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The short answer is “never”.


Never too old


Here’s the long answer:


There is a school of thought that if you are past your sell-by date (that is a debatable topic in itself!), that you will not succeed as a successful entrepreneur.  Kill that thought – it’s a myth!

Age has nothing to do with success of a new business.  The equation for success is – great idea + passion + commitment + ultra-hard work + energy + thorough research and planning = success.

Let’s look at some truly legendary senior entrepreneurs, and the age they achieved success:

  • The founder of KFC was Colonel Harland Sanders – aged 65!
  • The Coca-Cola inventor – John Pemberton – aged 55!
  • We all know Ray Kroc – the father figure of McDonalds – a young 52!
  • Arianna Huffington started The Huffington Post at the age of 54.
  • Henry Ford created the Model T car at the age of 45.
  • Charles Darwin changed science forever at the tender age of 50.
  • Harry Bernstein achieved fame at the age of 96 with his 2007 memoir.
  • Julia Child wrote her first cookbook at the age of 50.


senior lady working


So what did these people, and people like them, have in common?  They never stopped trying.  With years of experience, they understood what worked, what didn’t work, how to experiment and what was needed in their particular industry.  Look at Colonel Sanders – he was a job-hopper, a farmer, and a steamboat pilot.  He worked in insurance and fire safety.  He tried on two occasions to start a business – one in the restaurant industry and the other was a service station.  Neither business succeeded.  But he tried and tried again, and went on to become the “godfather of franchising”.

It has been proven that entrepreneurship is a particularly good fit for the older generation, and it is gratifying to see that the number of businesses created by older entrepreneurs between the ages of 55 and 64, has been dramatically rising.

Bill Zinke, a senior entrepreneur who started the Centre for Productive Longevity in the USA, pronounces “”Older people possess something younger people lack: namely experience, expertise, judgment, and performance.  That’s why the older people who create new businesses have a better rate of success.”

We also need to remember that in today’s world, there is increasing emphasis on healthy lifestyles.  Consequently, many people going into their senior years are actually in their prime, both physically and mentally fit, and absolutely capable of working well into their retirement years.

With an average life expectancy of between 80 and 90 years, you are far too young to retire at the age of 60 or 65.  You still have a third of your life left!   If you are of retirement age, or pre-retirement age, or have been retrenched, it makes complete sense to consider starting your own business.

However, your mindset needs to be right – you can’t be thinking that it’s time to be put out to pasture (see You’ve Earned It’s article titled “Don’t put baby boomers out to pasture” or it’s time for winding down (give yourself a year, and you’ll soon be going up the wall).   Open yourself up to new opportunities and growth.

senior entrepreneur

If funding the business is a prohibitive factor, look to your network.  50-plussers generally have a wide and diverse network, which could help you, not just in funding, but in contacts who could assist in all aspects of your business.

Most older folk will have acquired business acumen, life experience, plus a wealth of knowledge and skills and wisdom.  They are probably well grounded and aware of the implications of their decision-making.  Seniority brings with it patience, perspective and discernment.  With all of this going for you, why wouldn’t you succeed in your business venture?

Should a senior start his/her own business, he/she will be contributing enormously to the economy, as it is likely that more jobs will be created.  Another big plus is that senior entrepreneurs will be seen as role models for the next generation who need encouragement, mentorship, guidance and advice.

Corporate refugees (people who have retired or been retrenched from the corporate world) can also consider avenues such as consulting, mentoring or starting a home-based business emanating from a personal passion, pastime or skill.

South Africa needs to harness the knowledge, skills and experience of retirees.  Other than being a huge asset to the country, the retiree can supplement his or her own retirement savings which will of enormous benefit to the economy.

If you think it’s too late – shelve that thought.  Put the gold back into your golden years.  The key to successful entrepreneurship is simply doing it.  If and when the opportunity presents itself, what are you waiting for?  Go for it!


An article by You’ve Earned It


Other similar articles that might interest you:

Unique challenges of senior entrepreneurship – click here

Q and A with a senior entrepreneur – click here

Changing my life led to my encore career – click here


  • Anne Burgess says:

    I totally agree with this article! When I was 50 I was taking my first degree full time at WITS. A years later I took a second degree through UNISA while working full time. I then had my own small accounting business from which I retired at 79. I also wrote and published my autobiography at this time. Life is what you make it!

  • NBF says:

    Yes, I totally agree with what you said. I also think that it’s good to grab all the opportunities that comes your way in order to achieve more and succeed. Thanks for sharing this article.

  • Chris says:

    This is a very motivating article. I also think that you can start a business wherever and whenever you can at any age as long as you’re hardworking. You will achieve a lot of things. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Angela W says:

      Dear Chris, we are so glad you enjoyed this article, we agree with you “You are never too old to do anything”. Regards Angela (YEI team)

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