The thing about … being an ‘older’ entrepreneur

by Sharon Santoni

I started my blog at the age of 51, fourteen years ago this week.  Creating the blog and growing it into a business has been a lot of fun.   It keeps me busy, it keeps my brain ticking over, I get to work with a dynamic team and I find our business very stimulating. I love the ongoing learning process. But the fact is that today I am considered to be an ‘older’ entrepreneur.

So the thing about being a senior entrepreneur is …. being the oldest one in the room.   Age with a capital ‘A’ is built up to be such a big thing in our society.  It’s easy to feel intimidated by the younger crowd.  

This is something I have had to learn to deal with in my role as an entrepreneur, running my company.     I used to be shy about taking meetings with new suppliers, or contacts for the magazine because I knew I’d be older than they would expect.  It’s one thing to swap emails or chat on the phone, it’s another to meet and shake someone’s hand.

I remember once turning up at a cute boutique hotel in Paris to shoot for a magazine piece.   It was arranged that I’d take photos of some cocktails in their bar.  I turned up mid-afternoon with my camera and tripod, and for a fleeting second, I saw the surprise on the face of the barman and the PR girl who greeted me.   That look that said, “oh really, she’s that old!”

Kicking myself for having accepted the job, and scared that my photos would disappoint, I went into overdrive.  Super concentrated and focused, I worked quickly and to my relief pulled off the shoot.    I could feel I was being observed by the young barman.

It wasn’t until I was packing away my camera that he started chatting.    He said a couple of nice things, and asked some questions about the magazine, my role, how often I took photos etc.  It suddenly dawned on me, that yes he was initially surprised that an ‘older’ photographer would turn up, but once he saw I could handle the task he was intrigued, and maybe even (dare I say it) impressed.

This experience taught me I had to get past my fear of ageism.  I understood that it was me creating the hurdles, that didn’t need to exist.  I moved on.

So while I know there are still workplaces where age isn’t shown the respect it deserves, I’m here to say that it’s just a number.  If we work with drive and passion we can do pretty much what we want.

 In today’s society where youth and beauty reign,  it takes some mental acrobatics to remind ourselves of the advantages of age. Of course, we don’t all have the same experiences, and I’d love to hear your point of view on this. But here are a couple of things that I’ve learned since I launched my business, I’d love to hear your ideas on this.

The younger crowd can sprint faster than us for sure, but they may not have our endurance

The passing years bring us more experience.  With experience, we have the advantage of better judgment, the ability to remain calm when others panic, the capacity to view situations more objectively and think outside the box.

With age, we lose our fear of being ridiculous.   Nobody says it’s fun to make a fool of ourselves, but as we grow older we realize is not such a big deal and will be quickly forgotten.   This makes us braver and more adventurous.

To conclude I would say there are just two things to add. The first is that we have to be careful of as an older entrepreneur. It’s too easy to get so caught up in our work or our passion and forget to stay in touch with friends.

The second is that on our small team at MFCH we have a wide range of ages and I think that is part of our strength. Everyone brings their particular talent and passion to the table, and we learn from each other.

Please let me know what you think about this!

42 comments

Jane Golding February 4, 2024 - 11:04 pm

I enjoyed reading this! We have just opened a new antiques shop at the ages of 67 and 73! There are so many older women in business I admire.

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Deborah February 4, 2024 - 11:07 pm

Yes yes! Seventy years old and still working as a designer helping clients create the home of their dreams. I have an established clientele and now only work with existing clients and their referrals. I LOVE my work and my clients are the best. It does keep my brain sharp and energizes me. I started my design business at 40, and after raising four children, it was MY TURN! I bring so much more to the table now than what I would have as a twenty something.

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Susie Miller February 4, 2024 - 11:08 pm

This is just what I needed today! Thank you for sharing your thoughts on age, it’s enlightening.

