Property consultant Claire Whisker, 51
Freedom from the world of work can open up exciting opportunities for active retirees. More and more older people are discovering that when they are no longer tied to the demands of 9 to 5, they can put all that experience to good use – and make money from it.
The number of self-employed “olderpreneurs” more than doubled in the five years leading up to 2022, says Age UK. Many find that the flexibility of being your own boss, plus the cushion of a pension income to cover basic living costs, add up to an attractive option.
Travel Consultant Vikki Coffey, 55
Age proved no barrier to success for Vikki Coffey, but then she’s a self-confessed tough cookie. She developed nerves of steel as a driving instructor, running petrol stations in crime hotspots and managed pubs so rough the police had previously closed them down.
“I’ve been the victim of robberies and shootings,” she admits, but says that starting her own business in later life “is the scariest thing I’ve ever done”. After raising her family, the couple have one son, she indulged her passion for travel and got a job on a cruise ship in her forties, working for Carnival, Norwegian Cruise Line and P&O.
Vikki Coffey on Virgin Voyages cruise ship with partner Frank Keoghan
But last January she decided to put all that experience to good use and trained as a homeworking travel consultant with the Travel Franchise, based in Hull, East Yorkshire.
Vikki, whose partner is Frank Keoghan, signed up to their operation Not Just Travel and began working for herself. But her breakthrough came last February when she went to see the music show Vampires Rock, featuring the hits of heavy metal stars, AC/DC, Metallica and Guns N’ Roses.
“I had a lightbulb moment where I thought, ‘This would be amazing on a cruise’,” Vikki says. That night she tracked down the star and creator of the show Steve Steinman on social media and asked him if he would do it. He texted back saying he had never performed on a cruise before but was interested.
Now, assisted by Vikki’s colleagues at Not Just Travel, he will perform on MSC’s British Isles Cruise, departing Southampton on September 24. The show, Anything for Love – The Meat Loaf Story, features Lorraine Crosby, the vocalist who accompanied the late US singer and actor Meat Loaf on his hit single I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That), and it’s exclusive to Vikki’s clients.
To make it work she had to get up to speed with the online booking system. Vikki says: “I hadn’t used computers or email unless it was on my phone, so that was an overwhelming task for me. Luckily, I had the Not Just Travel team supporting me. They dealt with the negotiations and legal agreements. And once I had a few bookings on the computer system, I knew what I was doing.”
Vikki’s success is down to spotting a gap in the market. She realised Steinman’s loyal following would be a great fit for her business. It allowed her to book hundreds of people on to the cruise without spending a penny on marketing.
“I saw an opportunity and went for it,” she says. “I’m working day and night, seven days a week to take bookings. I know that once these clients go on their first cruise, they will be back to book other ones. This is a long-term plan for me.”
TikTok stars Joan and Jimmy O’Shaughnessy, 70
When the Covid pandemic began, Joan and Jimmy O’Shaughnessy were winding down from busy careers. He was a retired aerospace engineer and she had been working for an estate agent.
To keep themselves amused in lockdown, and to pursue their lifelong love of dancing, the Southport couple came up with a few routines and posted them on social media. It was the start of a journey that has seen the amateur ballroom dancers garner millions of followers and attracted a host of advertisers.
TikTok stars Jimmy and Joan O’Shaughnessy
Joan, who has two sons and one grandson, recalls how it all began in 2020. “I was in touch on Facebook with a girl I used to work with and saw she had put on a dance she’d done with her daughter that she had also posted on TikTok.
“And that was the first time I heard of TikTok! So I looked at this TikTok and saw that a lot of people were doing dances, and obviously that was our thing. “So I said to Jimmy, ‘Just for a laugh we could learn one of these dances and put it on TikTok.’
So that’s what we did. “We filmed it in the garden and people started putting on really nice comments, and started following us. And we thought, ‘Oh gosh, what’s happening here.’
“That’s how it all started. And it’s just carried on.”
It certainly has! Their popularity has been explosive. They have 3.9million TikTok followers all over the world, 685,000 on Instagram and 195,000 on YouTube. One dance was shared by David Beckham. No wonder advertisers are keen to tap into the couple’s videos. But they are selective.
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“These adverts are quite lucrative,” Joan says. “We’ve done one for McVitie’s, Jacobs, Jaffa Cakes, Morrisons. We’ve got one for Aviva in the pipeline. But I don’t want our TikTok account to be full of adverts because I still want us to do our dancing. Slotting one in now and again is fine.”
