UK "Boomerpreneurs" to hit two million by 2020

14 August 2014 -


Businesses launched by older entrepreneurs are more likely to succeed than similar ventures by younger bosses, says report

Jermaine Haughton

Rising numbers of Britain’s baby-boomer generation are cancelling retirement plans to start their own businesses, with the total set to reach two million before the end of the decade. According to research from trend-forecasting specialists the Future Laboratory, a surge of entrepreneurial spirit has struck many Britons aged 60 and over, and will eventually see the number of pensionable business leaders top the 1.7m recorded last year. Future Laboratory has dubbed these seasoned startup moguls “Boomerpreneurs”.

Commissioned by Chinese telecoms firm Huawei, the study puts the entrepreneurial wave down to many older workers wanting to remain active members of society, with a desire to use their skills and experience to create an impact. “Work will become a better system for ensuring longevity and endurance, rather than the old way, which promoted burnout by the age of 45,” the report said. “Increasingly, a career will again be for life, in the truest sense of the word.”

Older workers’ interest in running small businesses has shown itself to be particularly effective, the report found, as the wealth of experience held by Boomerpreneurs can often outshine their “younger, sprightlier” counterparts. In fact, older entrepreneurs are shown to have a better success rate, with 70% of startups led by people aged 50 or over lasting at least five years, compared with 28% for younger entrepreneurs.

“Boomer-run start-ups are two-and-a-half times likelier to last the course for five years or more than those run by younger businesspeople,” the report said. “Boomers approach their second or third lives with vigour and use their life experience to start second or third careers with smaller, often craft-based businesses.” According to the Office for National Statistics, one in five people over-50 is self-employed. While this is partly due to people seeking longevity in the workplace, continued uncertainty over pensions also remains a key motivator.

However, Guardian columnist Anne Perkins struck a negative note over the findings, particularly in terms of how the trend would affect workers and bosses in younger age brackets. “The Institute for Fiscal Studies has found that the under-30s have borne the brunt of the recession,” she wrote. “The last thing they need now is a generation that refuses to acknowledge that it is growing old – a thick strata of privilege [that will end up] desk-blocking new talent, better ideas [and] fresh approaches.”

Chris Ball – chief executive of The Age and Employment Network (TAEN) – said that, while the rise in Boomerpreners is encouraging, there is a danger that the findings could present an overtly rose-tinted picture of how older Britons are faring. “We should be a little bit cautious of taking too literally catchy new labels like, ‘Superboomers’ and ‘Boomerpreneurs’,” he said. “[They] may contain an element of realism, but do not by any means represent the typical experience of a generation. Yes, on one hand it is a ‘good time to grow old’ – and it is great to see more people living the lives they want to lead, without bothering too much about misleading labels that an age sometimes conveys. On the other, please don’t run away with the idea that all older people are rolling around awash with money and opportunities.”

Ball added: “I would guess that, for the average person, problems, financial worries and responsibilities are more likely to be accompaniments to their 60s than the feeling that they can travel the world unfettered by worries. But keeping fit and active are absolutely the watchwords we should follow. ‘A healthy mind in a healthy body’ is as valid a slogan for the 50- or 60-plus person as it was for the Ancient Greeks, and staying in a job that satisfies ambitions and financial needs can be a very important part of this.”

Read this special CMI blog that explores the working relationship between younger and older workers.

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