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Older and bolder: increasing number of over-65s are self-employed

There's been a rise in the number of over-65s who run their own business. Is the older generation outshining its younger counterparts?

When we think of the country's self-employed entrepreneurs, a typical contestant from the BBC'sThe Apprenticetends to spring to mind: a young urban professional with a spring in their step, a sparkle in their eye and a penchant for self-congratulation.

But starting your own business - as anyone who's taken the plunge could attest - takes much more than a Filofax, a sharp suit and a shiny new briefcase. From planning and financing to actually getting things off the ground, plenty of hard work and attention to detail are essential if you're going to be successful - and it seems the older generation is leading the way.

That's because figures released by the Office for National Statistics showed that more than 1.75 million over-50s were self-employed last year - up from 1.45 million in 2008.

And with the Prince's Institute for Mature Enterprise revealing that the number of self-employed over-65s jumped from 223,000 to 345,000 in the same timeframe, it appears age isn't getting in the way of the population's ambition.

Struggling in Europe

Training is one thing but funding is another. It's hugely important to ensure aspiring business people aren't left squeezed by a lack of monetary power - they clearly need a financial platform from which they can go on to succeed

Don't worry about the headline, I'm not going to start talking about the fortunes of Liverpool Football Club. Much more pertinent here is the fact that despite Britain's growing number of senior entrepreneurs, we appear to be lagging behind other European nations where the overall number of operating businesses in the country is concerned.

As research conducted by accountancy firm RSM revealed, the number of active enterprises in the UK only increased by a net of 0.7% between 2007 and 2011. When this is compared to the 1.4% growth seen across 11 other EU member states, a reasonable conclusion would be that Britain is struggling to properly support new and upcoming businesses.

Watch and learn

With the older generation seemingly leading the way, it's vital that younger entrepreneurs have access to the same support as more senior members of the population. Interestingly, Lord Alan Sugar's trusted aide Nick Hewer claimsThe Apprenticeis a valuable resource for learning about business that has not always been available.

Hewer recently told start-up website "For the first time ever, young people have been exposed to how to build a business, and it's not that complicated! In trading, retailing, tuning motorbikes or whatever it is, you can start with nothing!"

MockThe Apprentice's cocksure contestants though we occasionally might, Hewer is right to point out that the show's tasks offer invaluable insight into the challenges of being in business.

Feeling the squeeze

But training - in all its forms - is one thing. Funding is another. It's hugely important to ensure aspiring business people aren't left squeezed by a lack of monetary power - they clearly need a financial platform from which they can go on to succeed.

Recent statistics show that lending to small businesses rose by £238 million between May and June. This is promising, but there is still a need to rediscover the levels of activity seen in the boom years before June 2009. Perhaps it's only then that new business people - of all ages - will have the means to put Britain back on track with the rest of Europe.

Image credit: Paul Inkles of Vision Creation

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