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Dee February 4, 2024 - 11:13 pm

Started a Career as a walking Tour guide in my city of Melbourne at the age of 61 A year later lm fitter happier more excited with life and meet amazing people

All it took was a little step outside comfort zone which was becoming much larger. Also I noticed a lot of my friends don’t want to take that step. It’s too easy to say no, but it’s just as easy and more thrilling to say yes congratulations on what you have achieved and all of your readers

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Vicky from Athens February 4, 2024 - 11:27 pm

Sharon, age definitely can bring a few challenges but it also gives us a distinct advantage. We’ve learned so much along that road to maturity that younger folks have yet to travel. We’ve been their age before but they’ve never been our age … they have so much to learn … so much to experience. That younger crowd has a long way to go before they know as much as you and me We have “street smarts” that can only be acquired with time and experience. There’s another advantage for us and that is having to deal with people younger than we are keeps us young at heart and on our toes.
Keep up the great work!!

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Shelley Humpal February 4, 2024 - 11:34 pm

Hi Sharon: As a 69 1/2 year old entrepreneur and blogger I so get where you are coming from. I have to constantly remind myself to get out of my own way. After losing my mom to dementia, I am trying to keep my body and brain active, constantly shifting my brain from one project to the next. I am an Interior Designer who loves working with antiques when I can and I volunteer for a non profit. Loving all the pieces of my pie give me a reason to get up every morning and family is just the frosting on the cake. You have to make your life your own.

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lori everett February 5, 2024 - 12:05 am

Thank you for all of your comments. My mom is 92 and also has dementia. She will still participate and communicate in ways that she can. I too have been an Interior Designer. My current connections are with long term clients who continue to bring me such joy when we can find what is going to be. Also, some are mcuh older than me….they are so inspirational for me because they continue to move forward on new projects.

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lori everett February 4, 2024 - 11:55 pm

OMG yes. I am 68 and I think about how I come across. We have a very young landscaper who helps us with our spring and fall home landscaping. He told my friend (who is 75+) that I am a genius. Can you imagine how that made me feel???? I work as the acquisitions chair at our Historical Society. We have college students helping us record our inventory. They too, are so respectful and smile and can look me in the eye. I appreciate all of this interaction.

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Sharon Stahl February 4, 2024 - 11:56 pm

Hi Sharon, first of all, we share not only our first names but also the same set of initials. I finally left the working scene 10 years ago, at age 67, and initially felt adrift as a new “retiree.” But — I got the hang of it and am loving life. After having had my own business as an Event Planner/Producer and Caterer in the San Francisco Bay Area (16 years of that, officially), I moved to a warmer, sunnier clime, Arizona, and for the next 6 years was the Activities and Events Director for a new 55-year-old+ community. By the end of 2013, I knew it was time to give it (and the bod) a rest. Fortunately, I’ve been blessed with genes that kept me youthful-looking and active, so taking up knitting in a rocking chair is still not my thing. The reactions that I do get when someone much younger learns my real age, now 77, never cease to amuse me. Keep plugging, y’all, even when life tosses those little unexpected health curve-balls. It’s worth it. See you on the dance floor — cheers!

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audrey reily February 5, 2024 - 12:08 am

at 79..i finally feel on top of my game!! …<3

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audrey reily February 5, 2024 - 12:09 am

At 79…I finally feel on top of my game!! <3

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audrey reily February 5, 2024 - 12:11 am

two replies are better than one! lol

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Rebecca February 5, 2024 - 12:18 am

Hello Sharon,
Consider referring to yourself as a women rich in experience and drop older and senior as your personal profile. I am of the Jane Fonda, Martha Stewart vintage and still in the game. Keep moving forward with no excuses for age.
You might also consider updating French Country Home to French Country Living.
My Best,
R

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Nancy Brannntley February 5, 2024 - 12:38 am

At 21 I knew everything and I sure knew more than people of older age…..yeah right??? I’m 66 now and look at the younger generation thinking just like I did at their age. Wish I could give them some advice BUT they know more than me… I’m enjoying life more at this age!! Keep up everything you do Sharon.

