The 50:50 Project Interview
Over 50s Influencer, Speaker, Entrepreneur and Founder Advantages of Age and Silver Sharers
Describe your career path in two or three sentences including any twist or turns ending with where you are now and where you see yourself in the future.
The short answer is that I'm a serial entrepreneur that got my start in TV production and PR. My entertainment career stretches from Warner Bros to Universal via Sony and LazyTown Entertainment and my PR career includes a collaboration with the White House and Michelle Obama's 'Let's Move' campaign for children. My later career is more tech focused. I launched Frugl, a website that curates all the best daily deals and also co-founded the social enterprise, Advantages of Age with the objective of challenging the media narrative around ageing. My latest venture is Silver Sharers a platform to help older people find like-minded people to share a home with.
In between, I have had an astrology series commissioned by Channel 4, launched a baby sling company called the Better Sling Company, made a couple of sex education videos for adults called Modern Loving following my divorce - you can see where my head was moving!
Then, when I was approaching 50, the world no longer felt like a friendly place and I moved into the ageing space. A bunch of friends of mine got together and said we feel pretty good so why is the media trying to make us feel so bad! That’s when we decided to start a website called the Advantages of Age. We received some Arts Council funding to deliver activities around style, death and taboos. I went on an internet marketing course and set up a Facebook group for Advantages of Age which is now over 3500 people and that led to more opportunities for grant funding which moved me more in the direction of entrepreneurship and helping older people to start businesses, recognising that there really was this massive gap in the market.
What decision/experience proved to be the most helpful for your career?
That's a really good question. I think recognising how different it is to be 50 and starting to explore the area around ageing and ageism and the challenges that people face from losing work, feeling undervalued and becoming invisible. We aren’t dealing with just the media representation of older women, we are dealing with ageism, mass redundancy, ageing society, housing, etc and I had to actively make a decision to focus on one thing. I moved into the housing because it was something I knew and it felt like something I could do to make a positive impact on the world.
What advice would you give you a 20-year-old self knowing what you know now?
I've got two kids in their 20s and I look at them and I really wonder what their future holds. I was given a tremendous opportunity to always pursue my passion and to be able to make money out of that so I would still encourage my 20-year-old self to do so - to go for something you really love and understand that there needs to be a commercial reality to it. I didn’t always have this sense in my 20s. So whatever you do needs to be viable and it needs to be able to provide you with an income.
What do you think are the most important qualities for sustaining a fulfilling career(s) as you grow older?
Finding what you love to do without a doubt. And speaking to potential customers - you have to do customer research, you have to get out and talk to people because just having a good idea isn't enough. A lot of people shy away from that now because it's scary as hell to be told that what you want to do is not going to work but you have to listen.
What do you think the biggest challenge people face making a career re-entry or re-invention in later life?
You need to get rid of the people around you that are negative and surround yourself with positivity, more than you probably have ever needed to before because it's going to be really tough and there's going be a lot of naysayers that say you're too old, you can't do this, do something else. You need to make sure that you get rid of those people because they are not helpful to you, even if that means family members who aren’t supportive.
What do you think the opportunities are for people wanting to work in their 50s and 60s and beyond?
There are always opportunities without exception. My partner is retraining to be a coach because he really likes helping people so there are always opportunities for you. However, it is difficult if you don't come from an entrepreneurial background like myself where you're used to spotting opportunities - so it does take a lot of work. Thankfully, there are lots of free courses and places that you can go to learn the skills that you need to get started so I encourage people to go and do that.
What is your top tip for staying relevant in today’s job market?
Firstly, admit that you don't know everything - so if you need some training, whether it's around digital skills or marketing or finance or whatever - go and get the training that you need. Also, I've always found it easier to start a business with another person, it's really hard to do these things on your own so if you can find somebody else that shares your enthusiasm or your passion for what you want to do, I think that’s very helpful. Even if it’s just someone with whom you're accountable like a coach or business advisor because you need to build that into whatever you do.
Recommendation: Favourite book to read, a website to browse or podcast to listen to while drinking coffee?
Anything around building confidence and resilience. I listen to an audio download every night and it has given me a greater focus. I stick them on and fall asleep and they just get absorbed into my brain.