You may enjoy your career, but still feel it’s time for a change. Starting a business after 50 may sound daunting, but it can be hugely empowering and liberating. If it makes you happier and more fulfilled, it can also have a positive effect on those around you.
Starting a business isn’t right for everyone, and you need to make sure you think of the potential impact on practical things such as income, redundancy benefits, pensions planning, etc. But for the right individuals, it can provide a whole new lease of life and allow you to follow your passion.
Often, you don’t even need to give up an existing career to take on something new and exciting. Perhaps you could test out a new business idea at the weekends to see if customers like it before taking the plunge. Alternatively, making the most of flexible hours in your current job can allow you more time to get something new off the ground – without losing all the perks associated with your regular job.
Still interested? Here are five inspiring examples of successful entrepreneurs who started in their 50s and 60s.
Tim and Nina Zagat, from Practising Attorneys to Millionaire Restaurant Connoisseurs
Husband and wife, Tim and Nina Zagat were practising attorneys in Paris when the city’s famous restaurants (which they often frequented) inspired them to develop a new restaurant rating system. They moved to New York where they compiled a local restaurant survey to get their rating system up and running and published the results of the survey which they named Zagat.
First published in 1982, Zagat quickly began to sell over 40,000 copies a year. More than just a diner’s guide to the best restaurants in town, the rating system that Tim and Nina developed revolutionised restaurant ratings. Rather than relying on expert opinion, it drew attention to the individual experiences of customers, preceding our modern online review systems.
Tim was over 50 when he quit corporate law work to focus on restaurant surveys. Fifteen years later, Google bought his company for $151 million.
Armenia Nercessian de Oliveira, From Human Rights Office to Arts and Crafts Business Owner
In her 50s, Armenia Nercessian de Oliveira was a UN Human Rights Officer. Her job involved travelling around the world, negotiating deals in war-torn countries, and protecting the poor and disadvantaged. A hugely rewarding but tough job by any standards. Her experiences made her realize she could try to prevent conflicts by helping communities overcome poverty.
Giving up all the perks of her career, she created a company that connects artisans in disadvantaged regions with wealthy shoppers. Doing away with the usual practices of retailers, she established offices in Ghana, India, Bali, Peru, and other locations.
Now in her 70s, she is still travelling the world and experiencing life as the locals live it.
Tony Dicosta, from Media Professional to Personal Trainer
Tony Dicosta was in his early 60s when he decided to pursue his lifelong passion for fitness. But, Tony wanted more than to get in top shape. He wanted to become a certified personal trainer and help other people over 50 feel their best.
Tony may be well into what is considered a ‘normal retirement age’ for many, but he is in excellent shape and working hard with his trainees at the gym. Being over 60 when he traded the office for the gym offered him valuable life and business insights that helped him set up and run his own business. To succeed as a personal trainer, he needed more than to be in shape – he needed excellent marketing, organisational, and people skills.
Harland Sanders, from Odd Job Man to KFC Owner and Millionaire
History is full of high-profile entrepreneurs over 60, and one of the most memorable is that of Harland Sanders. Kentucky Colonel Sanders, as he is better known, was 63 when he franchised his secret recipe, Kentucky Fried Chicken. Twelve years later, after his company had expanded to more than 600 locations, Colonel Sanders sold his business for the equivalent of $15.8 million today.
But before that, his life had been far from straightforward. He worked in a variety of unrelated jobs, including that of a railwayman, country lawyer, insurance salesman, and even a steam engine stoker. Admittedly, Colonel Sanders needed a lifetime to find just the right career for him. But he never regretted his past, he saw all his past work experiences as useful learning that helped shape him into the iconic entrepreneur he was to become.
Martha Stewart, from Gourmet Store Owner to Celebrity Chef and Lifestyle Icon
Martha Stewart was a successful businesswoman before she became a celebrity. But it wasn’t until she was in her 50s that her show Martha Stewart Living became a favourite on TV. More than becoming an icon, she built an empire spanning print, broadcasting, and merchandising that turned her into one of the wealthiest women in America.
At the age when many women settle into quiet retirement, Martha Stewart turned her passion for gourmet food and healthy living into a national phenomenon. Martha is a remarkable example of how starting a business doesn’t have to be a radical option, but can occur quite naturally when you focus on doing more of what you enjoy.
How to Start a Business
Feeling inspired? Today there is a lot of support available in the UK for those who want to start their own business. If you’re interested in reading more, you can start by reading the Government website’s expert advice on starting a business. Alternatively, check out our articles: A complete guide to self-employment, 20 popular self-employment ideas for over 50s, and Business ideas that you can start from home.
Or, for some more inspiration, you might want to read some of the personal stories on our site from other people (some of whom are Rest Less members) who have changed careers or started businesses later in life.
Best of luck with your new adventure and remember, fortune favours the brave…
Have these stories inspired you to give your own business idea a go? Or have you already started your own business after 50? We’d love to hear from you! Join the conversation on the Rest Less community forum or leave a comment below.