Starting a business in your 50s is easier than you think

In the UK, over-50s account for 43% of new business owners. We reflect on Start Up Loans’ success stories to explore why being 50 (and over) can be the best age to start a business…

Over 50 and want to start a business? You’re in good company.

More than four out of 10 new businesses in the UK are started by people over 50, according to the Office for National Statistics. And it’s a growing trend. A recent report from Barclays highlighted that over 55s are now 63% more likely to start businesses than 10 years ago.

And this rise in business owners doesn’t just apply to founders in their 50s – the number of self-employed people aged 65 and over has more than doubled in the UK in the past five years.

While there’s never a ‘right time’ to pursue a business idea, an increasing number of people in their 50s and over – dubbed ‘olderpreneurs’ – are shifting to entrepreneurship. But why?

For starters, budding business owners in their 50s are capitalising on the government pension freedoms – first introduced back in 2015 – and are opting to take their tax free cash lump-sum to “create wealth” by using their pensions to start a business.

However, it’s not just pension-led funding which is boosting the numbers of  the UK’s older entrepreneurs.

Low-interest loans and mentoring, provided by the likes of The Start Up Loans Company, is playing an integral part in funding and supporting the growth of founders in their 50s with over 5,700 loans having been supplied to founders aged 50 and over by the organisation to date.

Supported by research from PRIME that those who start a business in their 50s are 42% more likely to be successful than their younger counterparts, we want to shake off the notion that starting a business in middle-age isn’t a good idea. On the contrary, older entrepreneurs have the advantage of being able to tap into wealth of experience and knowledge which they can put to use in a start-up venture.

To break down stereotypes, we’ve highlighted five inspiring businesses founded by entrepreneurs aged 50 and over, who each received a Start Up Loan to make their business dreams a reality.

Operating in industries ranging from domestic care to street food, here’s the proof that starting a business in your 50s is easier than you think…

David Atkinson, The Yorkshire Meatball Company

David Atkinson, The Yorkshire Meatball Company

59-year-old David Atkinson and his son Gareth Atkinson launched the Yorkshire Meatball Company (YMCO) in March 2014, shortly after receiving a Start Up Loan.

Determined to “lead the fight against tasteless meatballs”, the father and son’s business was, as its namesake suggests, originally a ‘fuss-free’ meatball restaurant. The restaurant experienced early success, delivering over 85,000 meatballs to diners in 18 months and securing a deal to open a second restaurant at Hotel Indigo York.

Due to market changes, in 2016 Atkinson made the brave decision to pivot the company; closing the restaurant options to focus solely on selling the brand’s premium meatballs into supermarkets – and it’s a decision which has paid off.

Now with listings in over 200 stores including Morrisons, Tesco and Asda across Yorkshire, London and the South-East, the YMCO is taking six-figure sales and has a recent £120,000 equity crowdfunding round to support the roll-out of its balls – available in plain, smoky and hot flavours.

Recently featured in the Startups 100 2017 index, this is one ballsy business with an inspiring older entrepreneur leading the way!

Paula Wilkinson and Richard Watson, Mums Bake Cakes

50-year-old Paula Wilkinson and her 55-year-old business partner Richard Watson launched their personalised UK cake delivery service Mums Bake Cakes back in January 2016, and have been on a growth ascent ever since.

Supported by a £25,000 Start Up Loan, their business acts as a marketplace for home bakers enabling them to sell their fresh cakes online to customers in their local area.

Although based in Kent, hundreds of bakers are already signed up to Mums Bake Cakes from across the country.

In 2016, the company was named GB Food and Drink Entrepreneur of the Year and won Ann Summers founder Jacqueline Gold’s WOW (Women on Wednesday) award – celebrating women in business.

This year, the business is focusing on securing funds to invest in marketing so that it can reach more customers and support home-based bakery businesses.

Wilkinson and Watson show that age isn’t a barrier to starting a business, and that you too can get a slice of the start-up action.

Christian Wiles, Seniors Helping Seniors UK

Christian Wilse, Seniors Helping Seniors

59-year-old Christian Wilse launched the UK franchise arm of elderly home care service Seniors Helping Seniors in January 2014, after received funding from The Start Up Loans Company to start the business.

Based in Kent, Wilse’s business helps seniors and their families by offering compassionate, loving care from fellow seniors.

Wilse and his wife have been working full-time for the business ever since launch date. They are the only full-time employees but work with around 100 part-time care providers – on a typical month’s payroll the company will have around 40 working care providers. Due to most of the care providers being retired, they will work around 10-20 hours a week, but the shift patterns are very flexible.

Previously, Wilse spent most of his career as a successful businessman in the media field. He ran a media monitoring company, and set up Tiscali in Norway (where he is originally from), amongst other business ventures.

Additionally, Wilse is actively looking for good-hearted entrepreneurs to become Seniors Helping Seniors business owners.

Lorraine Phillips, The Phill Up Station

Lorraine Phillips started her Scottish café business last April at the age of 51. Having worked as an NHS nurse for 25 years, the female entrepreneur decided it was time for a change.

She found an empty premise by the side of a busy road in Kilmarnock and applied for a change of use license and, once accepted, the mission to open the café began!

Supported by a business loan and mentoring from The Start Up Loans Company, Phillips now works at the café full-time and employs four members of staff to help her.

The business is going from strength-to-strength and Phillips hopes to add an extension to the property in the future, to allow for more seating.

Joe Davis, Panama Joe’s

Joe Davis, Panama Joe's

Joe Davis, aged 59, started his Littlehampton-based restaurant business Panama Joe’s in 2016 after being released from Wandsworth Prison and securing a £20,000 Start Up Loan.

The restaurant serves Mexican, Panamanian and Caribbean dishes, with all of the food made by using only locally sourced produce.

Davis employs two other members of staff and has a projected turnover of £156,000 for his first year of trading, with numerous five-star reviews on Facebook and TripAdvisor praising the food, cocktails and service.

While Davis asserts that being an entrepreneur has turned his life around, in an interview with The Start Up Loans Company he also explained that running a business had given his life more purpose:

“Everyone always says starting your own business is rewarding and satisfying, but I had no idea how true that would be. I just thought it was something people say. Now, I feel like I’ve left my old life behind me and I have a new lease of life.”

The Start Up Loans company is headline sponsor of The Startups Awards 2017. View the Startups Awards 2017 finalists here.