You want to occupy your retirement years meaningfully. You want a dependable nest egg. You want to start a business.
You are afraid to take the first step. You wonder if you are too old to be an entrepreneur. You worry about whether you can make it at your age.
You are not alone.
News of business failures has flooded the media and many of the people that have failed were better qualified, better funded, and better equipped than you ever were. Furthermore, with the world in recession from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the odds of succeeding in business are stacked against you.
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Fear is perfectly normal and understandable. I have been in your shoes. I struggled with the decision to start a business in my 50s. I went on to start 2 businesses with different sets of partners and picked up a host of skills that I can use to double-up as a freelancer if needed.
I totally understand the concerns you have. You cannot afford a failure at your age. You need a high level of assurance and certainty. But what if you miss the golden opportunity of a lifetime by not trying?
Let’s say I can show you real-life cases of ordinary people above 60 years of age who have successfully started a business. Above 70, 80, and 90 even. Would that inspire you?
Let’s get inspired.
3 Case Studies of Inspiration
We will take 3 quotable sources of inspiration to illustrate that you are never too old, never too late and never too poor to start a business.
Case Study 1: Ben Van Praagh
The Guardian reported how Ben Van Praagh at the age of 74 started Benyfit Natural, a dog food business.
Ben was a dog lover all his life. He retired at the age of 60 in an “insurance-related business” but it was 14 years later when he finally decided to start a business after his own passion. It was not a spur of the moment. He researched the market and tested several products before launching his enterprise in 2014.
Ben was so successful in his business with sales doubling month-on-month, that his youngest son joined the business.
Starting a business at 74 is impressive, isn’t it? But can matured ladies make it since the business world has always been male-dominated? What if you are even older?
Let’s turn our radar on a lady who started her business when she was past 80-years-old.
Case Study 2: Brenda Deane
Brenda worked as a chartered accountant for 50 years. Her life took an unexpected turn when her partner died.
Instead of passing her remaining years reminiscing about the past, Brenda decided at the age of 82 to start a business making candles and room diffusers.
Instead of worrying needlessly about her new business venture, she shared: “It has given me the opportunity of joining so many networking groups here. We have a club that has a breakfast meeting every month, and I have been invited to join Women in Business and Forward Ladies.”
Starting a business at 82 is something, huh? It gets better: How about starting at 98-years-old with a serious handicap to match?
Case Study 3: Nick Sabatino
Nick was legally blind at the age of 98-years-old.
98 is a ripe old age where you should be enjoying time with loved ones. That is way, way, way past retirement age to go around tiring yourself with a business venture, especially when you are visually handicapped, right?
Not Nick. He not only started a business at 98-years-old, but he also invited several of his retired friends who were architects, salesmen, artists, business owners, and politicians to join him. Nick believed that all their combined arsenal of knowledge and experience would be highly sought after by the next generation of entrepreneurs. They started “Say It With An Idea” and their venture promptly caught the attention of Dayton Daily News.
Nick led the group of business veterans with a simple order: “No offices, no presidents, all owners. We’ll communicate with Skype and our only products will be ideas.”
Wow, leading at the age of 98. But he has experienced partners, money to start a venture, and a supportive wife by his side. You wonder if you could duplicate his success.
What if I show you a bonus case study of someone who became a business icon, by starting a business without money nor supportive friends, and was way past 60 of age when he did?
Bonus Case Study: Never Too Old, Never Too Poor, Never Too Late
“I was sixty-six years old. I still had to make a living. I looked at my social security check of 105 dollars and decided to use that to try to franchise my chicken recipe. Folks had always liked my chicken.” Colonel Sanders, KFC
Accordingly to Forbes, KFC was worth a whopping US$8.5B in 2019 with a global sales volume of $26.2B to match. By the last official count, KFC outlets already numbered more than 22,600 in 135 countries around the world.
KFC was started by Colonel Harland Sanders back in 1956 when he was 66-years-old with just a social security check of $105 to his name. About 8 years later, Colonel Sanders sold his company in 1964 for $2 million and semi-retired at the age of 74 years old. Not a bad track record making $2M in 8 years, right?
5 Rock-solid Reasons Why You Are Never Too Old to Start a Business
I understand your position perfectly. You are unique. Your situation may not be the same as all the case studies above. Their success may not translate to your success.
Let’s look at the bright side of the coin before we jump to conclusions. Here are 5 legitimate reasons why you are never too old to start a business:
#1 You are More Likely to Fail in Business if You are Younger
The U.S. Census and 2 MIT Professors studied 2.7 million start-ups between 2007 and 2014. From the huge amount of data analyzed, the researchers came to an authoritative conclusion about a start-up chance of succeeding:
“The Longer You’ve Been Around, the Better Your Odds”
An interesting snippet in the report caught my attention:
A 60-year-old startup founder is 3 times as likely to found a successful startup as a 30-year-old startup founder — and is 1.7 times as likely to found a startup that winds up in the top 0.1 percent of all companies.
