Joseph Campbell was 52 when he started his world-famous tinned soup company. Ferdinand Porsche was 56 when his eponymous sports car roared onto the scene.
And Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken was 65 when he introduced his secret blend of herbs and spices to the world. They may have been selling different products, but each was over 50 when they turned their dreams into multi-million dollar businesses.
And they’re not the only ones following entrepreneurial ambitions later in life. From large corporations to boutique brands, the aptly dubbed seniorpreneurs are a success story of the modern business age.
In 1996, only 13% of new entrepreneurs were aged 55 to 64. By 2013, that figure had risen to 23%. When you consider the reasons, it's not all that surprising. Baby Boomers, the generation born between 1946 - 1964, are an increasingly influential demographic, living longer and better than any previous generation. They tend to have more freedom and less responsibility. And thanks to a combination of accrued experience and solid networks, they have more money and time to invest in business building.
'There are so many people over 50 doing amazing things… It doesn’t matter how old you are. People don’t have a use-by date.’
Author Jill Weeks saw this first-hand while travelling Australia with her husband Owen, researching their first book, Where To Retire In Australia. Jill met hundreds of inspiring retirees who had combined passion with innovation to launch new ventures. Jill and Owen were so impressed by the people they met that their second book, Retire Bizzi, is a compilation of the stories of these seniorpreneurs.
‘There are so many people over 50 doing amazing things,’ says Jill. ‘One lady we met near Mudgee had a treechange from Sydney, and now she has this terrific business selling all sorts of things from shoe bags to ironing board covers. She’s sold thousands around the world. Another guy up in Ballina decided to establish an employment agency for baby boomers called Silver Temps. It doesn't matter how old you are. People don't have a use-by date. As my husband says, age only matters if you're a bottle of wine or a lump of cheese. We've met people who have bought wineries, bed and breakfasts, all sorts of wonderful things.
We're living longer than ever. And we're working longer as a result. But in an interesting knock-on effect, science has found that working longer significantly impacts our longevity. A US study of over 6000 people aged 20 to 75 found that having a sense of purpose contributes to healthy ageing and helps you live longer.
Finding a direction for life and setting overarching goals for what you want to achieve can help you actually live longer.’
‘Our findings point to the fact that finding a direction for life and setting overarching goals for what you want to achieve can help you actually live longer, regardless of when you find your purpose,’ says lead researcher Patrick Hill of Carleton University in Canada. ‘There are a lot of reasons to believe that being purposeful might help protect older adults more so than younger ones,’ says Hill. ‘For instance, adults might need a sense of direction more, after they have left the workplace and lost that source for organising their daily events.’
While many people emerge from retirement out of necessity, the common denominator in starting something new is passion. Be it finding employment, building a business, or making money from your hobbies. And age is a bonus when it comes to success.
‘[Retirees] have experience, wisdom and training. They're fortunate to know what they like and are very good at adapting to change,’ says Weeks. ‘In the past, they might have had a lot more pressure. They would have had to endeavour to keep the food on the table, their children educated, and the rent or mortgage paid, as well as had pressure from work. Whereas now, they're in charge of their own destinies.’
‘[Retirees] have experience, wisdom and training. They’re fortunate to know what they like and are very good at adapting to change.’
‘I know one couple who launched an outback helpers scheme. So if you're a grey nomad, you can contact them and get work experience or even paid work in the outback. Another man I know started a locum business service with his wife, which means he looks after other people's businesses while they’re away. Opening mail, checking on staff, helping with the banking - anything and everything. They became so busy he actually had to turn down work after a while. His age and his experience, trustworthiness and dedication definitely worked in his favour.’
So what should you do if you're considering joining the ever-growing ranks of successful seniorpreneurs? Weeks has some helpful advice. ‘Establish an 'ideas bank' and write down all the possibilities. Work out what your passions are and your skills, and see how you can marry them. Decide whether you just want a hobby or a business. Of course, there are implications that go with that, so you should talk to your financial planner, too,’ she says. ‘Do your research and speak to as many people as possible. Get your advice from a number of different sources. Cultivate your networks, so you're not limited to one group and surround yourself with people who encourage you.’
You can also get guidance from Business Enterprise Centres nationwide to help your business reach its full potential. Weeks says the aim is to start a business that can be profitable without risking your retirement income.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics expects the number of people in Australia aged 65 to more than double, from 3.2 million in 2012 to 6.8 million by 2040. As part of one of the most liberated, independent and innovative generations ever seen, the boom of successful senior entrepreneurs is only going to get bigger.
When you think about it, there's a reason so many over-50s are not only more successful but happier than ever. They're living the dream and embracing the spirit of the famous Confucius quote, 'Choose a job you love, and you'll never have to work a day in your life.'
For more information about the lifestyle and support offered at our retirement villages, call our customer service team on 1800 550 550.
If you think your family or friends might enjoy this article, please share it with them.