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Amanda Jenkins February 5, 2024 - 12:40 am

Sharon, being 56 myself, I don’t consider you to be old by any means. I admire you and your work and your candidness amid your great success. You give me inspiration in your ideas and accomplishments!
Amanda

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Barv February 5, 2024 - 12:42 am

I enjoyed reading this article very much. I left the corporate world 20 years ago (I am now 61 – but feel 40) to pursue my passion to teach – at a private school. As an empty-nester, I am finally thinking about pursuing a Ph.D., or Masters in teaching, but fear that I am “too old” (or will be by the time I am finished) to be hired by anyone. It is easy to get lost in my own head.

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Rhonda Reeves February 5, 2024 - 12:52 am

So enjoyed reading this article as well as all the comments. I will be 71 in March and under no circumstances do I feel old, I teach yoga paet time and volunteer so I’m not an entrepreneur in the sense Sharon and many of you are. However, i left a corporate job and my goal was to work in a health related field where I didn’t hve to worry about how much money I made and work with animal welfare-my volunteer job is at a local spay/neuter clinic with the absolute best people and I look forward to going to “work” there every time. I have nto ruled out whatever may come my way in the future either!

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joanna rowe February 5, 2024 - 12:52 am

The times are a changing…l just watched a show the “Golden Bachelor”.. there was so much wisdom and experience and bonding forming true friendships that didn’t exist in the younger version of the Bachelor series. A true eye opener. Women seeking second careers now that the kids are grown and they are retired from the 9-5 career .
They are bringing a wealth of experience and “Fresh” ideas to the table.
By the by that photo of you is stunning. You are a natural earthly beauty brimming with creativity

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Diane February 5, 2024 - 12:54 am

Hi Sharon,
I really enjoyed reading today’s story & I had a chuckle along the way. Although I’m not an entrepreneur, until today I worked full time as a teacher of the deaf. This is my first week of working 4 days instead of 5. I’m 67 and still enjoy my job and the company of work colleagues, some who are climbing the ladder and taking things way too seriously. We do have an important and serious job, but we need to have some fun along the way.
Thank you for your insights into life.
Diane

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Joyce Penny February 5, 2024 - 1:11 am

My husband and I came off a cattle station in the north of Western Australia at 68 and 70 and took on a 16 roomed-guest house in a remote, desert gold-mining town. He left 3 1/2 years ago and I am still running the place at 77 and have added 8 new rooms and substantially increased the turnover. My legs are giving me a bit of trouble but I have to pinch myself to understand that I am still able to achieve so much and hugely enjoy life – just got home from a month in France! Ooh la la. I can’t wait to see where else my drive and curiosity will take me. Thanks for your encouragement and humour.

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Cara February 5, 2024 - 1:24 am

Hi Sharon, I enjoyed this post today. Due to health reasons, I had to quit working early, in my mid to late 40’s. I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up since despite obstacles I may have, I still want to stay busy, and I love seeing no matter our age, others feel the same.

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Anne Loiuse February 5, 2024 - 1:53 am

Dear Sharon, you are a very young woman still…don’t even start feeling old. I am 86 and still going strong. My 97 year old husband told me I was still ferocious! The problem with living a long time is everyone else is jealous and can’t figure out how you do it! Stay unregenerate, don’t ever change! And keep laughing!

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Donna Rose February 5, 2024 - 2:06 am

I think you’re amazing! I admire your drive, creativity and honesty. I’m thinking about starting a business at 61 and am inspired by your story! Ageism is an important topic and we need to discuss our views with each other.

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Nancy February 5, 2024 - 2:09 am

I loved your article on “ The Older Entrepreneur “, and, I must say I am thoroughly enjoying all of the wise and astute comments!” I have been a museum docent for over 20 years, having trained in my early 50’s.
Nowadays it’s astounding how young the work force has become, coupled with the threat of AI replacing even our grandchildren .
None of us should be judged by our age, as long as we are continually learning and improving. C’est la vie.

