One of the most common barriers for those wishing to launch a business is the thought that they might be too young or too old. The thought might stem from the person’s insecurities, but also from the knowledge that the age of the average entrepreneur is…, well, no one knows but we tend to think it is around the 20-40 year mark. The truth is there is never a right age to start being an entrepreneur.
To prove my point I have made a list of famous as well as lesser known entrepreneurs who have started their first business at different ages. Their first businesses might not have been successful, but it was by starting those businesses that they moved on to find success. Use this list as motivation to clear your head of such doubts and get down to starting your own business.
We begin our list with a very early bloomer. Henry Patterson started his first business at the age of seven selling bags of manure. He quickly moved on to selling items on Ebay and pocketed a profit of £150. By age nine he had set up his third business, an online sweet shop called Not Before Tea. Today the business evolved into a children’s lifestyle brand. Henry is a prime example of how there is no limit to what a person can achieve, no matter the age, knowledge or experience.
Sir Richard Branson
Like many entrepreneurs on this list, Sir Richard does not need any introduction. He successfully launched a business which has grown to be one of the greatest brands in the world and continues to expand his empire beyond Earth. However his entrepreneurial spirit existed long before Virgin was founded. When he was still a child he tried to make a profit growing and selling Christmas trees. His plan failed, but it gave him the courage to launch his first start up, Student magazine.
At the age of 16 he jumped right into the deep end of business, working long hours, chasing customers and getting in contact with big names to interview for the magazine. Student magazine did not last long, but the lessons learnt helped him create the Virgin empire.
Robert’s rise to fame was brought about by two investor shows, Dragon’s Den Canada and Shark Tank. During these shows Robert gives glimpses of the challenges he faced, which, nevertheless, helped him set up his first business venture, BRAK systems, at the age of 28. This internet security software company grew on and was sold by Robert for an impressive $30.2 million just 10 years later.
Robert is an example of how there is no such thing as the perfect personal background for an entrepreneur. Any person can launch a business as long as they believe in themselves and their company.
Dame Anita Roddick
Dame Anita Roddick set up her business, The Body Shop, as a means to generate extra income for her family. She was 34 years old at the time and had two daughters. The Body Shop’s brand revolved around honesty, environmental consciousness and quality. Dame Anita was a strong opponent of animal testing and in fact all her products were free of such testing. She proved that taking a stand in business does not mean losing customers. In fact, The Body Shop grew to over 1980 stores around the world after 28 years.
Contrary to popular belief, Henry Ford did not invent the modern car nor did he invent the assembly line. He did however find ways to perfect both these things and to offer cars the general public could afford. He succeeded at doing this by founding the Henry Ford Company. However, he only did this after having first set up the Detroit Automobile Company at the age of 40. This company fell short of Henry’s expectations as it produced expensive cars of low quality.Two short years later he founded the successful Ford company which gave him his legacy.
Rod Brown was 53 when he switched his career as services director at a leading UK supermarket chain to launch a business called Opun. Whilst Rod had never launched a business before, his many years of experience gained from working in such a big company allowed him to quickly set up and grow. In a recent interview, Rod points out how his age helps him raise funds, since he is usually trusted much more than a younger entrepreneur would be.
There are, of course, many more examples of entrepreneurs which I could include. An interesting fact which came up during my research is that it is very difficult to find entrepreneurs who launched their very first business after the age of 50 and have this business succeed considerably. There are many entrepreneurs who launched a successful business when they were past 50, such as Arianna Huffington of The Huffington Post.
However, most of these had prior experience of entrepreneurship already. This is not to say that over 50’s cannot succeed in business on their first try, it just means that the odds are stacked against them and they would therefore need to work extra hard.