Important things to remember when you’re planning a new business and where you can find help and support.
RISING numbers of people are starting businesses in their 50s and if you have a long-held dream to turn a hobby into an enterprise, then there are many ways to get the help you need.
The over 50s are a valuable commodity to Britain’s economy, with 1.2m older workers who are currently unemployed or inactive who would like to work, according to a recent report by Dr Ros Altmann. In fact, 12,360 new businesses were set up by the over 50s as part of the Government’s New Enterprise Allowance between April 2011 and June 2014. This could pay you up to £1,274 over 26 weeks if you are on certain benefits, such as Job Seeker’s Allowance, and provide access to business mentoring and start-up funding.
There are a number of reasons why someone might want to start a new business when they are in their 50s or 60s. For some, a redundancy gives them the impetus they have lacked to take a hobby to the next level. For others, the buzz of work is just too much missed at retirement to stay out of the fray for long, and if you are healthy and have a talent that could make you money, then why not see if you can make it work?
Here are five things to consider when you start your own business in your 50s or 60s:
- Identify why someone would want your product or service – Most start ups need to identify what it is that is special about their business idea or product. What makes your business more appealing than a competitor? It is not always easy to do, but without this crucial step, you could find it harder than you expect to get your business off the ground. Research your competitors locally too, and see where you can improve on their offering, so you have a good starting point for your business strategy.
- Get some honest feedback – your friends and family will tell you that your idea is the best thing since sliced bread. They love you, and they do not want to upset you. So work out a way to get some honest feedback. This can be done by choosing a focus group of potential customers. For example, if you were making healthy snacks that were designed to appeal to sportspeople, then heading to a local football, rugby or athletics club and asking them to do a taste test would give you a good idea about what works and what does not work.
- Listen to the feedback, and do not be offended – Using the above analogy, it might be that you are adamant the flavour you have loved the most since you started making these – which may also be the one your family cannot get enough of – is the right one to launch with. But if the feedback tells you differently, then pay attention. Your family are not your customers, they get the product at home for free. The people who will pay you are the ones who should hold more weight when it comes to your decision making. Once established, keep canvassing opinion from your existing customers about how things could be changed or improved as this will keep your business fresh and moving forwards.
- Get some help with setting your business up – Dealing with everything from writing a business plan to profit and loss accounts, to buying raw materials at the right price can be daunting. But there is help out there. For example, Prince Charles has started the Prince’s Initiative for Mature Enterprise (Prime) which is part of the Business in the Community organisation and designed specifically to help those over 50 get a business off the ground. You can get assistance with everything from writing a business plan to finding funding, and even dealing with data protection issues and social media.
- Other useful sites include mentorsme.co.uk which can help you find a business mentor, and possibly one of the most useful is the Government’s Business Is Great site. This has a useful business support tool which allows you to answer a series of questions and helps you find what grants, finance and loans might be available to you. The Business Finance Guide will also detail exactly what type of financing you might need and may be able to access.
- There may also be help available at your local chamber of commerce, so check locally too.
- Marketing, marketing, marketing – Building your product or service is one thing, but if you do not go out and tell people about it, then you cannot expect your business to grow. There are many different ways to market your business, and some of the most effective can be free. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest – all of these social media sites can be used to great effect to get people talking about your business, as well as targeting the more traditional channels. But beware of spending money that you cannot afford to lose, especially in the early stages.
- If you are able to promote yourself as an expert in a field, then speaking at conferences and meetings can go a long way towards getting you recognised and boost your business. Even putting posters or signs up in the local post office for as little as £1 a week or advertising in your Parish magazine can help to get your message out there. Many places will allow you to put up a poster for free if your business is relevant.
So get out there, and get busy!
Written by Alison Steed