Courageous, female and in her prime: The 50-plus foundress generation knows what it wants–and gets it done. Why it pays to start a business later in life.

Thinking about entrepreneurs, mostly young and agile women come to mind—women in their 20s and 30s who have a visionary idea for a successful startup and are full of zest for action. But there are others: for example, assertive, seasoned women.

Economical Through Wisdom

There are many reasons to become an entrepreneur; financial worries are often one. However, if someone willingly decides to implement a business idea, they are generally equipped with an adequate pension, sufficient savings, or have a partner who is contributing to their subsistence.

According to the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau [KfW: Reconstruction Credit Institute, formed in 1948 after World War II as part of the Marshall Plan], in 2013 as many women as men ventured into entrepreneurship—albeit as “moonlighting freelancers” or sole proprietors, without their own employees. KfW also found that only one-third of full-time businesses are female driven.

Having a financial cushion and family support are not motive enough however. For Sandra Bonnemeier, author of Praxisratgeber Existenzgründung [Practical Counseling for Setting Up a Business], networking in your respective sector and life experience—contrary to professional experience—play an important role as well.

This has been the case for Heike Kreyßing, Ruth Mellentin and Carmen Deepe.

The Storyteller

“Everything I can’t do, I’ll learn!”, says Heike Kreyßing, founder of Haikrey. “Make art, not waste” is the company’s motto. The Dresdener tailors children’s clothing from old, worn clothes.

Tailoring is something that the MBA graduate taught herself. However, the dream of having her own tailor shop burst at the end of the 1980s. “The reunification intervened,” says the 54-year-old. The undertaking didn’t succeed until its second attempt in 2006.

Kreyßing was laid off shortly before that. Her applications for a new job were fruitless. Then, everything happened quickly. With a startup grant from the job center and the support of her family, the dream of self-employment finally came true.

Every single one of Heike Kreyßing’s pieces is individual. On many you can find the sharks Elli and Jan, signature features of the Haikrey brand. Kreyßing attaches a self-written story to each dress, to “introduce the little ones to the topic of marine pollution early on.”

The Development Worker

For Ruth Mellentin, the professional tipping point came with the loss of her mother in 2011. She felt that it was the right moment for a change of course and founded Herzensgut [good-hearted], an online fairtrade soap shop, with her inheritance shortly afterwards—a project she’s had in mind for a very long time.

The geriatric nurse is familiar with self-employment: before starting the company, she ran her own thrift store for 10 years. From 2008 to 2010, Melletin also visited the Democratic Republic of Congo to build solar stoves on site.

Mellentin currently supports a cooperative of 500 families in Brazil with her soaps. Unfortunately she can’t live off the proceeds of her business yet, so she still makes a living as a nurse. “I’m glad when the expenses for the soaps are covered,” she says, embodying the spirit of the “moonlighting freelancer.”

The Tenacious One

Carmen Deepe is, compared to the others, a rookie among the self-employed; she is just at the beginning of her independent career. Forced to go into early retirement for health reasons, the 45-year-old woman from Osnabrück decided to turn her hobby into a small business last summer with $1,500 seed capital in her pocket.

Under the name Krawanders, Deepe sews colorful purses from pants and ties. Like Ruth Mellentin’s endeavor, Deepe’s work serves a social purpose. Ten euros of the (up to) 79 euro unique pieces are donated to aid social causes.

A gardener by profession, becoming an entrepreneur wasn’t an obvious choice for Deepe. In preparation, she completed several business classes at the IHK [Industrie- und Handelskammer, Chambers of Commerce and Industry]. Since then, billing and bookkeeping haven’t given her any headaches. Her online shop and Facebook page haven’t either, nor have any of the other spaces where Deepe hangs out when not regularly traveling to markets and trade shows.

How to Keep the Dream From Turning Into a Nightmare

Two things need to be considered so that the dream of being self-employed later in life doesn’t turn into a nightmare: [in Germany], if a person receives a pension before the age of 67, they can only earn 450 euros per month. Additionally, retirement savings (or nest eggs) should not serve as security deposits for a loan since only part of the amount is protected against liability laws.

From a statistical point of view, once all hurdles are overcome and once an entrepreneur has held their ground in the marketplace beyond the early years of government sponsorship, they’ve made it.


Photo courtesy: Krawanders
Original article by Christa Roth published on July 17, 2915 by Enorm Magazin, Besser spät als nie
Translation: Saskia Ketz
Editor: Irene Huhulea