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Last Updated: Friday, 8 February 2008, 00:06 GMT
Too young to retire
By Jason Gwynne
BBC Money Programme

Ms Rhodes and Ms Walker
Rhodes to Heaven was started by two sisters

Britain has an ageing population with almost 13 million people over 60.

With pressures from inadequate pensions and redundancy growing, ever more people are trying to start up businesses on their own.

Typical of the new breed are sisters Annabel Rhodes and Penny Walker.

Both in their sixties, they have set up "Rhodes to Heaven", a line of organic beauty products, which they sell online and at exclusive venues and fairs.

Their range of creams and oils cost up to 45 a pot. Selling them at fairs around the country can bring in up to 3,000 a day.

Ms Rhodes and Ms Walker set up their company four years ago following the death of Ms Walker's husband from cancer.

During his illness she found it hard to buy the right kind of soothing lotions for him, so she decided to do something about it.

Ms Rhodes brought with her 20 years experience as a saleswoman in the beauty industry.

Department store deal

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The sisters borrowed 60,000 from the bank and, crucially, put in their own savings as well.

Despite the financial risks involved they do not believe their age is a barrier in the world of business.

Both insist they are passionate about their products.

And they believe their determination has reaped rewards, landing them a deal to trial their beauty products in an exclusive department store.

Successful entrepreneur

Entrepreneur Sir Alan Sugar believes the growth in older entrepreneurs is a natural development.

Alan Sugar
Go and enjoy yourself because it may have existed inside you all those years and now you've got the opportunity to show everybody what you can do
Sir Alan Sugar

"I think they've got to a stage in their life where all of those commitments of having to look after their children and provide for their family and all that stuff have kind of gone away," he says.

"Suddenly their entrepreneurial spirit that always existed inside them has sprung to life."

About one in six new businesses is started by somebody over 50 and the numbers are growing.

Many commentators believe that people aged over 60 today are far "younger" than they were half a century ago and possess the drive to realise their potential later in life.

Living the dream

Former restaurant owner and chartered accountant Richard Pyle, 64, has done what many of us dream about and retired to a farm near Toulouse.

Richard Pyle
Mr Pyle says he has enjoyed every minute of living in France

There he has planted a field with oak saplings, each having had its roots infected with truffle spores.

Traditionally, the truffle business can be very lucrative, though it takes a long time for it to mature.

But Mr Pyle, believes a person's age can be a major advantage when starting a new business, has found a shrewd way of cashing in swiftly.

His company, Truffle Tree, allows customers to adopt a tree, then keep any truffles it produces.

So far, he has sold about 450 trees at 149 each, raising about 67,000. On top of the purchase price, the trees' adopters are charged a 35 annual maintenance fee, bringing in about 16,000 a year.

Risks and rewards

Given that black truffles are perhaps the most sought after culinary delicacy in the world, with agents from Parisian restaurants paying up to 500 a kilo for prime truffles, Mr Pyle's customers may well return a decent profit on their investment.

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Laurie South, executive director, Prime

A good tree will produce two kilos of truffles a year, which in the UK could be worth 3,000.

But that is not to say Mr Pyle is losing out. True, his potential profit has been reduced, but so has the risk, which has made it easier for him to enjoy the experience.

"Truffle Tree" has enriched his life, Mr Pyle insists: "I've enjoyed every minute of living here in France. And the best decision I've ever made in my life without question."

Sir Alan has these words of advice for budding older entrepreneurs:

"There is no guarantee of success, so don't sling everything into it.

"But go and enjoy yourself because it may have existed inside you all those years and now you've got the opportunity to show everybody what you can do."

Money Programme: Too Young to Retire: BBC Two at 1900 on Friday 8 February 2008.

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