Many entrepreneurs don’t start up their own businesses until they reach their 40s, 50s, and even 60s, when they have substantial amount of business experience under their belts. In fact, fresh figures show that there are now 4.5 million people in Britain operating as self-employed, of which approximately 510,000 have sprung up since 2008. The statistics show that this self-employment boom is largely the making of workers age 50 or over who have decided to cash in on their experience and ‘go it alone’. Many of the world’s most well-known businesses and best-loved franchises are the product of entrepreneurs who started up in their 50s and beyond – and here we explore a few of them.
Ray Kroc founded McDonalds, but he didn’t start selling burgers and fries until he was 52 years old. He’d been working as a travelling milkshake salesman, when he sold some of his wares to the McDonald brothers and agreed to work with them to help franchise their restaurants. Eventually, at the age of 59, he bought the company from them and concentrated his efforts on turning it into the global phenomenon we’re all so familiar with today.
Keeping up with the fast food theme, David Sanders – better known as Colonel Sanders – of KFC fame, worked a variety of jobs before finally launching his chicken empire at age 66. Before this, he’d done a stint in the army, as well as a blacksmith, ferry-boat driver and tyre salesman, before beginning to run a service station in Kentucky, where he first started serving chicken dishes. As his popularity grew, he was appointed a Kentucky Colonel aged 45, and finally franchised his restaurants in 1955. It wasn’t all smooth sailing from there, though, as in the 70s he was unsuccessfully sued by KFC’s then parent company for describing their gravy as wallpaper paste and sludge!
The renowned TV chef and author couldn’t even cook until she was almost 40 years old! In her younger years, she worked for the American Army, where she eventually met her husband, and they moved to Paris when Julia was 36. Whilst there, she enrolled in the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu cooking school and her passion was born. A few years later, she started up her own cooking school for women, along with two friends. Finally in 1961, when Child was 49, her book Mastering The Art of French Cooking was published – and from there her media career bloomed, with her TV show The French Chef debuting the year after, winning a plethora of awards during its run and spawning many follow up books and series in which she also starred.
Laura Ingalls Wilder
You may not have heard of Laura Ingalls Wilder, but you’ve almost certainly heard of the Little House on the Prairie series of books and the TV show of the same name. Laura grew up in The Big Woods of Wisconsin, and it was her experiences in these formative years that inspired her novels later in life. Most of her career was spent as a teacher, and it wasn’t until she was 44 that she became a published author – writing a column in the Missouri Ruralist whilst keeping her day job of dispensing loans to farmers. Her daughter encouraged her to develop her writing until, when she was 65, the first novel in the Little House series was published. As the series continued it became a runaway success and has been adapted for stage and screen many times over the years.
Roget’s Thesaurus was the original and is the most widely used English Language thesaurus, invented by Peter Mark Roget who worked as a doctor for most of his life but always had a penchant for list-making. He started cataloguing words according to their meaning when he was just 26, but it wasn’t until he retired in his late sixties that he pursued getting his thesaurus published – which finally came to pass when he was 72. The original title was “Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases Classified and Arranged so as to Facilitate the Expression of Ideas and Assist in Literary Composition” – we think Roget’s Thesaurus is much catchier – and it underwent 28 print runs in the 17 years alone between its first publication and Rodget’s death in 1869 with, as we know, countless more since then.
If the famous faces above haven’t convinced you that it’s never too late to start a business, why not read about the rising number of over 50s that are going it alone and why they’re succeeding – you might get inspired to launch your own start-up!
Note: Whilst we take care to ensure Hub content is accurate at the time of publication, individual circumstances can differ so please don’t rely on it when making financial decisions. OneFamily do not provide advice so it may be worth speaking to an independent financial advisor about your own circumstances.