A new wave of silver startups proves you don’t have to be a male in your 30s to become an entrepreneur and set up your own business.

For many, the word entrepreneur conjures the image of a male in his 20s or early 30s. Only one in three entrepreneurs in the UK are women. 

However, if women started and scaled new businesses at the same rate as men it would add £250 billion of new value to the UK economy.

A new wave of silver startups is also emerging. One disruptor is Sheila Holt, who began scaling her finance business, Sapphire Lending, aged 60. 

Deciding to set up your own business

Now 67, she says: “Deciding to put my energy and experience into building a business at the time I did felt natural. But when I started to look around I realised I was in a very small minority of women around my age leading a business.

“I believe change is coming. I was over the moon to see Forbes launch its 50 Over 50 list. It’s a platform designed to highlight women breaking age and gender stereotypes. They can act as advocates and role models for other retirees around the world. It’s fantastic and I want to see more!”

Sheila explains why starting a business at 60 is a good idea.

Experience

She says: “With experience comes resilience, and this is key in starting up. You need to be able to take a knock, get up and get on. Whether you’re trying something new or setting up in an industry you’ve worked in before, resilience gives you that competitive edge.

“You also have this fantastic moment when you realise everything you’ve ever done is relevant. I draw daily on my neuro-linguistic programming knowledge to communicate effectively, and that’s just one example.  

“Experience brings acceptance of the fact you can’t do everything yourself. I find people who start business later in life understand the value in surrounding themselves with people who are better than them at some things. Experience shows you the benefit of accepting advice from others.” 

Sheila Holt: “Deciding to put my energy and experience into building a business at the time I did felt natural”

Self-awareness

“I run a finance business based on relationships, open communication and simplicity. The thing is, when I started Sapphire Lending I knew it had to be on my terms. I knew that was the only way I would stay engaged and succeed, and therefore have the confidence to do it my way. Having this level of self-awareness helps when you set up a business and quite often it can help you find that unique selling point. 

“Building a solid, diverse team also depends on your ability to identify your own strengths and weaknesses and find people who have different strengths to you. It’s a liberating feeling to be comfortable with others being better than you.”

Purpose 

“People who are starting businesses later in life tend to be motivated by different things. I wanted to design a legacy – to build something solid that would continue beyond me. This sort of purpose creates a desire to succeed, which really drives and thrills a person.

“Purpose is a big talking point in my book, Trust Is The New Currency. This is because the ‘why’ behind doing something is often directly linked to how successful we are in doing it. When your ‘why’ is clear and greater than yourself, it will attract other people and resources to support it. 

“As well as my desire to create a legacy, I am also driven by my passion to help stop the neglect, cruelty and extinction of animals across the world. Often, when you’re approaching an age where society might expect you to start slowing down, you really understand the things that put fire in your belly. 

“Using my business as a platform to contribute towards this bigger purpose is something that has also contributed to the success of Sapphire Lending.” 

Sapphire Lending brokers deals between property developers looking for top-up capital and lenders that want to make their savings work harder. 

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