You have priceless gems of knowledge and experience the younger entrepreneurs do not have. Your ability to analyze and manage problems are more likely backed with battle-scarred discernment. In a crisis, your chances of survival will be higher with intelligent and prompt decisions.
#2 Your Network is Your Net Worth
Compared with younger entrepreneurs, you know more people who are influential and can be of great help to you. This network of successful people is an invaluable asset that money cannot buy.
Read through the case study of our 98-years-old Nick. He successfully launched his new business by tapping on his wide network of contacts from all relevant professions essential to his business. He managed to get seasoned veterans in different fields from business to artists and politicians to partner him in business consultancy for entrepreneurs. Why do you think his clients look for him? You got it, his wide network of contacts to solve their problems.
Unless you are a hermit for the past few decades, chances are that you have an army of contacts skilled in different fields at your disposal. Young entrepreneurs are looking up to you as a senior to show them the way.
Tap into your network to realize your net worth.
#3 You Can Find Your Icky Sweet Spot
In my years of networking, business mentorship, and coaching, I have been helping my predominantly male clients discover their Icky Guy Sweet Spot. The actual spelling is Ikigai but it has been such a tough exercise looking for that Ikigai sweet spot I decided to keep the mistake one of my students made. To avoid being wrongfully labeled a sexist, I now call the Ikigai Sweet Spot the Icky Sweet Spot.
To find that Icky sweet spot, you need to discover the perfect balance among the following 4 criteria:
- What you are good at
- What you love to do
- What the world needs
- What you can be paid for
You may love relaxing at the beach and if that is not what the world needs or will pay you to do so, it will be disastrous for your business.
You should have skills that can be classified as your profession or vocation. If you are choosing something you love or are good at, see if they can at least intersect with the Ikigai blue circle above. The stronger the reason and purpose of your business in your life, the more likely you are going to succeed.
Find your Icky Sweet Spot of Success.
#4 You are Swimming in Start-Up Options
You are considered a veteran in your profession or vocation. You have years of battle-scarred experience and wisdom, like an experienced army officer. A retired army officer who wants to re-enter the workforce does not need to start as a recruit again. Similarly, you need not start from scratch either.
You have options:
- Bootstrap (base option)
- Partner with people you already know and trust
- Buy into a profitable Franchise
- Finance your Icky Sweet Spot from your savings
- Pitch to Investors with a well thought out business strategy
- Leverage larger companies in a mutually beneficial business collaboration
- Be an Investor-cum-mentor to promising start-ups
- Co-invest with experienced investors in promising start-ups
The more experienced (and older) you are, the more options will be open to you.
#5 Understanding Failure is Your Key Success Factor
This is a very important caveat on whether you should start a business:
If you have never failed before, don’t start a business unless you are mentally prepared.
Failure is part and parcel of doing business and I have personally not known any successful business friends who have not encountered failures or major difficulties.
During my coaching and mentoring days, many of my clients and friends were amazed at the advice I gave them. I candidly shared with them that I had failed countless times and very miserably too, in order to mine those precious few gems of wisdom.
The phobia of suffering again from major plunders prevented me from starting business partnerships for several years. However, the business consultancy I diverted to gave me precious insights into the failings of many Small-Medium Businesses. My business partners reassured me of the invaluable assets I bring to the partnership and coaxed me to step back into the world of business collaboration.
Your past failures are your trustworthy assets. In fact, the more failures you had survived, the higher the chances of you succeeding in your next business venture. Read the biographies of famous businessmen you admire. The most memorable parts are invariably the stories of them prevailing over great troubles.
If you have walked a path several times, you will know all the danger spots to avoid.
Take your first step towards a more fulfilling life.
You Can Make It!
You are a proud business owner serving the community doing what you love. Your clients adore you. Your partners respect you. Your investors love you.
Your schedule is packed and you have a sense of fulfillment at the end of every day using your skills meaningfully. You faced countless problems but nothing your rich life experience cannot handle.
Your business is increasing exponentially, fueled strongly with referrals from grateful clients. You are establishing a brand name rapidly and starting to make headlines in social media.
You now know that age is not a hindrance to starting a business. In fact, age is an asset as it comes with experience, network, and problem-solving skills younger entrepreneurs lack.
All you need to start is to believe in yourself, do your research to find your Icky Sweet Spot, and start. Use the short 4-minute video above for a final inspirational boost.