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Start-up Advice

The Unique Challenges Of Senior Entrepreneurship

Being an entrepreneur at any age comes with risks and payoffs.




Being an entrepreneur at any age comes with risks and payoffs. In today’s worldwide retirement crisis, it makes complete sense that seniors are showing real entrepreneurial spirit by setting up businesses.

However, do seniors experience unique challenges in this regard?

In this day and age, the rules have changed. The retirement age needs to disappear into extinction – in other words, go the way of the Dodo bird. Research shows that throughout the ages, you worked until you died, or until you couldn’t work any more. In 13BC Augustus paid Legionnaires a pension.

In 16AD Britain did same for their military officers. In 1684, the first civilian public servant got pensioned. The popular theory is that the Retirement concept originated in 1881, the brainchild of Chancellor Otto van Bismarck in Germany.

He introduced a well-orchestrated social insurance called the Reichstag social pension to assist the finances of nonworking older Germans. Initially 70 was the magic number chosen by Bismarck as the retirement age. This was changed to 65 sometime after Bismarck died.

Related: An Entrepreneurial Mindset – Why And How To Develop One

Today, 65 is the new-55. 65-year olds have a zest for life, plenty of stamina plus in many cases the inclination and the necessity to work. So it’s a hard call having your retirement age dictated to you.

In this country especially, 94% of South Africans need to augment their meagre pensions, particularly as one has to contend with an exorbitant cost of living that rises on what seems like a daily basis. And don’t forget that this is the time of life that many people can have the opportunity to embark on their second careers by fuelling their passion, work on their own terms, set their own schedule and/or use their skills for the greater good.

Regrettably, South African research is thin. However, American research and specifically the Kaufmann Foundation’s annual index of Entrepreneurial Activity demonstrates that the number of older American entrepreneurs is exploding. In the UK, research shows that 332,000 Britons aged 65+ started their own business in the last 12 months. There is no reason to think that the trend should be any different in this country.

Seniors worldwide are showing real entrepreneurial spirit by setting up businesses despite the failure of banks to lend them funds.

Is it foolhardy to start a business when you are a senior?

Research shows that people who are in the age bracket 55 to 64 have a higher rate of entrepreneurial success than those aged 20 to 35. 86 year old American, Bill Zinke puts this into a nutshell: “I believe that entrepreneurship is a particularly good fit for the older generation who have oodles of experience, knowledge, and skills. Which is why older people who create new businesses have a better rate of success in comparison to the younger generation”.

Senior entrepreneurs will go through the same challenges as their younger counterparts, but there are some unique challenges as well. And so, if you are a senior entrepreneurial wannabe, here are hints and tips to consider before you embark on what could be the journey of a lifetime.

Do you have a good business plan?


Does your idea solve a problem? No idea is too odd to find success. Is there a need for your product or service? Research your idea thoroughly and look at your competitors to see how they are doing. A good business plan will assist you in mapping out how to start and run your business successfully.

Building a business which is fuelled by your passion is a necessity – without it, you may battle to get through the highs and lows and this could affect your business overall.

Related: Free Business Plan Template Download

Evaluate your skills

If you need to beef up your business acumen – do it! It is critical to have the necessary skills in order to run your business? It’s all very well having the passion, and you can turn passion into profit, but you need the capability too.

If you don’t have the skills, another option is to outsource certain areas if you can afford it, or bring in talent to assist with the tasks you are not able to do.

How will you finance your start-up?

Number one rule – don’t gamble with your nest egg. Start with minimal investment. Consider how you will get funding or attract investors. If you can’t afford it, don’t invest money in a business and most importantly, use business revenue to grow your business – not your retirement savings. Understand the financial risks when undertaking to start a new business in retirement.

Learn to love technology

Don’t be challenged by technology – it’s easy (and addictive!) once you know how! Your mobile device could be your new pocket office! You will need to get on top of social media, online commerce, website management and other technical skills.

There are so many places out there that offer local courses or better still, get a grandson/granddaughter to teach you. Social media is most effective when it comes to word-of-mouth marketing.

Beef up your business acumen online through podcasts, webinars, e-books and YouTube videos. It actually starts becoming fun!

Use freelancers initially

While you are growing your business, consider looking for talented, independent contractors who can assist you with short- or long-term projects – a great way to assist you in managing costs in the beginning.

Related: From Freelancers to Entrepreneurs: How Christine and Warren Bernard Made the Jump

Use your network and connections


You probably know a lot of people, having been in the world of work for quite some time. Ask your connections in your network to assist you by giving you immediate access to potential customers – this will help you in the first instance to get your business off the ground.

