Starting up later in life

By 2042, almost a quarter of people living in the UK will be aged 65 or older, up from 18 per cent in 2016. The number of people aged over 70 who are in full- or part-time employment is steadily rising too, with around one in 12 of those still working compared to one in 22 working 10 years ago. Is starting your own business another option? speaks to three entrepreneurs who launched their businesses later in life.

Name: Hugo Rose
Position: Founder and managing director
Company: MyParcel

Began current business aged 52 years

After 20 years running the mail order division of a UK wine merchant, Hugo Rose decided to call it a day as an employee and start his own firm. At the age of 52, he launched online parcel-minding service MyParcel, which provides secure storage for deliveries ready for collection.

‘I suppose the inspiration for the business came from my previous employment. I knew of many instances where people had taken the day off work but delivery vans they were waiting for didn’t arrive. I saw an opportunity in providing a trusted drop-off point for self-collection.

‘I’d already reached the big five-zero, and had 15 years before I could start to draw my pension. When you turn 50 and you’re not managing director of the company you work for, you have to think long and hard about where you’re going.

‘Not one day has passed where I’ve longed for the security of my previous job – I feel more alive than ever. As far as prejudice goes, I can’t think of any instances where my being older has proved an obstacle – my pension prospects took a nose-dive, but I took a view on that and factored it into my costs.

‘The adage “you’re only as old as you feel” sums things up quite well; energy and drive aren’t the prerogative of the younger generation. Had I started 15 years ago, I wouldn’t have had the all-round experience that I do today.’

Name: Irwin Armstrong
Position: Founder and CEO
Company: Ciga Healthcare

Began current business aged 54 years

Self-test diagnostic kit company Ciga Healthcare was recently named winner of the Best of British Industry award for small companies, pipping a number of better-known businesses to the post. The company has also taken on industry giant Clearblue and grabbed a significant market share â“ quite a feat. How has it achieved this?

‘This isn’t my first business,’ explains founder Irwin Armstrong. ‘In 1982, when I was 31, I started a consultancy business advising a range of companies. I’ve worked as an advisor to start-up companies at the Northern Ireland Development Agency, dealing with the allocation of grants, so I’ve been involved in the growth of companies for years.

‘I’ve seen people get things right and I’ve seen them get things wrong and, moreover, I’ve seen them get things wrong and still succeed.’

Armstrong believes that confidence is the key to success. ‘Experience tells me that this world is about people, not what size your company is. It’s about the guy sitting on the other side of the desk â“ whether you trust him or not, and vice versa. If you’ve got enough confidence, you can persuade anyone to do anything.’

For Armstrong, that confidence seems to stem from a combination of his strong desire to succeed and the expertise he has developed. ‘Someone once said that to try and judge a company’s likelihood of success, don’t look at the business plan, look at the person in front of you. You need to ask, “When things don’t go according to the business plan â“ which they usually don’t â“ is this person going to be confident and capable enough to sort it out?” I’ve never forgotten that.’

Name: Wendy Sandeman
Position: Head dentist
Company: Wendy Sandeman Dental

Began current business aged 52 years

Dentist Wendy Sandeman had a long-standing dream: to create a holistic practice that would be a calm, relaxing environment for patients to visit. After a stint in business coaching which, she says, enabled her to realise that ‘even though I was over 50 I could do something different’, she founded Wendy Sandeman Dental.

It offers a ‘spa-like atmosphere’ and now enjoys roughly three times the number of new patients most practices would expect. Sandeman later won the Hera Award for inspirational female business owners over 50 at the NatWest Everywoman Awards.

She says, ‘I’ve been a dentist for many years, but always worked as part of a large practice. The problem is that you don’t get the chance to put your own stamp on things. I developed very strong views about what the patient experience should consist of; I don’t like being processed and, like most people, I want to be treated as if I’m special, so that’s what we decided to do for our customers.’

When she tried to open a practice in the early 1980s Sandeman found it difficult to get the funding ‘because I’m a woman’, but she still believes that she should have done it sooner. ‘I didn’t have the confidence,’ she admits. ‘I thought I had to stay where I was, where I imagined I’d be for the rest of my career. Setting up my own business took a major upheaval in my life and I had to sell my house to do it, but it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.’

Sandeman feels that it would be difficult for someone young and inexperienced to set up the type of practice she has been able to establish.

At 54, she feels she can engender the trust in her abilities that is needed – not only for nervous patients, but also to achieve the number of referrals that she receives from customers.

Related: Older entrepreneurs: Tips for business success

Adam Wayland

Adam Wayland

Adam was Editor of from 2006 to 2008 and prior to that was staff writer on sister publication BusinessXL Magazine.

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Older Entrepreneurs

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