Empowering the Freelance Economy

Boxer to Businessman: How people like Max Wallace are starting up in their 50s

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  • ONS data published last week showed employment among the 25-49s is now back at the rate it was at the start of the pandemic, whereas the employment rate among 50-64s has fallen by 1.3 percentage points. 
  • A report published in April by the Resolution Foundation also noted the U-shaped crisis facing 18-25s and over-50s, who are the most likely to struggle to obtain full-time work as a result of the pandemic.
  • The Freelance Informer published a report on why people over 50s fear for their jobs once furlough ends

Max Wallace started his community fitness company, Health Defence, in 2020 out of survival. According to Max, he had unlawfully been terminated from employment after sixteen years of loyal service — and seeing the need for an affordable fitness programme for the community, filled that gap and started one. To learn more about his life and business journey read here.

He said, thanks to the support of Hammersmith & Fulham Council, he has been offered a unique location to deliver his training — a railway arch.

Max’s story is a familiar one for people aged 50 and over who were let go or made redundant during the pandemic. This age group is more at risk of long-term unemployment than younger people, according to a report by the Office For National Statistics (ONS).

However, figures also show that people aged 40 to 60 are becoming the most active startup founders in the UK today.

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Max Wallace, Founder of Health Defence

Max is not alone. Others, over the age of 50 that have lost their jobs are having to carve out new careers for themselves by setting up their own businesses.

Helen Smith, is one of those people. Helen was 25 years deep into a career in online media and research when she saw work dry up once a 6-month contract suddenly evaporated. Helen found herself with time on her hands, so she made the decision to reignite her passion for textile design and clothing, for which she had originally trained.

Discovering a book of vintage hat design from the 1940s sparked Helen’s renewed interest and she launched Made of Moxie, which produces modern versions of vintage designs.

Startup School for Seniors

Max and Helen both took part in a successful London Community Response pilot scheme for new business owners. People like them have inspired a first-of-a-kind online course, Startup School for Seniors, officially launched this week to help the rising number of unemployed people aged 50+ start businesses of their own.

Startup School for Seniors was piloted late last year following a grant from London Community Response, which has resulted in further support from Ealing Council and the GLA.

The latest funding will help another cohort of over-50s around the UK start their own businesses given the much tougher post-Covid employment market.

Max and Helen’s feedback on the 8-Week Course

“I discovered Startup School for Seniors online and enrolled to learn more and found myself part of a supportive and inspiring community,” said Helen. “Now I have a fledgeling new business and an eCommerce website for the hats, which are handmade by talented knitters in the UK and produced as one-offs or made in small quantities.”

Helen said that she found the course to be beneficial, despite having run businesses in the past. “I have learned something new in every session, especially about business structures and marketing. Despite being delivered over Zoom I was impressed with how Suzanne and Mark managed to create a genuine sense of community. Their knowledge and guidance were clear and always supportive,” she said.

Max Wallace had this to say, “I just want to say a big thank you for all your help and advice during the eight weeks of the course. It not only helped me with my company, it helped me build my confidence back and in turn get my life back on track.”

How can you apply to Startup School for Seniors?

The next Startup School for Seniors course kicks off on 27th May 2021 and is an 8-week programme facilitated by entrepreneurs, Suzanne Noble (aged 60), and Mark Elliott (aged 57).

According to Suzanne and co-founder Mark, people need to “forget seeing age as a hindrance; it’s a huge asset.”

The course comprises over 25 hours of video lessons, worksheets and a weekly exploration and collaboration call designed to encourage participants to articulate their business ideas in a safe and welcoming space.

Applicants are invited to use promo code ‘londonspring2021’ for free access to the course.

Suzanne Noble, right, with Startup School for Seniors co-founder Mark Elliott (left)

What will you get?

  • Comprehensive business startup course
  • Be part of a real community
  • Exploration and collaboration call
  • Supportive private Facebook group

When people think of startups, they tend to picture high-growth tech businesses launched by 20-somethings, but in reality the decision for many people to set up their own company is increasingly driven by necessity and putting food on the table. It could involve them monetising a lifelong hobby or putting all the experience they have gleaned through their employed careers into use for themselves. For many of the ‘olderpreneurs’ on our course, self-employment is also about flexibility and working around caring responsibilities, which affect 1 in 5 people over 50.”

Suzanne Noble, co-founder of the Startup School for Seniors

Those interested can register here. Pricing details and offers can be found here.

1 Comment
  1. Max Wallace says

    Good morning,

    I hope all is safe and well with you, your family, and anyone connected to you.

    Thank you so much for writing the article about me and my Community Interest Company, Health Defence CIC. It has been very hard during the pandemic but I’ve managed just to keep my head above water. I have had to make a lot of sacrifices starting Health Defence CIC, using my savings and no funding, but I believe in the end it will be all worthwhile. Helping people in need motivates me and gives me a sense of achievement and working in a community centre was my ideal vocation but it was cut short after sixteen years.

    The borough of Hammersmith and Fulham have helped me a lot but it was the help from Suzanne Nobble and Mark Elliott that gave me back my life and pulled me out of that dark hole I was in after losing my job. At the moment I am looking for a permanent location to expand the services I want to offer the community and create my own Micro Well-being Centre.

    Kindest regards, blessings and good health,

    Max Wallace

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