Retirement may be beckoning, but many older Kiwis are too busy with new projects to take it easy just yet.

New Zealand's retirement age may be 65, but it's clearly not the finish line in the career of lots of Kiwis.

Census figures show 40 per cent of New Zealanders aged 65 to 69 were working either full or part-time in 2013, as were 21 per cent of those aged 70 to 74. Many are still running their own businesses.

While many are focused on reducing their working hours, or avoiding the risk of eating into hard-earned capital, what inspires "laterpreneurs" to take the leap and go into business for themselves?

Allan Tibble, who is 64, began setting up KiwiBerry Lodge and Orchard, which he owns with his wife Robynne, when he was 58.

Advertisement

Tibble had spent his working life in the corporate world as an accountant, and later as a consultant with business systems software company SAP, working in Europe and the US.

But when a contract came up for a role at SAP in New Zealand, the couple took the opportunity to come back to Robynne's home country, and ease themselves out of corporate life and create a business that would give them more work/life balance.

They bought some land near Opotiki and the architect who designed their house suggested they could also try growing the small kiwifruit variety on their property.

"We wanted a business that was fairly easy to run and that didn't need a lot of sales and marketing effort because we knew this was where a lot of businesses lose cash fast. KiwiBerries seemed to fit," says Tibble.

"We invested some of my savings into developing the business, with Robynne still working full-time to manage the day-to-day cashflow. The business plan was we'd produce enough revenue in year five to give me an income when I retire and allow Robynne to reduce her workload. We got there in year six."

But they're not putting their feet up just yet. They are working on a project with Cogito Food and Beverages in Albany to investigate the market for drying surplus KiwiBerries, and developing a bed and breakfast business.

While for some setting up a business in their later years is driven by a desire to step off the employment ladder and have greater flexibility and balance, for others it comes down to pursuing the right idea at the right time.

Not that it isn't without its challenges - from reduced income certainty to negative perceptions of their age to health issues.

Advertisement

Suraya Dewing is the entrepreneur behind The Story Mint, a global writing community that encourages writers to aim for excellence, and an online tool called the Style Guide, where writers can submit their writing and get feedback on the style with suggestions for improvement.

Dewing was 58 when she set up the business, which is based at Massey University's ecentre business incubator, and has found entrepreneurship is not for the faint-hearted.

"Never in all my life have I felt such conflicting emotions from elation to despair; from amazement at what technology can do to frustration that others can't see what I see; from overflowing optimism to absolute pessimism," she says.

But she says being older has also helped her better cope with the rollercoaster ride that is being a startup entrepreneur.

"There are occasions when my younger self wouldn't have had the skills to deal with problems the way I do today," she says. "I know that setbacks are only temporary, whereas my younger self would have seen them as the end of the world.

"I don't care what people think of me the way I used to and I've built an internal alarm system that goes off when I'm around people who aren't to be trusted."

Q&A: Sandra Gosling, CO YO

Age has been no barrier to Henry and Sandra Gosling, owners of CO YO.

What does your business do?
We produce coconut milk yoghurt and ice cream alternatives that are free from dairy, gluten, soy and preservatives and have no added sugar.

Henry and I are from Auckland, but have been living in Australia since 1989. CO YO began as a "silly idea" to make non-dairy yoghurt from coconut milk nearly five years ago; we never thought it was going to turn into an international business.

The genesis of the idea came from Henry's childhood in Fiji, spent collecting coconuts, extracting their milk and grating their flesh to use in the evening meal. One night, Henry jolted awake in the early hours of the morning with the idea to make yoghurt with coconut milk. To our surprise, there was only one company in the world that was making it, so we started experimenting in our own kitchen and after a few months of perfecting the recipe, we launched CO YO in the Australian market in early 2010.

We knew there was demand for dairy-free products, but the market was even stronger than we expected. We signed production and distribution licence agreements in the UK in 2011 and in the US in 2013. We also began exporting to New Zealand in late 2013 from our Yandina factory in Queensland, where we employ about 24 people, plus about another 10 on the road, including two people on the ground in New Zealand overseeing our export business.

How old were you when you set up the company and what motivated you?
We began CO YO when we were in our late 60s. For us, age was never really a consideration. Neither of us are the retiring type, or ones to sit around the house. We had a good idea that suited our passion and skills, saw a gap in the market and decided to go after it. It was a steep learning curve, but I've had a lifelong interest in food nutrition and Henry's background as a manager of a dairy factory for eight years certainly helped us on our way.

What have been the major challenges?
We've grown quickly, and while that's been exciting, it's also brought a lot of challenges. We needed to find staff quickly, and in the early days we struggled to keep up with demand. We had to work quickly to get distributors on the ground around the country, because calls were coming in from everywhere. But now we have our upgraded factory in Yandina on the Sunshine Coast that specialises only in coconut products.

What have been some of the benefits of starting a business later in life?
We've both been involved in a variety of businesses over the years - both as employees, and being self-employed. Between us we've run newspapers, started a health food cafe in Papakura and managed a dairy factory, so having a variety of skills and experiences we could bring from our previous careers has certainly helped. In fact, a contact of Henry's from his time in the dairy industry leased us our first factory space, before we grew to a point where we needed our own manufacturing plant.

That being said, we're still learning and growing and we still make mistakes. I think that's part of being in business, and ultimately what leads to growing a successful business. Also, starting a business later in life meant we had a bit of capital behind us from investment properties to throw at getting CO YO off the ground. We committed ourselves to making it work, and it did.

Are there any resources or sources of support you've found helpful?
Mainly it's business contacts made over the years, and the benefit of having a bit of startup capital behind us, and experience and perspective. As a family business, we've also been able to leverage the skills of the five members of the family who work in the business now - covering everything from IT and architecture, to logistics, branding and marketing.

What's a tip for success as a laterpreneur?
Don't "analyse till you paralyse". If you think you're on to something, have confidence in your idea and ask the right questions of the right people. Don't be reckless but trust in your instinct and don't focus on the naysayers. If we listened to everyone who told us we couldn't or shouldn't do it, we never would have done it.

coyo.co.nz