Older entrepreneurs in Warwickshire offered help to start up businesses - The Rugby Observer
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12th Aug, 2022

Older entrepreneurs in Warwickshire offered help to start up businesses

‘OLDERPRENEURS’ in the making in Warwickshire are being invited to join a free online school for older residents seeking to set up in business.

The Startup School for 50, 60 and 70-somethings in Coventry and Warwickshire, which starts on Friday (May 6), is the brainchild of entrepreneur Suzanne Noble, 60, who came up with the idea of the free, eight-week course as a result of successive lockdowns causing large rises in unemployment for over-50s.

It is one of five courses taking place across the UK, with funding for the Warwickshire course provided by the European Social Fund (ESF) – and there are 30 free places up for grabs.

According to latest Office for National Statistics labour market data, there are now 550,000 fewer people aged over 50 who work than before the pandemic began – the most significant fall over two years in at least 30 years. At the same time, many older people who were put on furlough or made redundant during lockdown opted not to return to work afterwards.

One in five people over 50 are self-employed, more than any other age group – and Suzanne says that while the pandemic affected the younger generation and over-50s the worst, it’s the older generation who will struggle to pick themselves up in the aftermath.

The online course comprises over 25 hours of video lessons from Suzanne and co-founder Mark Elliott, 57, plus a weekly exploration and collaboration call designed to encourage participants to articulate their business ideas in a safe and welcoming space.

By the end of the course, participants will have improved their digital skills via Zoom, and many will have produced a short-form video to showcase their business.

Suzanne said: “Covid has changed the employment market irreversibly and made it even harder for workers aged 50-plus to find a job. We want to give older people a platform through which they can take back control by launching a business of their own.

“When people think of start-ups, they tend to picture high-growth tech businesses launched by 20-somethings wearing Converse, but in reality the decision for many people to set up their own company is increasingly driven by necessity and putting food on the table.

“One positive to come from the last two years is that it can make Brits realise ‘it’s now or never’ and spur them to set up their own business or side hustle. Older people should remember that they have lots of transferable skills that are relevant in the modern workplace.”

Suzanne advises people to take stock of what they enjoy doing, especially around what’s known as soft skills such as creative thinking, adaptability, communication, curiosity and how they can use these to their advantage.

She added: “It could involve them monetising a lifelong hobby or putting the experience they’ve gleaned through their employed careers into use for themselves. For many of the olderpreneurs on our course, self-employment is also about flexibility and working around caring responsibilities, which affect one in five people over 50.”

Of the previous participants in the course first held in London last year, nearly 40 per cent had made money from their business before they finished the course – and all reported feeling more confident about running their own business after it.

Suzanne added: “While the media tend to report ‘olderpreneurship’ as being an exciting and self-directed choice, our experience running Startup School for Seniors is that it’s primarily driven by external factors such as being unable to gain full-time employment or employment that is flexible around other responsibilities such as caring. I’m hugely concerned about rising unemployment among people aged 50+ now that furlough is long gone.

“We’ve seen a sharp rise in enquiries from over-50s coming from those who are at risk of losing their job or who have been made redundant. Sadly, I suspect the worse is yet to come. Many employers see older people as non-tech savvy and surplus to requirements, whereas the reality is they are highly experienced, very motivated and quick to adapt to new technologies.

“Our Startup School was specifically launched to help these people create businesses of their own, where they can utilise the experience and skills they have picked up during 30 or more years in the workplace. They have a streetwise savvy and experience that many firms bizarrely do not value.”

Startup School for Seniors starts online on Friday May 6 and is free to anyone in Warwickshire aged 50 or above who is either currently unemployed, has recently been made redundant or is economically inactive.

Visit www.startupschoolforseniors.com for more information.

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