Bid to encourage people aged 50+ to become entrepreneurs

An online course named Startup School for Seniors has launched to help people aged 50 and above to start their own business.

The online offering, which is billed as the first of its kind, is seeking to assist what is seen as the rising number of unemployed people in this age bracket to become entrepreneurs.

It was piloted late last year and the next eight-week Startup School for Seniors course debuts tomorrow.

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Those behind the initiative cite recent Office for National Statistics data finding that while employment among the 25 to 49-year-olds is now back at the rate it was at the start of the Covid pandemic, among 50-64-year-olds it has fallen by 1.3 percentage points.

Emma McLellan believes the advantages of becoming an entrepreneur over the age of 50 include being in control. Picture: contributed.

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Also highlighted is a report published in April by the Resolution Foundation noting the U-shaped crisis facing 18-25-year-olds and over-50s “who are the most likely to struggle to obtain full-time work as a result of the pandemic”.

Suzanne Noble, co-founder of the Startup School for Seniors, said: “Covid-19 has changed the employment market irreversibly and has made it even harder for older workers aged 50-plus to find a job.

"With Startup School for Seniors, we want to give older people a platform through which they can take back control by launching a business of their own.

"When people think of start-ups, they tend to picture high-growth tech businesses launched by 20-somethings, but in reality the decision for many people to set up their own company is increasingly driven by necessity and putting food on the table.

"It could involve them monetising a life-long hobby or putting all the experience they have gleaned through their employed careers into use for themselves. For many of the ‘olderpreneurs’ on our course, self-employment is also about flexibility and working around caring responsibilities, which affect one in five people over 50."

Langholm-based Emma McLellan is 53 – and has launched CraneWife Textiles after a career as a clinical psychologist, working for the NHS for 25 years.

However, she has decided to harness her passion for textiles, specifically knitwear, and is now halfway through an honours degree in design for textiles with Heriot-Watt University at its Scottish Borders campus in Galashiels.

Ms McLellan said the positives of becoming an entrepreneur over the age of 50 “are definitely that you are your own person, you're in control, you can do what you want, shape things how you want – and that is the thing, I think, that does attract me”.

She also said she believed that at this stage of life, she had developed a much better understanding of “when to stop” and not keep pushing something that won’t work, adding: “You learn to critique yourself.”

And while she sees that younger entrepreneurs might have more self belief, “you also need that ability to fail and learn from failure, which think you can do as an older person”.

She set up her firm with a view to properly sustaining herself financially, and has just taken part in a business-creation project designed to develop enterprise skills and encourage business start-up ideas amongst women based in rural areas of Scotland.

The project was delivered by Women’s Enterprise Scotland and Development Trusts Association Scotland. Ms McLellan said it would help her “go on and develop [her] passion into a meaningful, authentic business”.

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