Give the older entrepreneurs a fighting chance
THE GOVERNMENT and the private sector are in a high gear to create young black entrepreneurs who will help reduce the challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality. This is all good and will translate to a strong economy in the next two decades.
A lot of programmes have been developed to assist young mainly black entrepreneurs to start and run successful businesses. Small business incubators are springing up, like mushrooms, all in the quest to help young entrepreneurs.
However, in all of their good intentions, the government and the private sector are neglecting middle-aged entrepreneurs between the ages of 36 and 50, whom I think are still energetic enough to start and run successful businesses that can also play a huge role in denting the unemployment rate and in grooming young entrepreneurs.
These older entrepreneurs usually have more experience in running a business and have had their fingers burnt and what they need is someone to believe in them and support them, financially and morally.
They are more likely to become successful than their younger counterparts since they have acquired valuable experience from the ups and downs of running a business.
For instance, you have an older entrepreneur who is unable to get back to business because he is blacklisted as a result of his failed previous business.
Instead of being helped, he is punished for the rest of his life for having been in charge of a failed business.
Countries such as the US invest more in entrepreneurs who have had a failed business than entrepreneurs who are just starting out.
The reason for this US logic is the belief that the entrepreneur who has experienced failure is more likely to become a
Those who failed once have better odds at success
major success the second time.
A classic example is that of the late Colonel Harland Sanders who had a string of failed businesses, but founded Kentucky Fried Chicken in 1930 and became one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world.
If he was in South Africa, he would never had succeeded in building a business like KFC because of the negative attitude South Africa has towards start-ups founded by older entrepreneurs.
Funding institutions and society in general fail to recognise the immense potential of older entrepreneurs.
Some of the older entrepreneurs are former employees who have been retrenched or took an early retirement package for one reason or another. These former employees who need help in becoming entrepreneurs have invaluable work experience that can be channelled into running a successful small business, however they don’t get the necessary moral and/or financial support, and when they do seek that support, doors are slammed in their faces and are dismissed as too old to start and run businesses.
I think that a funding and business development institution dedicated to helping middle-aged entrepreneurs must be established.
The reason for this is that traditional funding and business development institutions have failed older entrepreneurs.
Society needs to change the way it views and treats older entrepreneurs; it needs to view and treat them as gold mines who can make an invaluable contribution in making South Africa a winning nation.
The person who is more likely to start a South African version of KFC is an older entrepreneur.