Starting up after 50: Lessons on entrepreneurship from the ‘wisdom generation’

Starting up after 50: Lessons on entrepreneurship from the ‘wisdom generation’

Entrepreneurs often conjure up images of people who are young. But, in reality, people sometimes also choose to start a business after working for years under somebody. Some even take this path after retirement.

While these people may not show the energy of a young person, remember that they offer an unparalleled advantage because of years of expertise and experience. Some companies like WisdomCircle even help people over 55 years — it terms them as part of the “wisdom generation” — find meaningful work opportunities.

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But how do people in this age group tackle today’s challenges? WisdomCircle shares some stories of starting up after 50:

Story 1: Entrepreneurship based on professional skills

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Vivek Srivastava, 58, Founder & Managing Partner of Delhi-based Integrated Brand Heuristics

Life before entrepreneurship: Srivastava is an experienced marketing, advertising and branding professional with an eye for spotting and developing ideas and concepts. He worked in these areas for 36 years. One of the stints got him a mandate to set up an agency in India where he worked on automotive as well as D2C marketing with multiple initiatives across social and digital media, data analytics.

Life as an entrepreneur: Srivastava became an entrepreneur in 2023 when he set up a brand strategy and creative ideas boutique with the aim to make consumer behaviour a part of marketing focus.Challenges of starting a business late: The biggest challenge is initial inertia. Once you overcome that, the whole prospect of working with a lean team. From an MD’s mindset of presiding and guiding, one has to move to a thinker and doer on-the-fly-kinda persona. Another challenge is to keep the value proposition of the business entity on a par with the competition from the word go.What did you learn along the way: Persistence pays. One needs to ride through setbacks and delays; take encouragement from one’s track record. Build a committed core team that believes in the venture. Build a young team as they are far more resilient & diligent, and are digital natives.

Invest in enduring relationships with clients, partners & employees — these three are the key to success. Empower colleagues with an entrepreneurial spirit. Acquire clients who value your presence, efforts & initiatives.

“With one’s faculties and energy levels in prime shape accompanied by a wealth of knowledge, there has never been a better time than now for the silver-haired set to be meaningfully engaged with emerging businesses or those attempting transformation. Opportunities are endless, so is the depth and width of our expertise” — Vivek Srivastava

Story 2: Entrepreneurship driven by personal experiences

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Daisy Malik, 64, is the Founder of Delhi-based The Roots Organic and Natural Store

Life before entrepreneurship: She was a teacher in a pre-nursery school. She also ran teacher training programmes. A transformative moment in her life was when her first grandchild developed food allergies. She wanted to replace chemically infused products that could harm children.

Life as an entrepreneur: Malik started the company in 2010. Her passion for organic food was also fuel for entrepreneurship. Her family is also involved in the business — husband manages finances and daughters manage business development and digital initiatives.

Challenges of starting a business late: ⁠The first challenge was to market and advertise a bootstrapped business without a marketing budget. ⁠Second, to make people really understand why there was a need to eat cleaner not just for their sake but for their children & the environment. ⁠Third, to advocate this lifestyle with belief & conviction.

What did you learn along the way: Not having any formal education in entrepreneurship or marketing means a steep learning curve. Learn to quickly adapt to changes in the market; keep innovating and cater to all the requirements of the consumer.

“What keeps me energised is my purpose, which is to promote health and sustainability. I stay eternally youthful by pursuing meaningful endeavours that positively impact the world around me. I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this remarkable journey towards wellness and sustainability” — Daisy Malik

Story 3: Accidental entrepreneurship

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Rekha Kochhar, 72, Founder at Delhi-based Boutique Bites of Health

Life before entrepreneurship: Kochhar was a housewife but her world upended when her husband died while her kids were still very young. While recovering from the loss, she joined the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization in a temporary role. That turned into a fruitful career of 33 years.

Life as an entrepreneur: Starting up happened accidentally. She used to make healthy sweets for her children. After retirement, that became her venture. Right from sourcing ingredients to production and packaging, she plays a hands-on role.

Challenges of starting a business late: Adapting to digital techniques for marketing was a large roadblock. I was fortunate to have my kids help me navigate this space.

Sourcing ingredients that match my standards; every supplier is just pushing stale goods. This mindset was really disheartening.

What did you learn along the way: Perfection is a myth, lifelong learning and improvisation is the reality. This is a learning that was a result of unlearning my corporatised institutional culture of pyramid leadership, to being customer-centric in my approach.

Innovation and good design is the key to growing and sustaining any business.

Growth is possible when we delegate.

“My message to the ‘wisdom generation’ is to keep your faculties engaged, both mentally and physically, and to stay focused on your goals with discipline and sincerity” — Rekha Kochhar

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Author: Shirley