What’s the best time in your life to start a business? The answer might surprise you – because research suggests that your forties are the magic number. I was 49 when I started Studio10. It wasn’t my first venture – but it was the culmination of all the lessons I’d learnt along the way. And that’s what’s so exciting.
The average age of an entrepreneur in the UK is 47 (48 for women and 46 for men). In the US, it’s slightly lower: there, 40 is the average age to start your first business. Which blows out of the water the idea that it’s the can-do energy of the younger generation that’s at the root of a successful venture.
What is it about midlifers that makes us such successful entrepreneurs? We’ve got past that career uncertainty that characterises our twenties. We have business experience and skills honed working for others. Our children (if we have them) and finances are less of a juggling act. So we’re in a position of relative security, with greater perspective.
For me, age has brought experience, expertise, an established network, financial acumen and the confidence to think outside the box. I needed all of these to set up Studio10.
By the time I got to my forties, I’d made plenty of mistakes but I’d learnt from them – and I had more passion than ever. I knew what I was good at, and that I had to start trusting my inner voice and being true to myself. I was passionate about working for social good: I wanted purpose before profit and above all I needed to leave a legacy. That’s how my PRO AGE Movement came about.
For lots of first-time fortysomething entrepreneurs, your business idea will be the result of years of thinking, planning, building networks and funds. By this point in our lives, we know what we want from a career and what we don’t. Which makes it the perfect time to start our own venture.
And we’re not just talking about getting a one-woman show up and running – worthy though that is. A recent US study conducted by the Census Bureau and two MIT professors found that most successful entrepreneurs who employed more than one other person were middle-aged. The researchers compiled a list of 2.7 million company founders and came up with some arresting statistics:
- A 40 year old start-up founder is 2.1 times more likely than a 25-year-old to launch a successful business.
- A 50-year-old entrepreneur is almost twice as likely as a 30-year-old to start a successful company.
- A 60-year-old start-up founder is 1.7 times more likely than a 30-year-old to found a business that winds up in the top 0.1 per cent of all companies.
One of our main strengths as midlife entrepreneurs is knowing the difference between ideas (for which young people get a lot of credit) and execution. Of course, ideas are what get a business off the ground, but execution is everything. The same is true with strategy: it matters; but tactics – what you actually do – are what help companies grow.
It’s much harder to execute well, develop a sound strategy and make smart tactical decisions when you have limited experience (usually when you’re younger). And I’ve found that’s especially true where leadership is concerned.
Self-belief comes into it, too – which is particularly important for us as women. We live in a society in which sexism – as well as ageism – is rife. We may find it difficult to be confident in our skills. But successful entrepreneurs don’t have an intangible something – ideas, talent, drive, creativity – that you don’t have. You’ve got this.
We’ve all doubted ourselves. Now is the time to believe: especially if you’re willing to work hard and persevere.
You read it here first: the statistics show that your experience, your skills, your connections, your expertise, and yes, your age, are all on your side. Start putting all that to work for you, not for somebody else. Do something you feel passionate about. I promise you won’t regret it.