The world believes that you are too old to start a new business at 50.
It is a common misconception that entrepreneurs are young jean wearing men in their 20’s working 100 hours a week. And although this is true for some, many of us are double that age and wearing skirts. If you are in the process of raising funds it is very common to meet with funders and government grant providers that are exclusively dedicated to young entrepreneurs. This can be very disconcerting. You may even start to question your intentions. Why are so many funds specifically available for young entrepreneurs (upper limit of 35)? Is there any fundamental issue with age and starting a business?
The most common argument stated against starting a business after 50 is that older people don’t have the entrepreneurial drive because youth equals energy and energy is the magic ingredient to succeed. After all, when you attend hi-tech events you immediately realize that most of the people are indeed 25 to 30 years old.
Giving birth and raising toddlers consumes a lot of your energy
When I decided to start my own business I was approaching 50 and it felt the most natural and convenient moment of my life to think about starting a company. My early professional years were dedicated to developing a professional career and climbing up the corporate ladder. After 12 years of hard work I was delighted when the birth of my children steered my life into a different direction.
Raising kids from birth to teenage years takes an enormous amount of energy. At the beginning you even lose concentration and dedication to other activities that are not aimed at the wellbeing of your children. During those years, it was very difficult for me to maintain the level of productivity that I was used to when my only preoccupation was delivering my work on time and with client satisfaction. The amount of hours that I could dedicate to work before having children was almost unlimited. But after kids, everything changed for me. Now my work, my energy, my dedication had competition. It was a real balancing act.
Women after 50 have a renewed energy, strong desire for independence and the skills to succeed
Once your children become older and more autonomous, things change again. Suddenly you have more time on your hands and you start thinking about your contribution to life and to your community. That is the aha moment when some decide that life is now more than raising kids, taking care of your home and your husband’s needs and answering to your boss. 50 is definitely the best time to start your own business. You feel liberated; you are full of energy to create something that belongs to you, something that will benefit from the accumulated experience and skills developed as a result of working many years and raising a family. When you are 50 you have a greater likelihood of succeeding. You know what you want, you are “wiser”, you know yourself better, you have seen failures, and you have learned from your own mistakes, you are confident, tempered and more responsible. You also seek flexibility and independence. You want to manage your own schedule at your convenience.
But more important by now you have developed the necessary skills to succeed.
After decades of research, Stewart Friedman of Wharton University came to the conclusion that there are 3 types of skills to succeed in leading the life you want by integrating the 4 dimensions of life: work, family, community and self. He summarizes them as follows:
- Skills for being real
- Skills for being whole
- Skills for being innovative
Being Real means that you know what matters to you and you can prioritize the different components of life. You are consistent with yourself wherever you go and whatever you do. You are clear with your values and your actions reflect them and by now you have reflected on the legacy you want to leave.
Being Whole requires for you to be able to express your needs, values and goals to the people around you. By now you have developed a personal and professional network that will support your initiative. And you have clear goals of what you want to achieve.
Being Innovative makes you focus on results and accomplishments. You are able to challenge the status quo and find new ways of doing things. You are no longer scared of changes.
All the talent, expertise and skills accumulated in your lifetime can now be leveraged into your business idea. And the best part ….. you are more likely to love and enjoy what you are embarking on.
Some academic research has shown that ideas come from need and understanding of need comes with experience which in turn, comes with age. To illustrate the case, here are some well-known examples of successful women entrepreneurs that started after 50:
- Lynne Brooks started Big Apple Greeter in 1992 at 60 after quitting a job she did not like and getting laid off from a new job less than a year after. Lynn realized that almost everyone she met wanted to visit New York city, but some were a little intimidated. So she started a site to get the world to know New York city as she did.
A- Arlene Dickinson is a great example of a woman achieving success later in life. With no money, a failed marriage and 4 kids she was forced to find a career. She leveraged her skills and turned her life around to become one of Canada’s most powerful business leaders. She is now owner of the award winning Venture Communications, an author, entrepreneur, venture capitalist and TV personality best known for her role as a Dragon on Dragon’s Den.
Lisa Gable considered The Grandmother of invention designed a new kind of bra strap and launched an intimate apparel company at the age of 70.
- Jeanne Dowell founded Green Buddha clothing at the age of 80 with her daughter after spending 40 years teaching yoga.
- Rose Blumkin sold her furniture business to Warren Buffet for 60 million dollars and stayed on as an employee. When she had a falling out with family members she left the business and at the age of 90 started a new retail business. She did pretty well and ended up selling the new business to Warren Buffet for $5 million dollars. Lightning does strike twice!
- Liz DiMarco Weinmann left her quite successful corporate career as a marketing consultant to find something meaningful. In 2007, at the age of 55 she decided to go back to school to learn how to start her own business as a strategy & marketing consultant. Today, Liz coaches executives and start-ups to achieve revenue growth.
- Jill Boehler had always been an entrepreneur at heart. After kids left the home, and passed 50, Jill went from speech pathologist to creating her own business out of a wrap for women to keep in their purse, Chilly Jilly. This is what she had to say: "It's the perfect time to do it. My kids were gone and I could start working at 3 o'clock and work until 1 in the morning. My husband was into it, and I don't have to wait for kids at the bus stop, change diapers, or take them to activities."
- Carol Gardner was facing a divorce that left her with debt, no job, no income and depressed. At the age of 52 she decided to get a dog she named Zelda and this is how Zelda Wisdom started. Today she sells more than $50 million a year on bulldog humor greeting cards.
So after 50 is not too late. It is a good time to take risk and succeed.
A graduate of the Post MBA program, worked as a management consultant with McKinsey for many years and then moved on to Private Equity and Venture Capital. Vera then decided to make a significant change in her career in order to juggle between work and family. She became an independent consultant. She has experienced first-hand the need to maintain flexibility while continuing to develop a professional career. The launch of workhoppers.com; a website directly connecting companies with those looking for freelance, contract, gig and part time work, came from this need. Vera lives in Montreal, Canada with her husband and two children.
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