a total of 118,900 businesses owned by older people in that year.

Why do older people embark on what, for many, is deemed a risky venture? After all, isn’t retirement a time for cruises, caravans, or simply when we can enjoy not working?


Advantages of older entrepreneurs

According to one report, people over 55 are twice as likely to launch high growth companies compared with people between 24-34. Another advantage is that people entering entrepreneurship in later life enjoy a number of strengths. A study by Gary Kerr of the Odette School of Business in Canada reports that inherent advantages of older entrepreneurs include:

  1. Impressive mix of technical, industrial, and management experience;
  2. Strong personal networks; and,
  3. Good financial assets.

Women and entrepreneurship

Males remain dominant in the entrepreneurship sphere – whether starting young or later in life. However, there’s good news for female entrepreneurs. Australia is ranked second internationally for its environment for female entrepreneurship, according to the NSW Department of Industry. In fact, the number of female business owners increased by 46% between 1994 and 2014 (compared with only a 27% increase by men). However, although the number of women owning a business is going upwards, compared with other OECD countries, Australian women are still substantially under-represented as entrepreneurs. That is, there’s still a way to go before women comprise a substantial proportion of business owners in Australia. Yet, research shows that a female entrepreneur is very happy with her life and the choice she’s made.

Whilst being more mature may be beneficial for starting a business, it’s not necessarily the main motivation.

6 reasons for entrepreneurship

Why do people, men or women, choose entrepreneurship in later life?

When many may eschew such an idea as crazy or foolhardy, older people start a business because of:

  1. Workplace ageism, and the associated challenges with either retaining or gaining employment in later life. A report by the Age Discrimination Commission outlines the problems faced by people 55+ who would like to continue working.
  2. A need to boost retirement savings. For some older entrepreneurs starting a business is a necessity.  They simply because they haven’t saved enough for their retirement.
  3. A desire to remain mentally active and challenged. Doing something that one chooses and enjoys is a benefit of business ownership. Many older people at the end of a career are content with a varied life that may involve unpaid work in the form of volunteering. However, volunteering may not provide the satisfaction and stimulation that comes with building a business. Doing something that one loves and believes in. As this older entrepreneur said he’s enjoying doing something “meaningful and rewarding”.  In fact, he says that he, like many others are “checking in” not “checking out”. 🙂
  4. The ability to keep working in a way that provides ultimate flexibility as to when and where to work can be appealing.
  5. Business ownership provides independence.  It also enables the older entrepreneur greater autonomy and ability to make their own decisions.

Finally …

  1. When an older person starts a business later in life it often requires new opportunities for learning and development.

My reasons

I could be described as a seniorpreneur.  However, I prefer businesswoman, with age being irrelevant.

The reasons I chose to start my own business?

  1. The freedom and independence to do things my way.
  2. An ability to pursue something I’m passionate about.
  3. Doing something meaningful that I believe will make a positive difference to the world.
  4. The ability to build and grow something that’s founded on my values and principles which guide how I live my daily life.
  5. Flexibility.
  6. Personal growth, ongoing learning, and continuous professional development.

I genuinely love what I’m doing. It’s a fabulous time of life.  For me, I only see it become better.  As James Cromwell said, “age is just an abstraction, not a straight jacket”. I couldn’t agree more.

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About the Author

Catherine Rickwood

An experienced researcher and business executive, Catherine's work is informed by academic knowledge and evidence to deliver practical actions with measurable outcomes. These combined skills create a powerful and useful ability to delve deep on issues, ask incisive questions, think laterally, and bring knowledge and insights to individuals, a team, and an organisation keen to engage with, and include the over 50's as a valuable part of their business strategy.

Catherine Rickwood is solutions-focussed, working with innovative organisations keen to improve customer and employee insights and empathy to increase their success in new markets, build loyalty, and increase innovation. She does this using a co-design process that engages employees and key stakeholders to create collaborative solutions. Contact Catherine to discover how her services can support your organisation to harness the changing demographic reality.

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