Rise of the ‘older-preneurs’

  • Sme
  • Wednesday, 10 Sep 2014

Ban is seen here sharing her ice cream with her friend, the radio personality Yasmin Yusoff.

Margaret Ban’s energy and enthusiasm can easily put a young person to shame.

The retiree, in her 60s, wakes up at 5am every day for her morning jog before she gets down to business of pasteurising, aging, churning and freezing her homemade ice cream.

In between chores, she delivers her ice cream to distributors and finds time to catch up with her friends.

Ban, the founder of Daily Scoop, admits that she cannot sit still even when she has earned herself a cushy life after retirement.

In fact, Daily Scoop is her second business venture after a long career in corporate communications.

“I am afraid of doing nothing,” she said.

Ban is one in the growing number of retirees who are opting to start a business after their working lives are done.

While entrepreneurship is often associated with the younger people, reports point out that the number of people over the age of 55 setting up their own businesses is soaring.

Having been involved in sales and management for paint companies, Soo decided to set up a company that offered painting services for property developments after he retired.

One report cited a survey by Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank, which revealed that 12% of business owners in the UK decided to launch their own company after retirement.

The Harvard Business Review, likewise, noted that the Kauffman Foundation found the highest rate of entrepreneurship in the US has shifted to the 55 to 64 age group, with people over 55 almost twice as likely to found successful companies than those between 20 and 34.

Better with age

Experience is certainly a useful tool for older people thinking of starting a business. Ban says, “Retirees shouldn’t stop working. You need to keep yourself mentally and physically alert. We have so much more to offer. It would be a waste not to do anything!” Ban exclaimed.

Ban started making ice-cream for her grandchildren last year as a hobby. With absolutely no experience in making ice cream, she diligently studied recipes and experimented with mint leaves for flavour.

“My grandchildren loved it. And that was when I realised people like different types of flavours instead of the normal ones you can get,” she explained.

She made more ice cream for family and friends and entertained the thought of turning it into a business. She signed up for classes to refine her skills and learn the finer details of her product.

Having gained more confidence in her idea, Ban forked out more than RM50,000 to invest in some basic equipment.

“To start a business in ice cream is certainly not cheap. A batch freezer can cost anything from RM40,000 to over RM100,000 and a blast freezer, from RM20,000 upwards. Display units are another huge investment,” she said.

She started selling her products early this year. And while her sales started out slowly, Ban is optimistic that she will be able to recoup her investment soon as she had with her first venture, an aromatheraphy massage business. She opted to close the massage business due to the difficulty of finding skilled employees.

Unlike her first business, Ban said she does not need to hire staff for Daily Scoop as she can do everything herself from her home.

Another local venture that benefited from experience is paint manufacturer, Mr Paint Man Sdn Bhd.

The company started as a retirement project for its founder, Soo Fee Wah, who had spent his working years in various paint companies.

After he retired in 2004, Soo thought it was a good time to pick up painting.

“I started my career in the lab and then moved on to sales and management. For years, my job was all about sales. So when I retired, I thought, now I want to be a painter,” he said.

Soo’s painting services company eventually grew into something bigger.

Having learned about the challenges faced by painters when using certain products, Soo realised that there was a need to create something new for painters.

A chance-encounter with a foreign paint producer two years later provided Soo with the opportunity to develop new products for his market, turning the venture from a services company into a producer.

Soo’s career in the industry helped build Mr Paint Man’s profile and network in the industry and Soo left behind the quiet life of a retiree.

More to come

While many while away the days after employment, there seems to be no stopping those that have opted to get back into action.

Ban said the transition from employment to entrepreneurship has been an eye-opener.

“When I was working, it was literally me calling the shots. It was a shock for me when a customer started to yell and shout all because I was not able to take her call. But I learned fast. I guess they in turn made me a better person, more patient and tolerant,” she said.

She noted that there has been growing interest in Daily Scoop’s products and she is encouraged by positive reviews from those that have tried her labour of love.

“People admire what I have done so far. But it is not impossible. We must have the passion to do what we do. Never take no for an answer and have confidence in your product and persevere,” she advised.

Although reports cite additional income as a reason for most retirees to launch startups, Ban cautioned against dipping into one’s savings.

Ban is excited to build her brand and hopes to eventually have her own ice cream shop.

Mr Paint Man, on the other hand, has grown into a sizeable player in the local market with an established network. But like Ban, Soo thinks there is much more to do and his venture still has legs to run.

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