“I’m old, not obsolete!”
I took a few days break in August and headed with my son down to Cornwall. It was still fairly hectic, but a different kind of hectic, and hectic by the sea is always better than not. I did however have some time to think and in that way you sometimes do on holiday, I found myself reflecting on life, and in particular the last 18 months since we launched New Beginnings.
To cut to the chase, I’ve absolutely loved it…I feel more energised, more stimulated and more passionate about it than any job I’ve ever had before. You know what’s coming next right? That’s it – “I only wish I’d done it years ago!”.
It may be trite but it’s the truth. So why didn’t I do it years ago? What stopped me? What held me back?
Those of you who know me might not be surprised to hear that back at school I sometimes found my mind would wander off topic…I tended to be thinking of a thousand things at once, but often not connected to the lesson I was in. “Could do so much better” – that was me. I graduated with a degree in sport and business but left with a clueless look on my face.
I followed my passion for horses and became a riding instructor which led me to the amazing charity, the British Horse Society. I helped them to increase their membership and hit on one great idea that I will always be proud of - The Hunter Trials for grass roots members, including a televised final at Windsor Castle. It felt great to create an event that anyone horse-mad could compete in and feel as special as an elite rider at Badminton.
Sadly (or possibly stupidly), I made the decision not to move with the BHS to their Warwickshire Headquarters, and so instead I fell into the world of recruitment. I worked hard and found I was good at it. I’ve always loved working with people – I know I’m a talker(!) but I love to listen as well and I found that the connections I made with people were a real asset to bringing together clients and candidates.
However, something was niggling at me. I wanted people to feel we cared about them when recruiting. And back then I felt a bit like the odd one out. When my son arrived, in order to try to juggle my new responsibilities, I took the opportunity to start out on my own. It was great for a while and then I met another company who wanted help growing their business so, for ten years, I did just that.
But it wasn’t really until 2019 that I realised that all my life I’ve felt I was a “break the mould” type person. Be different, be yourself, and actually I think quite a lot of me is a bit anti-establishment. Over the years, I’ve sat in countless meetings thinking why are we having all these endless meetings for meetings sake? It was like the emperor’s new clothes – I kept wanting to say “Hey! It doesn’t have to be like this!”
At this point, I was a mere 51 year old and I realised it was now or never. Together with Rose, my business partner, we decided to try to make that difference to business I’d wanted to make all those years ago.
It has taken me 30 years to find my niche and I am not embarrassed to say so. Interestingly, research carried out both in the UK and US reports that the number of start-ups led by women over 50 has begun to increase in recent years. To quote Isabella Moore CBE from the brilliant initiative Older Women in Business, “we possess a wealth of experience and skills, which we feel are being underutilised."
Many women have arrived at a time in their lives where they are no longer raising and caring for families, they have perhaps achieved some economic security and are free to really grow both themselves and their business idea.
I truly believe my age is my strength. I am now 53 and our business is thriving. I have an amazing team of people around me of different ages, backgrounds and personalities. Yes I'm a little long in the tooth but I am always learning. I take council from all my team and the interns who have worked with us - and I LOVE that they are all my bosses.
Of course it will have its ups and downs but I also think I have greater perspective now I'm older. I'm not so fixated on the corporate dollar (though I do still care about it!) - it's just as important to me that our business is sustainable for the planet and that people's wellbeing and happiness is prioritised.
Be proud to be half a century old and if you have a brilliant idea...go for it if you can. You don't have to settle with "Is this it?"...