According to the Simply Business Start-Up Index, the number of 18 to 25 year olds launching their own business rose 29 per cent between 2008 and 2013, as driven young people forged their own opportunities in the face of a tough recession-era jobs market.
With fewer financial and family responsibilities than their older counterparts, on average, these new business leaders often have less at stake if their business venture doesn’t go to plan. Helpfully, those in education may also have access to a free network of support, guidance and resources through their school, college or university.
Most importantly, according to Rob Tominey, who founded fast-growing tourism company Mainstage Travel while studying, younger entrepreneurs bring a fresh perspective to existing industries:
“Young entrepreneurs are the ones that are able to bring the best ideas to the table because they're unrestrained by maybe years of corporate culture or any pessimism whatsoever; because the young entrepreneurs are the ones that are the most free-thinking and optimistic.”
This lack of experience can also represent a major drawback, particularly when it comes to gaining the respect and trust of potential clients, suppliers or business partners. Similarly, younger entrepreneurs have not had time to build up the same network of contacts or credit reserves that their elders may have spent years amassing.
Those under 18 face more fundamental problems, as 16 year old Ben Towers, who already has over 500 clients for the design business he founded at age 12, explained to the Huffington Post:
“Simple business necessities needed by nearly all online companies like payment gateways are not possible for people under the age of 18, this means that collecting payments for all my work is so complicated.”
Parents in business
Despite the rise in young entrepreneurs, the most popular age to start a business still comes later in life, with the 35 to 44 age bracket showing the highest rate of early-stage entrepreneurial activity in England, Wales and Scotland in 2013.
One of the major challenges for those chasing enterprise dreams in this category is the difficulty of balancing family life with the demands of running a business, particularly for those with children. In particular, swapping the relative security of a regular full-time job for a career where cash-flow is unpredictable may seem like a major risk for those with dependents.
These possible disadvantages don’t stop many so-called ‘mumpreneurs’ and ‘dadpreneurs’ from thriving, and being their own boss may also have its upsides, since these entrepreneurs have more power to dictate their own schedule around family responsibilities.
“The whole point of doing business was setting it up around the children,” Vanessa Pinkey, co-founder of handbag brand Peach Pink, tells the Independent. “I can email factories in the morning, Skype while the kids are at school, and make sure I'm back to pick them up from school. If I had a proper nine-to-five job, I would have had to put them in after-school care.”
Last but by no means least, a growing number of retirees and mature individuals are now embracing the entrepreneurial lifestyle. In fact, the proportion of over 65s involved in entrepreneurial activity has doubled in the last 5 years.
The experience, contacts and financial reserves many of these individuals have built up over their lifetime can put them in an advantageous position when starting a business. Perhaps for this reason, 70 per cent of over 50s entrepreneurs are still trading after 5 years, compared to 28 per cent for younger company owners.
However, more mature business leaders must ensure they strive to keep in touch with evolving technology, consumer behaviour and business culture to remain relevant. They also face a degree of uncertainty over their financial future, particularly if health issues force the business to cease trading for any length of time.
On balance though, older entrepreneurs often don’t think of their age as a negative, with Tony Palmer of Crystal Mountain Glass telling Start Up Donut:
“I don’t feel I’ve faced any age-related challenges — people should realise age is a perceived barrier rather than a real one. I have used my own money to fund the business. Perhaps if I was younger, I might not have had the cash to do that.”
Small business owners, do you think you chose the right time in life to begin working for yourself? Share your thoughts with Aldermore on Twitter.