Older entrepreneurs prove success is possible at any age

  • 05/10/2016
Sue Davies says age didn't stop her turning her passion for hula-hooping into a business (supplied)
Sue Davies says age didn't stop her turning her passion for hula-hooping into a business (supplied)

By Emma Brannam for Newshub Connect

Two Tauranga grandparents are proving author Mark Twain was right when he said, "Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter."

Peter and Sue Davies have turned their passion for hula hooping into Exerhoop, a thriving adult fitness business.

"People say our success is down to luck," says Mr Davies. "I say, the more opportunities I look at, the luckier I get."

The pair, who are in their sixties, are part of a growing army of ‘olderpreneurs’ - people living longer, retiring later and rejecting the idea that enterprise is a young person’s game.

"It’s that maturity and passion to just do it,’ says Mrs Davies.

Age doesn’t hinder older entrepreneurs - in fact, it can help them.

"Older people who have had more life experiences, have a much broader perspective on a problem," says Professor Ngaire Kerse, the principal investigator from Brain Research NZ.  

"Their response times are a bit slower and it’s harder for them to learn new things but their judgement and wisdom is better than young brains, so it’s a trade-off."

History has many examples of older entrepreneurs. At 65, Col Sanders was no spring chicken when he founded KFC, motorcycle mogul Guy Kawasaki was 68.

Figures for New Zealand are sparse, but in Australia more than a third of startups are led by those over 55.

In the US, people aged 55 and older are almost twice as likely to found successful companies than those under 34.

Even in the tech industry, where many entrepreneurs are barely out of their teens, success isn’t reserved only for the young.

"I made a lot of money and retired. I wanted to make some more money so I came out of retirement,’ says Cambridge-based entrepreneur Paul Collins. "You have to have belief in yourself."

His latest venture, Parking Sense, offers state-of-the-art parking guidance technology and is making major inroads in the US.

Older entrepreneurs prove success is possible at any age

Paul Collins came out of retirement to start up Parking Sense (supplied)

With the help of global business accelerator Vodafone xone, he’s expanding even further.

"What happens with age is that you become more able to deal with the pressures of business," he said.

"When you’ve been around the tracks three or four times you are able to look at the bigger picture and understand where you’re going  because you’ve been there before."

Otago resident Geoff Pearman started a full-time consultancy business, Partners in Change, when he was 61. He also runs the Dunedin-based support group Senior Entrepreneurs.

"Ideas don’t disappear with age," he says.

"The other thing that we’re seeing is that people in 50s and 60s face redundancy and they need to create other income streams for themselves."

Mr Pearman wants more discussion about older entrepreneurs, and less focus on young startups.

Older entrepreneurs prove success is possible at any age

More than a third of startups are led by those over 55 (file)

There are other rewards to innovating into your pension-collecting years, too.

"We know that people who are quite innovative tend to have very active brains and so they’re less likely to have problems with cognitive decline and dementia," says  Prof. Kerse.

"What we don’t yet know is if that’s genetic or through a process of practice and stimulation."

The Davies’ certainly have no plans to slow down.

"The next step for us is going into retirement homes to teach hooping,’ says Mrs Davies.

As the late Apple founder and serial entrepreneur Steve Jobs famously said: "Life is brief, and then you die, you know? And we’ve all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it."

This article was created by Newshub Connect for Vodafone xone.

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