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Barb February 5, 2024 - 3:35 am

Thanks Sharon, What bliss it is to read your story of the older entrepreneur .. and all the comments thus far…. I too run a very small craft design business that I began in 1996 in Australia and have just kept going… it has become part of who I am I am now 75. but fancy myself as 35 until I catch an image of myself in the mirror !
I love all aspects of the business especially the creative thinking .I often glance back and think how far I have come, what experiences and thrills this has taken me and allowed me things I could never have ever dreamt once. were possible . I had previously assessed about giving up, you are too old for this…etc but then I would weigh up all I gain from the daily pleasures and stimulation…. it still keeps driving me forward…..
Can we make this a movement I wonder …?
I am so pleased there are many of us doing our thing !

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Tara February 5, 2024 - 3:50 am

I loved this article! So many cultures value older generations…and one thing my age has taught me is to stop talking and listen to others (especially older generations) who are there to try to help us and save us the trouble of making the same mistakes they did when they were our age. Your photography is GORGEOUS! And with time you start collecting new ways of doing things and I bet you also held onto your style but picked up many more tips along the way than the ego of a younger person would typically allow them. At 17 I thought I knew it all and my elders were to behind the times. at 27, I couldn’t deny my parents were right about a lot more than I gave them credit for. HORRAY for this article and the spirit of embracing the older entrepreneur.

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Tara February 5, 2024 - 3:51 am

PS I do think western cultures do not value older people as well as some of the eastern cultures. Let’s hope we can indeed keep this movement going and empowering the older and wiser generations to not be afraid to show their gifts as well!

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Isabella February 5, 2024 - 7:42 am

Der Artikel spricht mich an. Ich werde dieses Jahr 70 und habe schon viel zurück gesteckt. Es hat mich depremiert, los lassen zu müssen. Nur ich denke, ich lasse mich nicht unter kriegen. Es gibt noch so vieles mit dem ich mich noch beschäftigen kann und meine Erfahrung einbringen. Körperlich und geistig fit zu bleiben, das ist das wichtigste. Und irgendwann wird sich dieser Jugendwahn wieder legen, wobei gerade unsere Generation dazu viel beigetragen hat. Wir waren in der Jugend so sicher, dass wir die größten sind.

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Margaretha Montagu February 5, 2024 - 8:28 am

When I retired as a medical doctor, I felt lost. My whole identity was based on what I did – a huge mistake, I now know – and I felt utterly useless, unable to figure out how I could continue to contribute. 15 years ago, I started hosting Camino de Santiago hiking retreats here in France, and I have never enjoyed working as much as I do now. As you say, we may no longer run as fast as we did, but we have endurance, and experience and I think, an enhanced ability to enjoy…I love the age I am now, best age ever.

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Elaine MacKenzie February 5, 2024 - 9:15 am

I’ve just turned 66, retirement age in the Uk, but I am carrying on with my two physical part-time jobs to keep fit for as long as I can whilst I train myself to produce pet portraits in oil as a new business, launching in a few months.

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Eva Eldridge February 5, 2024 - 9:16 am

Hi Sharon
Lovely piece, thank you.
At 62 now moving countries, learning a new language, setting a new business. I think to a successful entrepreneurial life after 60 you need three things – good body (relatively pain free) + brain (relatively clear and open to new technologies). Second you need high energy levels (good genes+ diet +exercise). And thirdly, you need a good network which is varied – in age, background, experience, education. If we have all these basis covered – our age does not even need to be mentioned. All the best and Vive la France! 🙂

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Jeannette Johnson February 5, 2024 - 1:58 pm

Beautifully said and right on point!

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Marion Miller February 5, 2024 - 2:29 pm

Well done..loved the Read…will pass on …

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Teresa February 5, 2024 - 3:04 pm

You’re inspiring in every way. With age, when one lives right, comes Wisdom. May God bless you and your work. ~ Teresa

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Deborah Heath February 5, 2024 - 3:22 pm

At 65, I continue to explore new opportunities in addition to my architecture and gardening businesses. I set my own work schedule with plenty of time for travel, fun, friends, and family. But I find a greater range of fulfillment having something interesting, challenging, and productive to do. Plus I am more financially secure. And it is important at any age to think outside the box, for sure, as you mentioned, and the emtions begin in the secret garden and deeper feeling. I continue a quest for a love interest who shares a rare passion for life at this stage. I appreciate having this small forum to share our insights and experiences.

