Theresa Goble and Morag McLaren started a business together for the first time in their mid-50s when they felt that the time was right and they had the skills to build a sustainable business. Their company Vox Integra provides training for professional singers and delivers courses worldwide. As both cofounders approach their 60s and have 35 years’ experience each in their chosen profession, they realize they are bucking convention for start-ups, which is often seen as a young person’s game.
There’s no perfect age to start a business but if you’re interested in taking the leap, here’s what we learned:
- Get the right support – when our company, Vox Integra, was selected for the Guildhall School of Music & Drama’s Creative Entrepreneurs programme, a business incubator designed for performing arts companies, we knew that our vision made sense. What we learned during that programme, and the insight we drew from our own careers, has helped us create a service that is unique and in demand.
- Teamwork – it is easier to set up a business in a dynamic partnership with shared interests, ethics and objectives, but with contrasting skills. This brings much more to the table creatively. You can bounce ideas around, consider different perspectives and draw support from each other.
- Do the groundwork – be practical about the business itself, have a good business plan, understand cashflow and marketing. We learned a lot on the business incubator and were pushed to question every idea, do our research into the market, and work on the pitch.
- There may be resistance – we’re well versed in our area of business but were disappointed to discover that, despite our credibility, some people didn’t take us seriously, be prepared for this – at a recent pitch we were asked whether Vox Integra was ‘just a hobby’. That was maddening but it just spurred us on to succeed.
- Point of Difference – as an individual with years of experience you probably have a network of top practitioners to draw upon. Robin Bowman was head of vocal studies at The Guildhall School of Music & Drama and there are few in the world who know more about auditioning. Having him join our team of associate tutors puts us in a unique position and sets the business apart from any other start-up.
- The need to juggle – starting a business takes a lot of work and, on occasion, real life can get in the way. Don’t fret, working for yourself also allows you to determine your own schedule.
- Failures are the pillars of success – don’t be afraid of making mistakes. You’ll learn as much from the things that go wrong as the things that work – most probably you’ll learn more.
- Be digitally savvy – don’t be afraid to call in help where you need it. The business world’s reliance on social media was outside our area of expertise so we needed to bring in specialists.
Whatever age you are when you start your business, you’ll need to rely on what you know already, your professional reputation and your stamina to make it work. We feel that having a few more years’ experience than the conventional entrepreneurs puts is a great position to succeed.