The entrepreneurs over 70 taking the business world by storm
Ben Van Praagh, in his 70s and Brenda Deane in her 80s share their inspirational stories on what made them start new business ventures later in their lives.
Ben Van Praagh, 75.
Now 75, throughout his career he has been involved in around six “major businesses”. The first was a small engineering company in south-east London, which he founded when he was 19-years-old. His penultimate venture, from which he retired in 2000, was an “insurance-related business”, and one year ago he launched his most recent — Benyfit Natural — a dog food business.
After 18 months of market research and product testing, he launched the company in May 2014. “This particular business sprung from my passion for feeding dogs a healthy diet. This in turn leads to a healthier, happier dog, living longer,” he says. As a dog lover himself, Ben has developed his recipes over the years. “I have always had dogs. As a child in London we had dogs – always two and sometimes three. I am a bit passionate about my hobbies, about as passionate as I am about my businesses,” he says.
The pet food market is worth £2bn a year in the UK, and Ben is keen to get in on the action. Sales are doubling month-on-month, and now Van Praagh’s youngest son has joined the business.
“I want to be the largest in the company for raw dog food. It is achievable and it will take three to five years,” he says. “I now produce the best raw dog food there is out there on the market. It’s the Harrods of dog food.”
"I am the same as when I was a young man, in business matters I am exactly the same. I work as many hours as I did, I take the same risks and I am as confident as ever."
Ben Van Praagh.
So what has Ben learned from his years of business experience? At 75, is he a different type of entrepreneur, perhaps more cautious?
“I am the same as when I was a young man, in business matters I am exactly the same. I work as many hours as I did, I take the same risks and I am as confident as ever,” he says.
“My lesson is, when you are screwing it up, get out. Cut your losses, don’t throw good money after bad. Don’t let your passion for the subject overrule your brain.”
Brenda Deane, 82.
After working for 50 years as a chartered accountant, Brenda Deane didn’t expect her life to take an unexpected turn. However just over two years ago, aged 82, she started a business called, A Life With a View making candles and room diffusers.
Now aged 84, she is enjoying life as an entrepreneur, despite the initial reservations of her friends. “They thought it was completely crazy,” she says. “But I am enjoying it. It is not easy to start a business, particularly in an industry that is quite crowded like perfumed candles.”
"Quite honestly until did this I had always been in the background and now I am doing the front work and I am loving it."
After her partner died, Brenda went into business with friend Graham Way, who worked in the perfume industry. “He picked me up and we started working together and it has been lovely,” she says.
The idea behind the business is to encapsulate the smell of a view, to evoke memories. Candles have names such as A View of New York – The Loft, and A View of England – The Cottage.
“We would just like to make a success of it and hopefully get into the American market. We have had one or two people show interest,” says Deane.
So why did she decide to become an entrepreneur in her 80s? Brenda is very honest, “If you don’t have something to do in your 80s you can just sit and do nothing,” she says. “It has given me the opportunity of joining so many networking groups here. We have a club that has a breakfast meeting every month, and I have been invited to join Women in Business and Forward Ladies. Quite honestly until did this I had always been in the background and now I am doing the front work and I am loving it.”
This article is a shortened version of one found in the Guardian. Thank you to The Guardian for finding such great people to inspire us.
"If you don’t have something to do in your 80s you can just sit and do nothing"
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