Q. I recently availed of my early retirement as a key executive of an IT company after 25 years of service. Am now in my 50s but would like to start a successful business. Do you think I can still do this?

A. Ah, the mysteries of mid-life crisis… We all go through it one way or the other. Yes, it is possible to have a second career upsurge even at a more mature age.

There are so many stories of people who have started successful careers beyond 50. For example, Col. Sanders discovered the original recipe of Kentucky Fried Chicken in 1940 when he was already 50 years old. By 1960, the Colonel had 190 KFC franchisees and 400 franchise units in the U.S. and Canada. Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s, was 52 and suffering from diabetes when he opened a hamburger outlet in San Bernadino, California.

In fact, an emerging global trend in recent years is the increasing number of persons beyond 50 who are starting new businesses. Interestingly, terms have been coined to refer to this new (pardon the irony) breed of entrepreneurs such as “olderpreneur,” “seniorpreneur,” “grey entrepreneur” and “third age entrepreneur.

In 2005, USA Today ran an article on “The New Entrepreneurs: Americans over 50” which reported that while entrepreneurship seemed to be waning in recent years, it is getting a boost from those over 50 starting companies. The article stated that “Boomers want the security of being their own bosses when corporations are slashing payrolls, tossing fifty somethings into a dicey labor market.” And these early retirees who find it difficult to get back into the job market are creating their own jobs by starting their own companies. The article cited the story of Franny Martin, a 30-year corporate veteran who launched a Michigan cookie company in 2002 when she was nearly 56. She expected $500,000 in revenue in 2005, nearly triple her previous year.

BBC News also ran a similar article in 2008 on “Too young to retire.” They reported the story of sisters Annabel Rhodes and Penny Walker, who in their sixties established the “Rhodes to Heaven,” a line of organic beauty products, which they sell online and at exclusive venues and fairs. They make up to £3,000 a day. They set up their company in 2004 following the death of Ms. Walker’s husband from cancer. During his illness, she found it hard to buy the right kind of soothing lotions for him, so she decided to do something about it. Ms Rhodes brought with her 20 years experience as a saleswoman in the beauty industry. The same article reported that about one in six new businesses in the UK is started by somebody over 50 and the numbers are growing.

In the Philippines, I know of one insurance broker who learned how to cook excellent dimsum and now owns about a hundred outlets of a popular fast food chain specializing in dimsum and dumplings. He is Jun Manas of Henlin. My own role model and mentor, Dr. Josie Santamaria, president of Career Systems, a highly successful training and consulting firm specializing in career development, started her company, together with husband Jorge, 25 years ago while they were already in their 50s. Their company is still going strong with a solid base of clients in the pharmaceutical industry.

Yes, it is definitely possible for you to give it a go in business. Studies have shown that older entrepreneurs tend to have a higher success rate than younger entrepreneurs because of their long corporate track record, expertise and experience. However, the business that you start need not be related to your area of specialization. Whether you are a young or older entrepreneur, what’s most crucial is your passion for it.

Author: Regina Galang Reyes. First published in Management Systems Asia, December 2009 issue.

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Founding Editor, People at Work, Business, Phiippine Daily Inquirer

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