They also get paid monthly for the number of views on TikTok, anything from £75 to £400, and they recently returned from a cruise as guests of Fred Olsen. The couple make about three videos a week.
Joan, who has an IT background, does all the editing herself. Sometimes they copy dances that are trending, and sometimes they create their own. They still can’t quite believe where that first TikTok dance has taken them. “It’s amazing. It’s a whole world that we never expected to be in at this stage in our lives.”
● Visit @twojays2 for more info
Property Consultant Claire Whisker, 51 Enterpreneur
Claire Whisker moved into the property business after a successful career as a barrister. She was spurred into action after her own “unsatisfactory” experience of house-hunting.
“Like so many home buyers in the UK, I found the process incredibly stressful, with gazumping and last-minute price negotiations,” she says. So she came up with the idea for her company First in the Door, a platform which matches wealthy home movers with buying agents and it’s launching next month in London.
Now the former barrister and mother of two from Faversham, Kent, who works with her husband Jonny, has 80 buying agents signed up, covering most of the country.
She explains: “Professional buying agents bring a huge amount of value to the search and buying process but only a tiny minority of us in the UK are familiar with the concept.
“Our platform’s capability to establish an instant connection between active homebuyers and buying agents will bring scale and visibility to a sector with limited brand recognition.”
Home sellers have estate agents working to achieve the highest price, but Claire says that usually there is no one to represent the interests of the buyer.
“It is quite simply an unlevel playing field and needs levelling up,” she argues. “The idea initially came to me during the pandemic when we were looking to move to be closer to family.
“We were frustrated at missing out on the best homes or not getting to see them at all and it was actually an estate agent who suggested we speak to a buying agent.
“Most homeowners are completely unaware of the value a buying agent can bring.” Customers of First in the Door, Claire’s third start-up business, have an adviser to help them every step of the way, with VIP access to pre-market properties and private home sales.
Ten per cent of all profits goes to Hope and Homes For Children, to support their mission to eliminate the need for orphanages by finding a loving family for every child.
Games Developer Ian McCartney, 54
It was a bite from a tick that started the chain of events that turned Ian McCartney, from Lymm, Cheshire, into a successful entrepreneur. He developed Lyme disease after walking in the Lake District, and while he was on sick leave from his job as a supply chain director for Kellogg’s, he came up with the idea for a mathsbased family board game.
“I was forced to take time off to try to recover,” he says, “but I couldn’t sit around and do nothing. So I created some prototypes of the game for my wife Lisa to take into our local school.
“We believed it could help children improve their confidence with maths. It was two and a half years before I was well enough to return to full-time work and in that time we launched the game. It has since sold thousands of copies around the world.”
Having left Kellogg’s in 2017, he’s since published more than 30 games and also tutors students. The couple, who have two children, created Plytime Learning, a researchbacked online learning platform with content personalised to each student.
Games Developer Ian McCartney
They are focused on primary maths but will expanding into KS3 and GCSE soon. Ian recently received a £250,000 grant from Innovate UK to create an AI-based tutoring solution. Ian’s advice to others starting a business is this: “Be passionate about what you do.
“You need to have the conviction to keep going through difficult times. We’re passionate about helping children to be their best.“
● Visit plytime.com for more information
Salon Owner Claudia Aciubotaritei, 51
When she came to Britain from Romania in 2012, Claudia Aciubotaritei could hardly speak a word of English. Twelve years later, she is not only a successful older businesswoman but next year she is due to graduate from Oxford Business College with a business administration degree.
“It’s been a whirlwind journey but I have enjoyed every minute of it,” Claudia, 51, says. Her beauty business, MCA Beauty, is going from strength to strength with plenty of clients knocking on her door for treatments, including massage and weight loss.
It has taken a lot of hard work and planning since Claudia, her husband Costel and their teenage daughter Madalina moved to Hereford, then Northampton.
“I was 40 years old and had been working in an insurance company in Sibiu, Transylvania,” she says. She quickly found work in a nursing home and set about learning the language. All three members of the family eventually qualified as nurses, but Claudia decided she would like to work for herself, so set up a massage business operating from home. By 2020 she was able to open her salon and clinic MCA Beauty.
“We offer body shaping, massage, facial treatment and fat dissolving injections,” she says. “I also do physiotherapy. People come with painful conditions and I do my best to help them. I get very good results.
“I invest the money I make in machines and courses. My nursing training has given me the confidence to do this, but I also want to learn more. There are an awful lot of opportunities in Britain and I want to use those to improve my business.”