The grey entrepreneurs: Why are Over 50 year-olds getting into business?

image of 50-year-old entrepreneur

Why are over 50-year-old entrepreneurs starting new businesses?

Well, perhaps it’s because owning a business is an attractive idea for all sorts of people. Including those over 50. Maybe age isn’t a consideration at all.

Is it because it is now harder to find employment if you are of a certain age? Who knows?

I. There are more over 50-year-old entrepreneurs than you think
II. Over 50-year-old entrepreneurs are a fast-growing demographic.
III. Why are grey entrepreneurs so keen?
IV. Some of the push and pull factors driving the over 50’s entrepreneurs.
V. The challenges of business ownership are the same for the over 50s.
VI. Understanding Business Ownership for Over 50s

One thing I do know is that, when you Google the term “over 50’s” you get some predictable responses. Advertisements for car insurance and healthcare are prevalent. As is content about funeral plans. Looks like we’re all destined to fall off the perch any second! 

Likewise, you will find lots of images of healthy, smiling, grey-haired nomads. With their caravans, of course.

These stereotypes bely a trend that has been evolving over the past few years. Those grey nomads are also becoming “grey entrepreneurs” in big numbers. Interestingly, you won’t find much content online about them becoming business owners. 

According to Google at least, quinquagenarians (that’s the name given to the 50-59 years age group) starting a business isn’t particularly common. 

Caravan to symbolise over-50s

There are more over 50-year-old entrepreneurs than you think

The National Australia Bank published an interesting survey in 2018. It showed that 32% of the Australian adult population “like the idea of owning their own business.”

That is nearly 1 in 3 adults. Pretty amazing!

Things get even more interesting when we look at the age profile of those surveyed.

Of the over-50’s, 19% answered: “I would love to own my own business.” So, nearly 1 in 5 respondents, aged over 50, still have the entrepreneurial spirit. That seems to fly in the face of the general perception that we’re all shopping for funeral insurance.  

Over 50-year-old entrepreneurs are a fast-growing demographic.

The report also considers the demographics of those whom have become small business owners over the previous five years. 

Not surprisingly, those in Gen Y, many of whom are tech-savvy by nature, clearly embrace the entrepreneurial spirit. The number of business commencements amongst this group increased by 5% over the last five years. 

The big surprise to come out of the survey, however, concerned those in another age bracket. You guessed it – the over 50s. Compared to the previous five years, over 50 year-old entrepreneurs were the fastest-growing cohort at 30%. Wow, now that’s impressive!

Why are grey entrepreneurs so keen?

The motivators given for business ownership in the same report were also a little surprising. The top reasons being:

  • Be your own boss
  • Work flexibly
  • Sense of achievement
  • Financial rewards

Here’s the fascinating bit. Only 1 in 4 said, “it was for financial rewards.” We should point out that these answers are across all the age groups.

It’s noteworthy that the main sentiment is chasing the notion of choice and lifestyle.

So, is that what’s driving the over 50 entrepreneurial boom?

Some of the push and pull factors driving the over 50’s entrepreneurs.

So, just what are some of the factors driving this trend?

Often, folks in the over-50’s group have more financial resources than younger people do. They may own a home (or two!). As a result, perhaps they feel like they are in a position to “have a go” at something new. And, a part-time or lifestyle business that keeps them active and contributes to their income is a perfect option. over-50 entrepreneur own home

Some of them may feel that it could be their last chance to do what they’ve wanted to do for many years. Perhaps they have a business purpose in mind and now is the chance to start or buy a business. The financial responsibilities of the past may have held them back.

Turning a hobby into a business might also be a driver. The ability to combine one’s hobbies with years of business management experience can be a winner.

Undoubtedly, some folks in this age group have encountered ageism in their workplace. Some may experience it as a feeling of less opportunity to progress at work. For others, sadly, it will result in a reduction in hours or worse. A lot of these individuals will be at the peak of their career. It is a terrible indictment on the corporate world that the experience of the over 50s isn’t held in higher esteem.   

For those unfortunate enough to be impacted by ageism, it may actually be harder to get a new job than starting a business.

The challenges of business ownership are the same for the over 50s.

We now know that many current employees “like the idea of owning their own business”. Unfortunately, that isn’t enough to ensure success on your own. 

For those with long careers behind them, business ownership can look much easier than it is. This incorrect perception can prove to be a big problem and perhaps the biggest mistake.

What is difference between and employee and business owner mindset? 

Our experience as business mentors is that one of the hidden reasons for business failure is a lack of knowledge and experience. On the surface, the over 50-s should have an advantage here over younger entrepreneurs. But do they? Sometimes the experience gained in large corporations or public organizations doesn’t translate well into small business. Operating in a team of 1 is very different to a team of many. Having ultimate responsibility for making the decision on every facet of a business’ success is difficult at times. Your personal resilience needs to be strong, whatever age you are.

Essentially, the reality of owning a business is often very different from the image. Whether you are 25 or 55.

Many of the challenges will be the same. So, without the proper preparation, an older person is just as susceptible to business failure as a younger one. It’s a sobering thought that statistically, most new businesses will fail within the first 5 years. Whether you choose to start or buy a business there are risks.

So, Mr. or Mrs. Grey Entrepreneur – the takeaway here is this. Understanding the reality of owning a business before you start is an essential part of success in small business. Appraising your personality and aptitude for owning a business is a good idea.

In Episode 3 Understanding Your Motivation, we explore some of the trends driving new entrepreneurs in more depth.

Understanding Business Ownership for Over 50s

Business success is about combining the knowledge, skills, motivation, and money mindset for a long-term success that you enjoy.

Our Podcasts follow a specially developed pathway to help you harness your excitement and decide if owning a business is right for you. You can hear how to evaluate a business idea before you leap in. Staying healthy as a business owner is crucial at any age and this can be quite manageable as Mel from Imani Tribe explains.

Our Entrepreneur Personality Quiz is a great resource and it has nothing to do with age!

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