Look after your assets

Protect your personal assets at all costs. Structure your business in such a way, that if you go down the road of failure, this does not impact on your precious retirement savings.

Don’t spend unnecessarily

Be frugal. The biggest and the best is completely unnecessary when it comes to office equipment, cell phones, websites or office space. Tune your mindset in to start small and grow with the business.

Time management

You thought you had the most challenging job of all in corporate?! Think again – running a business as a senior entrepreneur will very likely be the most challenging job of your life and it is probable you will need to commit to working harder than ever.

Align your business goals with your retirement lifestyle and ensure that this is something you want to do and you have the time to do it.

It is vital to construct a balanced approach to your life and time in retirement. If you battle with this, employing a business coach could go a long way in assisting you realise your goals.

Related: Why Time Management is Just a Waste of Time

Do you have the physical stamina to start a business?

Check out your health thoroughly before you embark on starting a new venture. Ensure you are in good shape to keep up with the demands of a new business especially during the start-up period. Do not let stress further impact your health.

In conclusion:

Starting and running a business in retirement is not for the feint-hearted. It’s a long, tough road and needs dedication, time, energy, patience, practice and money to succeed. It can take 1000 days or 3-5 years for a new business to become profitable. Senior entrepreneurs should start small, dream big and be willing to charter unknown territories. Stay young at heart, take on the daily challenges and be open to new ideas. Be a risk taker!

You will find that running a successful business is one of the most rewarding things you can do – physically, mentally and financially. Loving your work is key! Find something you would love to do, and don’t allow fear to stop you from achieving this dream, no matter your age. Viva Senior Entrepreneurs!


Marilyn Hallett is the Director of You’ve Earned It. You’ve Earned It is a niche website serving the fastest-growing demographic in South Africa - the over-60s – South African baby boomers, seniors, pensioners and retirees. With a major focus on savings, benefits and discounts to this age group, YEI has become an invaluable resource for seniors in this country

Start-up Advice

Put On Your Wellies: It’s Time To Wade Into Risk

Entrepreneurs aren’t all leaping into the unknown like lemmings off a cliff, but they do need to consider it…

Chris Ogden




You’ve had a great idea. You’ve looked into its development. You’ve recognised that it has potential beyond just what Auntie Mabel and Mike From The Grocer think. And you’ve clearly nailed a pain point that can make money. Now it is time to take the risk of running with it.

Every big idea comes with risk. You can’t step out into the world of entrepreneurial thinking and business development without it. Your idea may fail. It will also be time consuming, demanding, hungry for money, and hard work. It is unrealistic to expect that your project will leap out into the world and be an unmitigated success.

It is also unrealistic to assume that it isn’t worth taking this risk.

There are steps that you can follow to ensure that your risk is managed so you aren’t blindly leaping off that cliff…

Step 01: Do your research

No, canvassing your neighbours, friends and family is not doing research. You need to know that your idea will appeal to a broad market and that it will have significant legs. This may sound like daft advice, but you would be surprised how many people think an idea will take off just because Susan in Accounting said so.

Step 02: Understand the costs

Projects are hungry for money and investment. Realistically work out your budgets and how much it will cost to take your project off the ground and then stick to it.

A calculated risk is a far better bet than one that shoots from the hip and hopes for the best. You can also use this as an opportunity to draw a clear line under where you will stop investing and end the project. If it keeps eating money and isn’t getting anywhere with results you need to be able to walk away.

Step 03: Know when to walk away

As mentioned before, this can be defined by a line you’ve drawn in the proverbial sand (and budget) but no matter where you draw this line, you have to stick to it. Often, when time, money and energy have been poured into a project it can be incredibly hard to walk away.

You think ‘but I have put so much into this, just one more’ and then it gets to a point where the ‘just one more’ has taken you so far down the line that walking away feels impossible. Leave. Learn the lessons. Apply them to your next project.

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Start-up Advice

Mind The Gap

The entrepreneur’s guide to finding the gaps and building the right solutions.

Chris Ogden




Innovation may very well be the key to business success but finding the gap into which your innovative thinking can fit is often a lot harder than people realise. Some may be struck by inspiration in the shower, others by that moment of blinding insight in a meeting, however, for most people finding that big idea isn’t that simple. They want to be an entrepreneur and start their own high-growth business, but they need some ideas on how to find that big idea.

Here are five…

1. Network

It sounds trite but networking is actually an excellent way of picking up on patterns and trends in conversation and business problems. The trick is to note them down and pay attention. Soon, you will find patterns emerging and ideas forming.

