Are you over 50 and thinking of moving away from a career or corporate work to set up your own business? Would you be ready for the challenges ahead?
The growth of new female solo-preneurs over the age of 50 in the Western world just keeps on growing. They are stepping out from the shadow of their families and becoming leaders. Women at this stage in life are more passionate, engaged, take greater risks and therefore make a greater impact.
Two midlife entrepreneurs share their business lessons with us.
“Choose to Thrive” is UK-based Sarah Sparks’ long-standing motto for the past 20 years. As a well-known public speaker, she advocates the concept of ‘thriving at work’, and teaches the skills of being an effective leader and a high-performance person for the long term, not just for life peaks.
Sarah says, “You need to have a sustainable strategy. I was a victim of burnout and there was huge collateral damage from not paying attention. Not only did it affect my work career, but also my finances and personal relationships. Successful entrepreneurs focus on something they are passionate about. It gives them the extra energy to get across their message. The burnout experience was the making of me although it was painful to go through at the time.”
Sarah admits she found the shift from the corporate world into the entrepreneurial world a real shock to the system. “I did not appreciate just how much of the infrastructure I relied upon – whether it was the person who cleaned the bathroom, to the IT guy who could fix any computer glitch. When I worked at Goldman Sachs, all I had to do was turn up and do my job; the rest was done by others. Now I have to do literally everything. It takes time.”
Sarah shares three tips for startup founders:
Protect your sleep
Statistics say that entrepreneurs are four times more likely to burn out than the rest of the population. One of the reasons is the lack of sleep boundaries. Being an entrepreneur is tough; there is no pay when you are sick or on holiday, which causes more worry and stress.
Sarah says, “When you are responsible for bringing in the paycheck each day, extra hours seem compulsory. We all sacrifice sleep from time to time to get things done, yet doing it all of the time is the issue. Make it the exception to the rule, not the other way around. If you are sleep deprived, you cannot function well and it takes longer for tasks to be completed. Lack of sleep can also increase the chances of developing future conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or Alzheimer’s.”
Chase the Green
Know what you do with your daily 24 hours. Included in those 1440 minutes a day is a magic element called ‘time out’: time to breathe deeply, down tools and have a FAB break (Fluid Adjustment Break). Spend a moment in nature, stretch, sing, meditate, anything that allows you to switch off from stress. It’s doesn’t have to be long yet it will have such a huge impact on your mind, body and business.
Says Sarah: “Be on top of your day, do not allow your day to be on top of you! Most people immediately pick up their phone upon waking up. Did you know you will be 26 per cent less productive than those that don’t? Have a morning routine that allows you to reflect and ask yourself the WIN question (What’s Important Now?). This allows you to realise that what was important yesterday may not be today, and then allows you to decide what must get done today.”
Follow Sarah on Facebook Marjut Valtanen
Marjut Valtanen, originally from Finland, worked for years in the global corporate world. Now, however, she focuses on what she can give back to others. Her advice is simple: make goals, plans or phases, and break them down into doable actions.
Says Marjut: “If you really have the desire to change the work you do, listen to that feeling and have a go. This is the only way to have a life of no regrets. Most people stop right at this stage, because they have not created a plan to move forward. You may be afraid of how to pay the daily bills, yet planning helps calm these fears and find answers to your insecurities.”
Phase One: Be Prepared
First, Marjut made a five-year plan for herself while still working for Nokia in Singapore. She began saving money by making lifestyle changes. “I carried on working and at the same time started a volunteer agency focusing on environmental conservation. With such a plan, I was able to stop my consultancy work after two years,” she narrates.
She also built her network. “Contacts are what you make your business on,” she says.
Phase Two: Follow Your Passion
Marjut’s next plan evolved around the start of her own company. “Seven years ago, I came to Tanzania and loved it immediately. I saw an opportunity to create a business and make a difference in other people’s lives,” she says. “Aid is not the answer to alleviating poverty in Africa; all it does is fuels corruption. I wanted to work in Africa, yet a new country meant new challenges.”
But Marjut’s first business attempt failed miserably. “Failure is good and an important part of being an entrepreneur. Failure is also where you confirm your passion. I persevered and found people I could rely on and together we designed handmade products suitable for export. Little by little, I began to make head ground.”
Marjut’s colleague and Wifi Zanzibar’s co-founder Jen
Phase Three: Ask Questions
“There are so many opportunities in Africa, it can be difficult to decide what to focus on,” says Marjut. “Who I will work with? How will I work and in which direction do I want this to go? Women need support in Tanzania to understand how to grow their business, so what is the best way to do this?”
With the help of co-founders Jen and Asya, her project ‘Wifi Zanzibar’ is taking form. It offers local women an opportunity to showcase and sell products as well as test the market with very little cost. “My phase three will be all about getting curious about all of the above questions. I can only do this if I put a time limit in place. I have given myself six months to find the answers. See you on the other side.”
Follow Marjut on Facebook Kay Newton is an award-winning speaker, writer and midlife strategist. Follow her on KayNewton.com .
First published in eShe magazine