The rise of the ‘olderpreneur’

Geoff Gill, founder of Nice 'n' Easy, his printing business.

(Pictured above: Geoff Gill, who founded printing company Nice 'n' Easy)

Nick Smurthwaite reports on the growing numbers of over-50s choosing to start up their own business and become older entrepreneurs.

The job market is tough at the moment - in spite of new laws scrapping the Default Retirement Age, widespread redundancies are making it difficult to find new jobs.

But far from being content to sit back and let the ageing process do its worst, increasing numbers of over-50s are choosing to stay in employment by starting up their own businesses.

The level of self-employment in the 50-plus age group is about 1 in 5, considerably higher than levels across all ages.

Reasons for this upsurge in ‘olderpreneurs’, as they have been dubbed by the media, include:

  • earlier retirement or enforced redundancy,
  • low interest rates,
  • the abandonment of the statutory retirement age,
  • the demise of final-salary pensions,
  • and a fashionable desire to reinvent yourself in another form, preferably one that supplements your state pension.

Business success

This growing army of olderpreneurs could potentially add billions to the UK economy in the coming years if current predictions are correct.

Years of collected experience and expertise means that this group of start-up entrepreneurs is more likely to succeed, with over 70% lasting more than 5 years, compared with 28% of younger entrepreneurs.

With the over-55s due to account for a third of the UK’s population by 2025, older workers are well placed to take advantage of this fast-growing marketplace through shared experience and understanding.

So what kind of businesses are we talking about? They tend to be small-scale, quite often home-based, and modestly financed, but the nature ranges hugely from genealogy to specialist catering, to self-care for women experiencing the menopause.

According to Hilary Farnworth, who runs start-up courses for the over-50s at the Metropolitan University, women prefer to be sole traders, whereas men generally prefer to go into partnership with other like-minded men.

Geoff Gill and Nice ‘n’ Easy

Geoff Gill (pictured above), 65, left full-time employment as an IT manager earlier this year 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.'

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