2. Look for pain

Just as networking can reveal trends in the market, so can spending time reading. The latter will also help you find common business pain points. These are the touchpoints that frustrate people, annoy business owners, affect productivity, or impact employee engagement.

Be the Panado that fixes these pains.

3. Luck


This is probably the most annoying of the ideas, but it is unfortunately (or fortunately) very true. Luck does play a role in helping you capture that big idea. However, luck isn’t just standing around and random people offering you opportunities. Luck is found at networking events, it is found in research and it is found in conversations with other entrepreneurs.

4. Luck needs courage

You may have found the big idea through your network, a pain point or pure blind luck, but if you don’t have the courage to take it and run with it, you will lose it to someone else.

Being bold in business is highly underrated because most people assume that everyone is bold and prepared to take big leaps into the unknown. However, not all brilliant entrepreneurs were ready to throw their family funds to the wind and leap into an idea – they were courageous enough to figure out a way of harnessing their ideas realistically.

5. Pay attention

This is probably one of the most vital ways of finding a gap in the market. Often, people are so busy that they don’t really pay attention to that niggling issue that always bothers them on a commute, or in a mall, or at a meeting. This niggling issue could very well be the next big business opportunity. Pay attention to it and find out if that issue can be solved with your innovative thinking.

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Start-up Advice

5 Things To Know About Your “Toddler” Business

As you navigate this new toddler phase of your business, here are five things to bear in mind.

Catherine Black




Ah, toddlers. Those irresistible bundles of joy bring a huge amount of energy, curiosity and fun to any family – but there’s also frustration and worry that comes with their unpredictability, as they grow and start to become more independent. If you own a business and it’s successfully past its “infancy” of the first year or so, it’s likely it will also go through a toddler stage of its lifecycle.

Pete Hammond, founder of luxury safari company SafariScapes, agrees with this. “Our business is now three and a half years old, and we’ve found that we’re not yet big enough to justify employing a large team of people to handle the day-to-day admin tasks, yet we still need to grow the business as well,” he says. “As a result, our main challenge is finding the time to step back and see the bigger picture. Kind of like when you are raising a busy toddler and you spend most of your time running after them!”

As you navigate this new toddler phase of your business, here are five things to bear in mind:

1. This too shall pass

Everything in life is temporary – and that goes for both the good and the bad. It’s as helpful to remember this when you’re facing the might of a toddler temper tantrum, as it is when you’re facing throws of uncertainty in your business. If your new(ish) venture is going through a rough patch in its first few years, it can be easy to think about giving up – but don’t. As long as you have an overall big idea that you believe can add value to your customers, keep pushing through the rough parts until you come out the other side.

2. Appreciate what this phase brings

The toddler years mean that the initial newborn joy is officially behind you. But these small humans also bring their own kinds of joy, as you watch them learn new skills, say funny things, and give affection back to you. While your two-year-old business may not hold the same exhilaration for you as it did during those first few months, there are now different things to appreciate about it: Maybe you’re expanding your product range, or employing new people who can take the workload off you.

3. Establish boundaries

Toddlers thrive on boundary and routine – and your toddler business will too. As it grows into a new phase, try and establish limits in terms of the type of clients you want to work with and the type of work you’ll do. It’s also a good idea to make a decision about the hours you’ll work and when you’ll switch off, which will help you establish a good work-life balance.

4. Take a break

Every parent with a toddler needs a break every now and then, even if that means a walk around the block (on your own!), a dinner out with friends, or even a few days away. The same is true for a demanding small business: every so often, remember to take time out to rest properly, where you switch off your laptop and completely unplug. You’ll return much more inspired and resilient to deal with the everyday uncertainty that it brings.

5. Give it space to make mistakes

While the unpredictability of a young business can be stressful and tiring, it’s also a time for trying new things without the risk of huge consequences if they don’t quite work. After all, it’s much simpler to change your USP if you’re a small business employing a few people, rather than a big company where 50 people are relying on you for their salary, or where you’ve received a huge amount of investment capital. While you may fail in some of the things you try with your business (in fact, this is almost guaranteed), see it as a toddler that’s resilient enough to pick itself up, dust its knees and keep moving forward.

During this phase of business growth it’s also essential to have the right type of medical aid cover. There are medical schemes such as Fedhealth which has a number of medical aid options and value-added benefits to ensure that your health and wellness is taken care of too. After all, the healthier you and your staff are, the more productive your business will be – during the toddler (business) stage and beyond.

While this phase can be frustrating, it’s a sign that your business is growing and adapting, rather than remaining in its infancy, and that can only be a good thing! So embrace the difficulties, learn from them, and watch as your business strides forward confidently into the next exciting phase.

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