The PRIME of Life

Posted on September 24, 2014 by Eleanor McKenzie
Mature entrepreneur

The word entrepreneur conjures up an image of somebody who is either ridiculously young and already a millionaire or somebody older who became a millionaire when they were ridiculously young and have held on to the nametag. Fraser Doherty started making jam at the age of 14 using his grandmother’s recipes. Demand for Fraser’s ‘Superjam’ grew so quickly that he dropped out of school and now has Europe-wide distribution. Sir Richard Branson and Sir Alan Sugar haven’t shaken off the ‘entrepreneur’ label despite their age and corporate size.

But, the stereotypical image of the entrepreneur is a thing of the past: a recent survey by Amazon shows that British entrepreneurs come from a wide range of backgrounds and aren’t limited by “age, gender or educational achievement.” This is good news for the UK economy and British society.

British society likes the entrepreneur now. We didn’t always; for some time Britons preferred the talented amateur who had brilliant ideas but didn’t make too much money. But we’ve learnt how to embrace money makers from the Americans who are tireless advocates for entrepreneurship. And why not? There’s something very pleasing about seeing a person follow a dream and make money from it. We should take it as a positive sign that we can also do it.

The door to entrepreneurship has been opened for British over 50s thanks to The Prince’s Initiative for Mature Enterprise, which fortunately shortens to PRIME. As the organisation points out, there are at least 3.5m people in the UK who are aged 50+ and who aren’t in employment. They’re more likely to face long-term unemployment than other age groups. PRIME helps the over 50 unemployed become self-employed and it has a stack of resources to help you do that.

PRIME resources include free training courses, networking events, mentoring support and financial advice, including how to get a government Start-Up Loan that was previously restricted to 18 to 30-year-olds. Did you know that loans of up to £10,000 are available and that you may be able to get a larger amount if your business plan shows that you need it?

You can get started in your local area. The organisation publishes details of all its workshops and business clinics around the country. For example, the “Setting Up Your Own Business” workshop is an informal half-day affair that takes you through the basic. And don’t worry; you’re not tied to PRIME just for attending an event. If it’s not for you, the only thing you’ve lost is a bit of your time.

Mature mentor

Mentors

PRIME also provides a mentoring service. For people entering a new work environment, a good mentor potentially saves a lot of grief. That’s why PRIME offers Mentor Clinics as part of its nationwide Business Clubs. New entrepreneurs have an opportunity to find a mentor whose experience and personality is a good fit for them – it’s less potentially problematic than assigning mentors to entrepreneurs. Avoiding personality clashes is always a good thing!

PRIME’s success stories Michelle Bateman, Dean Walton, Barbra Bell PRIME’s success stories Michelle Bateman, Dean Walton, Barbra Bell PRIME’s success stories Michelle Bateman, Dean Walton, Barbra Bell

A browse through the case studies of some of PRIME’s success stories is truly inspiring. It will give you a definite “if they can do it, so can I” moment. Michelle Bateman (61) from Coventry set up Woof’s Treats –healthy dog biscuit products – with the help of PRIME. Dean Walton (53) got laughed off Dragon’s Den, but his company Mask-arade, which makes celebrity face masks, is now turning over about £2m a year. Barbara Bell (56) started a homemade fudge business called Fudged Candy with the help of PRIME, whilst Annette Jarrett (59) has recently launched Carmen’s Cakes and Cookies.
There’s a definite baking theme running through the new business launches. Add to this, the overwhelming popularity of The Great British Bake Off, the nationwide love of cookies and all things cake, and I’m beginning to wish I’d loved domestic science enough to become a cupcake queen. But, then I wouldn’t have the pleasure of being a 50+ writer and a self-employed one at that.

One last thought I’d like to leave you with, in case you’re having an “I’m too old to start a new business” moment. According to Lydia Dishman writing for Fast Company, if you’re over 55, you’re twice as likely to be successful in launching a new business as a person in their 20s and 30s. The eminent Cranfield School of Management backs her up. You’ve reached the age of success – and don’t forget it.

by Eleanor McKenzie

Eleanor McKenzie is a Northern Irish writer with a passion for art, literature, and red wine. She's worked at advertising agency JWT, edited a journal for a European social policy think tank and tried to teach teenagers the difference between "there" and "their". Being 50+ has not significantly changed Eleanor's life, although she finds it a handy excuse when she wants to avoid anything too energetic.