women start-up

Ladies – It’s never too late to start up


I saw a statistic last week that suggested that more than half the women of pensionable age in the UK are choosing to work beyond retirement with a late career start-up.  Whether this is because they want to work, have to work or simply because  men are incapacitated/rich/lazy or dead wasn’t clear. The one thing  we can deduce from this statement is that for whatever reasons,   even the older age range of  lady Boomers, are in the workplace in some shape or form in a third career.

This isn’t surprising .  It is the most highly educated, economically powerful,  healthiest and physically active  of this  generation of women –  ever.  But with the risk of unemployment increasing, permanent job opportunities shrinking  and divorce rates rising – what other possibilities can you ladies consider to protect yourselves financially or give your lives purpose in your golden years?

Why women want to start-up

Prime Initiative  a UK charity that helps people over 50 (“olderpreneuers”)  set up new businesses, estimates that about 20% of  the over  50s are self-employed, and actually achieve  higher  business survival rates than younger people. Research carried out by  the Kauffman Institute indicates that the older entrepreneur will be at the forefront of the post recession upturn. According to Professor E. Litan “Contrary to popularly held assumptions, it turns out that over the past decade or so, the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity belongs to the 55-64 age group.”

The grey economy seems to be full of potential.

Stephanie Holland, Executive Creative Director of  Holland + Holland in  She-conomy, tells us that in the US 70% of new businesses are set up by women. Meanwhile back in Europe the figure hovers at just under 30% . Recognising that  the female entrepreneur is an untapped resource , the EU  has set up the ‘European Network of Female Entrepreneurship Ambassadors’ to encourage women  into entrepreneurial activities.

We know that 60 % of all European graduates are women  – so it’s not lack of brain power or talent. We know that more and more of us are staying in the work place longer,  so clearly have the energy and drive. So what  is holding us back?

Why women don’t want to start-up

Here are some of  the major factors cited to me as a coach for not becoming entrepreneurs :

  •  Lack of security:  one of the lessons of the past 15 months is that we all have to adjust our ideas on job security. But the 50 somethings  group is the hardest hit demographic in terms of unemployment  – so the traditional workplace  is no longer the guarantee of security that it used to be.
  • Lack of confidence: This is covered by the  most common objections: I don’t know what I want to do / I’m not good at anything/ I can’t or won’t sell. Any career transition coach can support you in this process of identifying your transferrable skills, where and how you can re-train and helping you formulate some goals. There are many organisations which will support budding entrepreneurs and learning new skills. Employees are now the new breed of entrepreneur. You have to sell yourself to get a job anyway. You are only changing the product.
  • Fear of failure:  Whether your transition is into the workplace,  into an entrepreneurial sphere or even voluntary work, it is normal to  feel insecure and full of doubt when you are moving out of your comfort zone.  Taking action helps!  Identify your strengths and transferrable skills and take care of your skill deficit. With a strong personal and professional plan,  goals can be achieved in small incremental steps. This will become a great confidence booster. Sign up for courses, seek out a coach, attend workshops or add to your skill set on an ongoing basis.  Feeling in control  leads to increased confidence.
  • Fear of rejection :  You are the boss. In setting up your own business you are avoiding the glass ceiling. The Harvard Business Review cites only one  female  CEO  in their top 100 Best CEOs list.  Realistically there’s only one show you stand a chance of running  now and guess what?  It’s  your own!

I started my own business in a very typical way, as means of staying in the business community  while I supported my family, following a second international move. Executive search was an avenue where my transferrable skills gained in HR and sales and marketing could be successfully combined. My thinking was that I could work from anywhere with a telephone line and internet connection, near an airport, I could be self scheduling, it was a sector where being experienced was actually an advantage, plus I could work as  long as I wanted to. I have never looked back. In terms of risk,  the recession obviously had an impact on business and it was a period of acute anxiety. Ibprofen became one of my major food groups,  as I chained myself to my computer to cope with the challenge ( tendonitis… don’t worry being dealt with non – chemically now). However, I’m sure it would have been just as stressful being employed, feeling constantly at risk or possibly being on the job market having  been made redundant.

Start-up success stories

I  talked to some other  women  of a “certain age” who decided to set up their own businesses  at a time in their lives when many are  planning retirement. These women  are just a small sample  from my group of  friends – not even my business network.  Their success stories  have been so inspiring and they have responded to my questions with such passion and insight, that I couldn’t bring myself to edit them. My next  post will be dedicated exclusively to them. They are not rags to riches,  or zero to hero stories,  just ordinary women responding to transition and changing circumstances in their own lives, within their families and in the economy – in a positive way.

  • Carol  from the US –  trained as a  teacher,  turned stay at home Mum, turned realtor
  • Jane   from the UK  – trained as Communications Manager, turned trailing spouse, turned event manager and caterer
  • Meicki  from Germany – trained as a  pharmacist, turned stay at home Mum, turned Pilates coach
  • Sacha from the Netherlands: trained as dentist, turned stay at home Mum, turned Virtual Assistant and Project Manager

So what are you waiting for?

9 thoughts on “Ladies – It’s never too late to start up

  1. Heather Stubbs

    Excellent article! I fit this olderpreneur category: singer/actress turned public school teacher, turned private voice/piano teacher, now building a business as a public speaker and presentation skills coach. The lessons of a lifetime are all coming together to serve a new career I just love. At an age when many people are thinking of slowing down, I feel as if I’m just hitting my stride. Hurray for gutsy women!

  2. Susan Mazza

    Love your encouragement and call to action!

    It does takes courage, but I also think it is now a necessity if we are to survive and thrive in the economy of the future to shift how we think about ourselves from employee to business owner even if we are a business of one and even in how we approach a job.

    All of the reasons you cite for why women don’t become entrepreneurs affect us in our careers even when we have job. So it is time to take a stand for ourselves and our value. That is why a coach like you is so critical at this moment in time Dorothy!

    1. Dorothy Dalton

      Thanks Susan. Yes the workplace is changing but as traditional employment can now be as risky as self employment, the goal posts are moving. One key element that you will hear from my commentators next week is that being self employed does give control and flexibility!

  3. Susan Mazza

    The freedom that choice and flexibility provide are my FAVORITE things about being self employed. It was not an easy transition to make – giving up that steady paycheck and illusion of security – but absolutely worth it!

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  6. Mary Wilson

    Thanks for this encouraging post! I started my own consulting business at 50, am still going strong at 60+ and have no plans to retire. I have reinvented myself and my business several times and feel that my best years are still to come. Yes, it’s been scary sometimes, but I’ve never regretted my decision. I now coach others who want to make successful changes in their lives, and I find that my story gives them hope. Let’s hear it for “olderpreneurs”!

    1. Dorothy Dalton

      Mary – go you! Congratulations! Women and especially those in an older demographic are a powerful economic and social force! The ” grey economy “is booming so I agree, let’s hear it for the “olderpreneurs”


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