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Wednesday, 15 August, 2001, 11:48 GMT 12:48 UK
Starting your own business
By BBC News Online's Emma Clark
It takes determination, overtime and hard graft, but there is nothing like starting your own business.
New research from Barclays Bank shows that even the semi-retired are becoming a force to be reckoned with and are responsible for 50% more start-ups than 10 years ago.
This is good news for the government which is keen to foster a culture of entrepreneurship in the UK to generate wealth and fire up the economy.
But how easy is it to set up your own business? How many hoops do aspiring business owners have to jump through and why are "grey entrepreneurs" on the rise?
Taking the plunge
According to Barclays, there were about 450,000 entrepreneurs last year.
Such data suggests that running a business actually plays to the strengths of older people.
"They tend to be successful at starting new businesses because they do the right things," says Mike Rogers, managing director of small business and start-ups at Barclays.
"They do the planning, they are well-financed and they have accumulated wisdom.
"They also define success in their own terms. They don't want to take on the world, they just want to supplement their income or keep themselves busy," he told BBC News Online.
However, Kieran Middleton, a 29-year old social worker turned businessman, shows that younger entrepreneurs can buck the trend.
He set up a Mexican take-away business in Edinburgh with partner Neil Jordan one and half years ago.
Using Mr Jordan's business background as a director of a software firm, the two partners put together a meticulous business plan, invested £10,000 each and approached the bank for another £10,000.
Mr Middleton says that he took advice from Scottish Enterprise, a government agency, but found that his business plan was of a higher calibre than anything the agency could have helped him with.
Mr Middleton puts his success down to extensive research, saying that it took about four months before they actually launched the business.
"The other thing is perseverance and having a belief in what you are doing," he adds.
Within a matter of days, the two partners were "blown away" by the demand for Mexican take-away and were soon beating their projections.
They are now looking at government-sponsored funding and meeting with the private sector to raise further funds to expand the business.
But such a success story belies the effort involved.
As well as preparing business plans and sorting out funding, new business owners need to make sure they are totally committed, says Mr Rogers from Barclays.
"They have to take into account the demands on themselves and their time, and on their families."
"You have this idea of a launch, but when you get to that date, nothing changes.
"It is immediately disheartening and the rest of the world is oblivious to that," he says.
The FSB's David Bishop argues that the government needs to invest more in supporting younger entrepreneurs and turning ideas into workable plans.
Research from Barclays suggests that older people find running their own business less stressful than their younger peers.
This is probably because only 27% of owners over 50 run their business as the only source of income in the household.
Nevertheless, the statistics indicate that many older people are turning to their own businesses after being made redundant or following early retirement.
The Confederation of British Industry is less than upbeat about this.
"We have no particular evidence on this but growing numbers of older people starting businesses may be a result of more of them having to, because there are fewer job options available, rather than any upsurge in entrepreneurial spirit," it says.
Barclays' Mr Rogers also admits the number of new start-ups is decreasing with the onset of a global slowdown, the aftermath of foot-and-mouth disease and the demise of the dot.com.
However, Mr Rogers argues that his bank has not been put off.
"A good idea that is well thought-out, a sound business and well-financed always has a good chance of success," he says.
He also points out that weak conditions can bring advantages, such as buying equipment more cheaply.
Certainly, Mex2go's expansion plans are proof enough that some entrepreneurs - and investors - remain undaunted by the slowdown.
But the critics remain divided on whether government policy to encourage entrepreneurship is having a genuine impact.
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