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Robin February 5, 2024 - 4:08 pm

Dear Sharon,

Your thoughts, fears, and finally take-aways resonate with me. I have also found that although there might be a hesitation with youth toward us, they also look to us for guidance (and it does happen but we have to prove ourselves to them too!)
Robin

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Linda Hovgaard February 5, 2024 - 4:45 pm

I love this article! You are an inspiration and I applaud you for becoming an entrepreneur later in life. I appreciate being able to follow your blog and learn about the French life. My only regret is not coming on one of your flower trips (with you) where you visited different florists and did flower arranging. I think there was some antiquing in those trips too. I think it would have been a more personal and up close trip and sometimes we just have to look the other way when it comes to $ and go for it anyway!

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Benjamin Pierce February 5, 2024 - 5:44 pm

I got a bit of a late start in my marketing career, and then stepped away for a couple years. I’m 55 years old and am consistently the oldest person in the room, often by 25 years or more. It is definitely odd when the folks above me on the ladder are 10-20 years my junior. But apart from not getting half my references and jokes (… it couldn’t possibly be that I’m not funny ….), for the most part the “problem” is in my head. I struggle with how to acknowledge the age difference and usually rely on self-effacing lines about me being the “old guy in the room”. I soon realized that this actually makes it worse. No one has said or even implied that there is any sort an an issue so for the most part it’s on me to get over it. I do sometimes wonder about advancement, and what will happen when I am vying for a promotion alongside some hotshot 35-year-old. Maybe that will be my cue to cash in my chips and move to France.

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Alexandra “Sandy” Kaminski February 11, 2024 - 12:19 am

Sharon,
It is always a pleasure to read your blog and stories. Your ability to relate to so many people with such a wide age range is truly incredible. I am 82 and do love your energy, insight and accomplishments. You are an inspiration to us everyday.
Having retired at 81 I am now working on reinventing the lifestyle of an 82 year old. Keeping an open mind for new challenges keeps one in the swim of life. I now have more time for gardening, cooking (using recipes that expand the palate), watercolor painting, photography, photo editing and carpentry. Wonder how I ever had time to go to work. At this point in life I am never bored.

Looking forward to your next posting.

Alexandra “Sandy” Kaminski

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Theresa February 11, 2024 - 4:35 pm

So happy that you addressed this topic! It seems to happen so fast–one minute, you’re the youngest, the new hire. And then all of a sudden… I’m the oldest person (age 68) in my department at work. I feel like we’re all comrades in arms, and pretty much the same age, but every so often someone says something that makes me realize that my coworkers view me as “older”. I chuckle inwardly, because I probably said the same things to my older coworkers when I was the young one, not realizing how it would make them feel. Working hard, having a sense of humor and staying on top of the work is the key to gaining the young folks respect and enjoying the job. And pushing past the insecurity that comes with thinking about your age. Love the business that you’ve created. It’s inspirational.

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noreen February 13, 2024 - 3:35 pm

At the age of 50, due to retrenchment, a colleague and I opened a custom manufacturing and procurement company, aimed at the hospitality industry. The company that retrenched us -only gave us the push we needed! For 8 glorious years, we took risks and our famous attention to detail saw our goods land in the plushest of overseas hotels, hot design labs and in the homes of famous people. We exported all over the world, from a non descript little studio at the bottom of Afrique du Sud! Sadly, due to ill health and down turn in business we closed shop – but I still get a thrill to think of how often I saw our goods in magazines or on homes on TV!

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Belynda February 15, 2024 - 9:16 pm

I’d like to share your blog. Can you forward a link for non-subscribers? Having just turned 70 (which until this year was a speed limit I ignored) and seeing you and so many other older superheroes—70 is doable, Even exciting. I’m smoother around the edges with enough creases and crevices and forethought to slow the unrequired responses—to truly listen. I can live vicariously through all those near me on life’s path and those who hold the earth’s future. Thank you for your beautiful magazine and lifestyle inspiration. YOU GO GIRL!

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