Business and Innovation Creativity People Science and Technology

Seniors young in business

Partners in Change Managing Director, Geoff Pearman, at Ombrellitos in Dunedin

Increasing numbers of New Zealanders over the age of 50 are going into business for the first time, often encompassing a social aspect which benefits others.

These enterprises sometimes involve technology and an increasing number utilise the skills of two or three generations.

Partners in Change Managing Director, Geoff Pearman (68), says that internationally, more people over 50 years-old are starting businesses for the first time than those under 30 years-old. The seniors’ ventures have a much higher survival rate after five years.

These older people haven’t previously owned businesses. In New Zealand, their careers may have been in construction, farming, Government, engineering, education, health and professional practices.

Across the world as more seniors become involved in start-ups, intergenerational entrepreneurship is developing, he says.

Geoff notes that older people can contribute wisdom, experience, networks and capital – human, social and financial. Younger people’s strengths may include technology skills and agility.

He adds that older people think differently. This is not necessarily about generational variances, but about age – while younger people think directly, seniors tend to think more strategically because of experience and the way our brains work differently as we age.

Thus, a mixture of young and old being involved in enterprise is beneficial, he says.

Innovative entrepreneurship

Geoff provides examples of local senior entrepreneurs who are combining innovation, experience and tech talents in the fields of wine tasting, geospatial mapping and matching investors with those who need both financial capital and advice.

The wine tasting venture illustrates how two generations have played a hand. Dunedin man Dr Henk Roodt (59) and his son JD (29) led the tech side of the Wine inMind app and Dunedin wine reviewer Ricky Collins (59) helped develop its content.

Ricky says the free app enables people to assess wines themselves, build their own database and also follow friends.

The trio has learned that although the app works well for those who developed and tested it, other users don’t always find it as intuitive.

More than 150 people have downloaded the app since its release in July last year, but only about 30 are actively using it at present. Conversely, one user “loves” the app and has more than 700 wines listed. The plan is to address any major issues via App updates.

Dunedin wine reviewer, Ricky Collins, with the Wine inMind app he helped develop. Photo: Karen Dean-Collins

With the wine app, the input from both JD and his dad added a richness to the project and Ricky reiterates that in new businesses, the combination of technology and experience can be a winning formula.

Higher survival rate

Geoff says research shows that businesses started by those aged over 50 have a high survival rate and tend towards a more social focus.

“Leaving a legacy and making a contribution is important to this group,” he says, while recognising that younger people also value this.

The reasons older people become entrepreneurs are varied and complex. Sometimes they find themselves out of work and so create a business.

Some seniors start businesses because they want more control and flexibility about when and how much they work.

Still others have had an idea for an enterprise and think “if it’s not now, it’s never”.

A common view of life has been that it is split into 20-40-10 years: 20 of education and training, 40 of family and work and 10 of retirement.

This is changing and a realistic lifetime may now be 100 years, with the notion of retirement having also altered, he says.

For some,

it’s hit 65 and go into business.”


When he was 61 years-old, Geoff set up a Trans-Tasman consultancy, Partners in Change, to help companies adapt to the ageing of the workforce. He founded Senior Entrepreneurs New Zealand and is leading a multi-year research project into people who start business for the first time later in life.

In the New Year Honours List 2020, he was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to seniors and business.

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For further information:

About Senior Entrepreneurs NZ

About Partners in Change


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