Think that self-employment is just for younger people? Think again! Nick Smurthwaite meets three olderpreneurs who have been successful in starting their own business.
Geoff Gill and Nice ‘n’ Easy
Geoff Gill (pictured above), 65, left full-time employment as an IT manager to concentrate on the printing business he has been operating at home in Southend-on-Sea for a number of years.
The business, producing calling cards, leaflets, stationery and suchlike, is called Nice ‘n’ Easy. Now he has paid off his mortgage and gets his state pension, Geoff says he can afford to live on the modest income from his print orders.
Over the years he has built up his equipment, which includes cutters, binding machines and industrial-quality laminators.
‘Since I went full time with the printing I’ve nearly doubled the turnover,’ he says. In an effort to attract more business, he has concentrated on advertising, marketing and mail-outs to potential customers.
‘The print business has been my hobby for years so it doesn’t feel like work. It keeps me fit and active. I’m not someone who can sit down and watch telly all day. I like to be busy and dealing with people. I love the freedom of being self-employed.’
How does his wife feel about his decision to restyle himself as a printer? ‘She's all for it, but we both agree I need to take more time off.’
Does Geoff foresee a time when he will want to retire altogether? 'At the moment I don’t have any medical issues, so I shall take it one year at a time. I think 70 sounds like a sensible age to quit, but I may feel differently when I get there.'
Zandra Johnson and Fairytale Furniture
Zandra Johnson (pictured right), 67, launched a company making bespoke furniture for children, Fairytale Furniture, in 2008. Though she had worked in the voluntary sector, she had never run a business before.
‘I had the idea for Fairytale Furniture 10 years ago,’ explains Zandra, ‘but I wasn’t sure if there was a gap in the market because nobody had thought of it, or because nobody wanted it. There was only one way to find out. I saved up £12,000 over 10 years to start up.’
Her big idea was to design and produce bespoke furniture for children that was playful as well as functional. While the business is not yet in profit, she assures me her sales have never been better. She sells mostly online, but has recently started to target the retail market.
She prepared for the launch by attending business courses, seminars, reading books and researching manufacturers armed with her portfolio of furniture designs. It has been a steep learning curve, especially on the marketing and advertising front.
Has it all been worth it? ‘Oh yes, I love seeing my ideas become reality. Sometimes I feel I’m riding a tiger because there is a lot of anxiety involved and there are never enough hours in the day.’
Tom McIntosh and Alcor Capital Management
Tom McIntosh, 60, retired from full-time employment in 2008 after a very successful 36-year career in financial services. After 3 months he was bored and realised he wasn’t ready to retire. Luckily he knew two other men from the world of investment who had had enough of working for big organisations and liked the idea of running their own business.
Together, they launched Alcor Capital Management in May 2010, and Tom says it has taken a year to get it up and running. ‘Since we’ve been active I am more convinced than ever there is a need for the services my partners and I can provide.’
Tom’s wife has been supportive of his decision to return to work, realising retirement wasn’t for him. He says his working hours are a lot more flexible than they used to be.
On the subject of older people returning to work, Tom believes there is a lot of shortsightedness on the part of employers: ‘They tend to assume people with experience and expertise are going to be too expensive to employ, so they go for somebody younger who won’t cost so much. What they don’t realise is that most older workers are happy to take the going rate for the job, so actually the employer could be getting a real bargain.’
Information about starting a business
Read our 'Be your own boss' guide for more information about starting up a business.
Be your own boss