Entrepreneurship isn’t only for young, tech-savvy people. In fact, a growing number of older entrepreneurs are starting their own businesses in the UK, mainly due to pension shortfalls and the need for change in their professional lives. If you’re a budding entrepreneur who feels age is a barrier to success, look to these seven highly successful older people, who prove that it’s never too late to become a business owner.
1. Vera Wang
Iconic American designer Vera Wang began her career as a as a senior fashion editor for Vogue in 1970 at the age of 21. She originally wanted to be a figure skater, but failed to make the 1968 US team. She left Vogue after 17 years to become a design director for Ralph Lauren. Wang introduced her first bridal collection in 1990 and has made wedding gowns for several famous women, including Victoria Beckham, Khloe Kardashian, and Chelsea Clinton. She has since opened numerous boutiques, published a book, collaborated with Wedgewood to create a line of silverware, tableware, and gifts, and introduced signature eyewear and fragrances.
2. Gary Heavin
Gary Heavin is the founder and CEO of the Curves International fitness chain. His first attempt at managing a gym ended in bankruptcy, and he spent time in prison for failure to pay child support. In 1992, he opened the first Curves centre in Texas with his second wife Diane. Despite his earlier failures, Curves International, established in 2004 when Heavin was 46, has become the largest fitness chain in the world, with more than 10,000 international branches.
3. Julia Child
Although food and cookery were lifelong passions, Julia Child worked in media and advertising before publishing her first cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, at the age of 50. She published nearly 20 more books under her name and with other authors, andshe went on to host numerous TV programmes in the ’80s and ’90s.
4. Ray Kroc
Born in 1902, Ray Kroc worked as a piano player, paper cup salesman, and Prince Castle Multi-mixer (milkshake maker) salesman until he met the McDonald bothers, Dick and Mac, in California in 1954. They ran a drive-through burger restaurant, and Kroc was convinced that the business could work as a chain. He became their franchising agent and bought the chain from the McDonald brothers for $2.7 million in 1961. McDonald’s has become the world’s largest chain of fast-food restaurants, with more than 35,000 branches throughout the world.
5. Colonel Harland Sanders
Colonel Harland David Sanders started the Kentucky Fried Chicken, now KFC, franchise when he was 65 years old, using his $105 social security payment. KFC was the first fast-food chain to grow internationally; it had 600 branches in several countries by the 1960s. Sanders sold the franchise for $2 million in 1964.
6. Robert Noyce
Born in 1927, Robert Noyce was the co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor in 1957 and the Intel Corporation in 1968. After earning a PhD from MIT, he spent most of his earlier career working as a research scientist. He founded Intel with Gordon Moore in 1968. In addition to his technical achievements, Noyce is famous for introducing a casual working environment that allowed talent to flourish.
7. John Pemberton
American pharmacist John Pemberton invented Coca-Cola in the late 1800s at the age of 55. His Pemberton’s French Wine Coca was created as an opium-free painkiller because he, like many other war veterans, was addicted to morphine. When temperance laws were enacted in Atlanta in 1886, he had to remove alcohol from the mixture (but the cocaine remained). He decided to market it as a soda rather than a medicine, and Coca-Cola was born. Although it was a popular drink, Pemberton was ill and nearly bankrupt. He sold the formula to his business partners, with the last portion of the patent going to Asa Candler in 1888.