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Overcoming key obstacles as an older entrepreneur

Starting a business is a dream for many, but older entrepreneurs may feel as if their age is a barrier that stops them from achieving their start-up goals.

The number of older entrepreneurs doubled opens in new window in the UK in 2021, which is believed to be a result of older workers resigning during the Covid-19 pandemic and re-evaluating what work they wanted to do.

Starting your own business, especially as an older entrepreneur, could come with several challenges, such as adopting new technology opens in new window you don’t have experience using and issues securing funding.

But with the right guidance, encouragement, and support, you could have a chance to turn your business dreams into a reality opens in new window.

Plenty of research shows that business founders may have a good chance of success later in life.

A study by Harvard Business Review opens in new window found that the highest likelihood of start-up success is when founders are aged between 50 and 60.

Research by Kellogg Insight opens in new window found that a start-up business owner aged 50 is 1.8 times more likely to start a successful company than a 30-year-old founder.


Overcoming attribute challenges

Yet while research shows older start-up business owners can be successful, some widespread misconceptions and obstacles can prevent those in later life from leaping into entrepreneurship.

One misconception is that entrepreneurs tend to be younger 20-something university graduates opens in new window with unique ideas they are launching into the market – known as ‘blue flame founders opens in new window’.

In reality, research shows that the median age of founders across Britain ranges from 38-40 years old opens in new window – proving you don’t need to be fresh out of university to realise your start-up dreams.

According to a report by King’s College London opens in new window, 35% of UK businesses are started and run by people aged over 50.

However, older entrepreneurs may struggle with confidence after leaving full-time work to begin their own business, or they lack self-belief in their ability to work what are often perceived as long, stressful hours when launching a business.

However, experience can be an asset when starting your own business, while working smarter means launching a business doesn’t always have to mean long working days.

Although older entrepreneurs in their 40s, 50s or 60s may have less time to make mistakes and launch further businesses compared to a founder in their 20s, those additional years of experience and skills could see their business get onto a sound footing from the start.


Overcoming financial challenges

Starting a business later in life can have several benefits, including supplementing retirement income and as an alternative source of income if you struggle to find employment – a report by the Centre for Ageing Better opens in new window found that one in three over 50s felt they had been turned down for a job due to their age.

Older entrepreneurs may face financial challenges that could hinder the growth of their start-up, such as investors being unwilling opens in new window to invest due to age bias.

However, you may find your older age works to your advantage with some investors, who may feel more confident in your start-up’s chances at succeeding based on your experience, knowledge, and network of potential customers opens in new window.

Older entrepreneurs may be able to access a range of funding to inject cash into their business idea, such as:

  • their pension pot – some older business owners may be able to take up to 25% of their private pension pot as a tax-free sum (subject to a lifetime cap, their pension scheme rules and potential income tax implications)
  • a redundancy payout – some older start-up founders may have been made redundant and have a lump sum to use
  • savings – some older business owners may have paid off mortgages and have built up a savings fund
  • business loans – older entrepreneurs with a business plan opens in new window can apply for business loans from various finance providers (some finance providers offer loans specifically targeted at older borrowers)
  • Start Up Loans – a government-backed scheme opens in new window that offers small business loans of up to £25,000 to help start-ups, as well as business mentoring
  • grants – some government grants opens in new window and those from charities or private enterprises may be available to support older business owners
  • angel investorswealthy individuals opens in new window who may be driven by personal preferences as to the owner’s experience and expertise they want to invest in.


Technology and trends

A common misconception is that older generations may struggle with technology and can’t keep up with the latest trends.

There are ways older entrepreneurs can keep up with technological advancements and trends – and these can help new businesses adopt technologies and platforms opens in new window, and capitalise on emerging trends such as artificial intelligence opens in new window.

Ideas for staying up-to-date with technology and trends include:


Networking and connections

An advantage older entrepreneurs may have over younger start-up owners is an established network.

By effectively contacting your network, you could open doors to potential customers for your start-up business and professionals who could help you run your business more efficiently and effectively.

For example, if you previously worked closely with people in HR or accounting opens in new window, these contacts could provide valuable insight and advice.

Regularly contacting and meeting members of your network to maintain a positive relationship and social capital could help you achieve this more easily.

Read our guide on where to find support from a network opens in new window.


Health and mental well-being

A 2022 study by Mental Health UK found that four in five small business owners opens in new window reported that they suffered from poor mental health opens in new window.

Start-up owners of all ages can suffer because of a number of reasons – inadequate support, financial worries, or lack of access to physical and mental health support.

It can be a good idea to think of ways to better maintain a healthy work/life balance:

  • writing daily to-do lists and using project management tools to complete tasks can help reduce stress
  • scheduling regular breaks and taking part in physical activity could boost productivity and help reduce anxiety
  • keeping your workspace separate from home could make it easier for you to relax
  • contacting friends and family, or seeking professional help for support during periods of poor mental or physical health
  • blocking out time for regular exercise, such as walking, jogging, or swimming
  • ensuring that you get enough sleep and following a regular sleep routine.


Learn with Start Up Loans and help get your business off the ground

Thinking of starting a business? Check out our free online courses in partnership with the Open University on being an entrepreneur.

Our free Learn with Start Up Loans courses opens in new window include:

Plus free courses on finance and accounting, project management, and leadership.


Reference to any organisation, business and event on this page does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation from the British Business Bank or the UK Government. Whilst we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circumstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.

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