New research has identified the barriers faced by older people looking to set up a new business, and highlighted the potential cost of inaction to the UK economy.
The research by The Olderpreneur Alliance shows that while more over-50s than ever are thinking about going it alone with self-employment or a new business venture, they report a range of obstacles – from a lack of start-up and investment capital to difficulties accessing business support services and training.
Dr Isabella Moore CBE (pictured), who’s doctoral research into the subject led her to launch The Olderpreneurship Alliance at the age of 74 years, is now calling on government, business support services and financial institutions to do more to encourage and support so-called ‘olderpreneurs’ in response to the need for economic growth in the UK’s ageing society.
Dr Moore, a successful entrepreneur and former President of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “Business creation is an important driver of economic growth and innovation, both of which are vital in the current economic climate.
“For older people, later-life entrepreneurship can provide a life-changing opportunity when they find it difficult to obtain full-time work or realise that pension income is insufficient; or see in later life the perfect chance to fulfil long-held business ambitions.
“For these reasons, it is vital that olderpreneurship is given every opportunity to flourish. Unfortunately, all our research indicates that, as things stand, older people wishing to set up in business face a significant number of obstacles and challenges, not least of which are ageist attitudes towards older people.”
The number of UK businesses run by people aged 55+ has steadily increased over the past decade, with the fastest growing age group of new business owners being those aged over 65. Encouragingly, the older you are when you start your business, the more likely your chances of success. In the US, MIT found that a 50-year-old founder is twice as likely to build an enterprise that leads to either a market flotation or successful acquisition as a 30-year-old founder.
Despite this, The Olderpreneur Alliance found that older people often hold back from going it alone because of a complex mix of personal, social, and economic barriers. While a majority of older people feel that age equips later-life entrepreneurs with a range of skills and achievements that can be harnessed for business creation, many feel this experience is undervalued by the business and wider communities.
The lack of confidence this creates can significantly undermine the intention to become an entrepreneur, as well as the ability of older people to access the resources needed for the venture.
Many potential olderpreneurs report a lack of financial resources to fund their start-up and ongoing financial commitments but see financial institutions as reluctant to invest in later-life business creation and government-type grant applications as too complex.
Business support services such as training and mentoring are also felt to be geared to younger entrepreneurs. A high proportion of older men and women report they would find it difficult or uncomfortable to attend business networking events and feel they would not be taken seriously as a later-life entrepreneur.
The research also identified a number of gender-specific barriers. Despite clear evidence of older women outperforming men in terms of attitude to risk, confidence in the transferability of their skills and experience, and levels of resilience and perseverance, many report feeling excluded from the enterprise culture because they don’t fit the popular image of the young, male entrepreneur.
Dr Moore added: “It is clear that an army of potential olderpreneurs stands ready and willing to mobilise, with the potential to make a huge economic and social contribution to this country.
“But what stands out strongly from our research is that both women and men in later life report difficulties in obtaining targeted, relevant business support to help them build both the practical business skills and the confidence they need to take this ambition forward.
“The Olderpreneur Alliance will shortly be launching its own mentoring and support services to help those looking to make this step in later-life, but we also urge all those in relevant government, business support and financial roles to consider how they can contribute to the unlocking of this vast, and largely untapped, resource.
“Banks and financial institutions need to acknowledge and then act to stimulate the untapped potential of later-life individuals seeking funding support and investment for business creation.
“Finally, and perhaps most importantly of all, we need an urgent change in our societal narrative – in the media and elsewhere – about later-life entrepreneurship, again particularly in relation to older women.”
To download a copy of the research report, visit www.olderpreneuralliance.com/research-advocacy
For more information on later-life business creation and The Olderpreneurship Alliance, visit www.olderpreneuralliance.com