Let's hear it for the olderpreneurs

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Becoming an entrepreneur isn’t just an option for the young. In fact, being in my early 60s, I now find myself in a growing band of brothers dubbed the ‘olderpreneurs’. That’s not a bad description, even though it uses the word ‘old’.

After all, us ‘seniorpreneurs’ have a lifelong skill set we have amassed over many years - not just technically, but also experientially, which tends to be somewhat undervalued. The stats tell us olderpreneurs have a higher success rate too, probably as a result of that experience.

Max Gowland

Mind you, the learning curve can be rather steep. I worked for blue chips for most of my career: first for Procter & Gamble, and then Reckitt Benckiser, where I ultimately became global head of R&D. Now I run my own personal nutrition company, specialising in the nutritional needs of older adults, as a one-man band.

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I was keen to apply the R&D experience and scientific credentials I’d gained during my blue-chip years to my startup venture, but had to find a way of doing this with minuscule funds. That is indeed achievable - but you have to be prepared to do everything yourself. Apart from my good wife, who could manage the accounts, I couldn’t delegate anything.

I had to learn about nutrition, carry out proper market research with consumers to understand their beliefs and needs, formulate and cost up the products, and go around the country evaluating various manufacturing possibilities. On top of that, I had to understand the regulatory aspects and product safety. The detail I had to go into myself was really quite deep, but equally broad too. I’ve even had to pick up a bit of media training to be able to go on QVC to sell my product!

Read more: 5 tips on how to nail your first buyer meeting as a startup

It sounds daunting, and it is very hard work, but the rewards make it all worthwhile. I sometimes have to pinch myself and really take in what has happened. My kids say to me all the time “whoever would have thought, at 63, that you would be on TV presenting your own products on nutrition!” It’s a real culture shock, of course, yet despite worrying much more about money compared with my previous existence, I am so much more fulfilled than ever before and genuinely believe I am making a real difference to people’s lives.

So to any other potential ‘olderpreneurs’ I would say: spend some time really thinking about what you want out of life and then jump in with both feet if you think it might work for you. As a priority, however, make sure you enjoy what you are doing, as it’s this constant motivation that makes every day so exciting and fulfilling.

Dr Max Gowland is founder and MD of Prime Fifty

Readers' comments (2)

  • Interesting article but actually unless you can tell me otherwise- and I have spent a lot of time looking - there are no reliable stats for olderprenenurs. Certainly more people working longer and for themselves in the sense that they are self employed; zero hours contracts etc. Many of the olderpreneurs, in the sense you mean, are in fact entrepreneurs who just haven't stopped or serial entrepreneurs who have got older! Also no evidence that the rate success/fail rate is any different to the mean - if you have the stats let me know!

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  • Sophia Nadur

    Fab article, Max. I'm a fellow olderpreneur as part of a deliberate switch to a "portfolio" career. I have found that, as you get older, your interests broaden as well you gain a sharper focus on your life's meaning / legacy. I have never looked back since 2007.

    Jonathan, I agree there is not a lot of info about olderpreneurs despite the huge numbers of people joining its ranks - see this FT article from earlier in 2017 https://www.ft.com/content/183a52a6-d9b6-11e6-944b-e7eb37a6aa8e

    I think Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim put it best "....unless you are in a society where most work is physical, your 60s [he's now 77] could be your most successful, because of the knowledge you have. When you have a society of knowledge and experience and information, at this age is where you are at your best.”

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