The rise of the senior entrepreneur

Thursday 10 September 2015

Older man holding shovel

The number of people engaging in business start-ups at the age of 50 or over is growing rapidly, with positive economic and social benefits.

The first ever study of Australian ‘seniorpreneurs’, found about a third of all new firms in Australia are led by senior entrepreneurs.

Chief Investigator of ‘Senior Entrepreneurship in Australia: Active Ageing and Extending Working Lives’, Associate Professor Alex Maritz, said mature-age Australians represent the fastest growing segment of entrepreneurship.

“There has been little recognition of the potential of older Australians to participate in start-ups and turn them into larger businesses that employ people, or of the need for older Australians to create their next job, not only apply for it,” Associate Professor Maritz from Swinburne University of Technology said.

“Older people often have the skills, financial resources and time available to contribute to economic activity, which is why we’re seeing a growing number of seniorpreneurs.”

The study, which surveyed more than 460 seniors, found that seniorpreneurs work fewer hours per week compared to their younger counterparts, have more industry experience, invest more in their business and earn greater profits.

About 80 per cent of those surveyed significantly valued the non-financial benefits of self-employment, such as lifestyle and health preferences.

After working in the IT industry for her entire career, Bambi Price started her own IT business at the age of 50.

“As I entered this phase of life, I still felt really young and knew I had a lot more to give, which is why I started my own business,” Mrs Price said.

With a passion to help others in the same situation, Mrs Price started the SeniorPreneurs Foundation, which aims to support older people interested in starting their own business.

“We had a group of 70 year-old engineers who came to us with a brilliant product idea but were unsure of how to start a business. We offer help for people like these engineers because we know there is very little government assistance out there.”

Associate Professor Maritz said promoting self-employment as a viable late-career option could encourage older people to stay in the workforce longer, which would take some pressure off government finances.

“Our research suggests government should increase awareness of the feasibility of seniorpreneurship, and enhance motivations, skills and opportunities for it.

“Helping seniorpreneurs grow their business would create jobs, tax revenue and benefit the community.”

The report has been published in the International Journal of Organizational Innovation and was funded through the National Seniors Productive Ageing Centre Research Grants.

Find out more about studying entrepreneurship and innovation at Swinburne.

10 tips for becoming a seniorpreneur

  1. Be true to yourself, are you willing and able to be self-employed?
  2. Upskill, ensure you learn the business and technical skills to engage in start-up activities
  3. Adopt mechanisms to adapt to change and exploit opportunities
  4. Participate in entrepreneurship education and training
  5. Network with like-minded people, for example, The SeniorPreneurs Foundation
  6. Employ or take on a mentor
  7. Engage with role models and others in senior entrepreneurship
  8. Explore creative and innovative opportunities
  9. It's not always about wealth creation, give back to society
  10. Use family and friends as idea generators