All hail the rise of the ‘olderpreneur’!

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All hail the rise of the ‘olderpreneur’!

The founder of several UK start-ups tells Candice Krieger why the pandemic has triggered an increase in the numbers of over-50s who are setting up their own businesses

For many on Suzanne’s course, self-employment can be a way of doing something they love
For many on Suzanne’s course, self-employment can be a way of doing something they love

A rising number of peopled aged over 50 are starting their own business, putting them on their way to becoming the most active start-up founders in the UK today.

The spike in founders over 50, dubbed ‘olderpreneurs’, has been triggered by the pandemic, which resulted in large rises in unemployment among this demographic – the worst affected age cohort alongside the younger generation.

“When people think of start-ups, they tend to picture high-growth tech businesses launched by 20-somethings, but the decision for many people to set up their own company is increasingly driven by necessity and
putting food on the table,” says seasoned ‘olderpreneur’ Suzanne Noble.

The 60- year-old has launched Startup School for Seniors – a first of its kind online course to help those aged 50 and above to start their own business – which begins tomorrow (14 January).

Suzanne Noble

“Covid-19 has changed the employment market irreversibly and made it even harder for workers aged 50+ to find a job,” continues Noble.

“We want to give older people a platform through which they can take back control by launching a business of their own.

“It could involve them monetising a lifelong hobby or putting the experience they’ve gleaned through their employed careers into use for themselves.”

According to a 2021 report by London Councils, which represents London’s 32 borough councils and the City of London, lockdown led to large rises in unemployment for the over-50s, who were “more at risk of being furloughed”.

And a report by the Resolution Foundation concluded that the pandemic had led to the most significant annual employment fall for older workers since the 1980s. Further data shows that it takes those aged 50+ twice as long to find a job as any other age group.

Startup for Seniors is a free eight-week course comprising more than 25 hours of video lessons from Noble and co-founder Mark Elliott, 57, a business coach and educator.

Noble has been self-employed since her 20s, when she produced a television series about astrology for Channel 4. She has since created several businesses, including tech company Frugl, an award-winning app that helped Londoners on a budget to find affordable things to do. She also runs nestful, which supports older homeowners to find compatible lodgers, for Noble is passionate about helping this ‘under-served’ demographic.

She recalls: “In 2017, I started the Advantages of Age Business Academy with a colleague, our first attempt to solve a problem I was seeing among many of my friends who were losing their job and struggling to reengage with the labour market in a meaningful way.

“We delivered the course in libraries, community centres and co-work spaces, but we struggled to obtain funding as the trusts and foundations we were approaching for support weren’t seeing the scale of the problem.

“The pandemic created urgency as the numbers of over-50s being made redundant or losing their job escalated, and the requirement for us to deliver a programme online became clear.”

Noble obtained Covid response funding to create the eLearning platform, out of which Startup School for Seniors was born.

For many on the course, self-employment is also about doing something they love, which could be turning a passion or hobby into a business.

The pandemic created urgency as the numbers of over-50s being made redundant or losing their job escalated, and the requirement for us to deliver a programme online became clear.

Where does Noble see the big opportunities for olderpreneurs? “Statistically, older people are more likely to succeed than those much younger,” she notes. “I see the most significant opportunities in helping to solve the problems that impact our age group – such as those that concern caring for elderly parents, whether it’s around supporting informal carers (currently one in five people over 50) or providing alternatives to care homes.

“As an ageing society, we have many challenges that are yet to be addressed – especially around care, housing and work.”

She adds: “While we know that older people tend to be more risk-averse, this can be an advantage in starting a business later in life. Our learners tend to want to get it right rather than jump in at the deep end.

“They spend more time in the research phase and want to fully understand the problem they are trying to solve rather than rushing towards a solution. They often start businesses based on their sector knowledge, which is usually extensive and, as a result, more likely to be of interest to their target market.”

Startup School for Seniors begins online tomorrow, 14 January 2022, and is free to those who have been resident in London, Dorset and Central Bedfordshire for three or more years.


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