The TreatOut founders take on being later-life entrepreneurs

We were really pleased to be featured this week alongside Sir Richard Branson, in a Forbes article written by journalist Alison Coleman. She was exploring how age and life experience are a bonus for entering into the startup world into what is essentially perceived as a young entrepreneur’s game. It did lead to some very interesting conversation between myself and one of my co-founders, Tracey Rowe.

Where did the idea for your startup come from, and is this your first?

This is my first startup. The idea came from watching the BBC’s Girls Can Code on the iPad late one night in bed. I’ve been drawn to the idea of a startup for some time, and watching that programme was the inspirational kickstart moment I needed for me to grab an idea and run with it. TreatOut is a food tech startup, and with it we hope to make it easier for the Foodservice Industry to cater for the Freefrom diner. I have multiple food intolerances and trying to eat out at the moment is a very painful experience, often in more ways than one.

It is my first experience of a startup although I have been in some very early stage tech before – but they were a decent size.

What advantages do age and life experience bring to the startup process?

It’s still quite a scary roller-coaster ride to jump on even with experience because you are venturing into unchartered territory, everyone else around you seems so much younger. You’ve got to be prepared for the constant extreme highs and lows that building a startup entails. Experience teaches you that there’s always more than one route to achieve your goals. You learn that hard graft, determination and perseverance goes a long way to making things happen. I’m less concerned with worrying about what others think and more focused on doing what I want to do. I’ve tripped up along the way, but failing doesn’t mean the end. You can pick yourself up and carry on, the world keeps spinning regardless. So I’m not scared anymore to take a risk into the unknown.

With being older comes more experience, just because you are old.  I have worked with a lot of different industries within the technical area and have worked in many different roles from customer service, training, user design and marketing. Experience has turned me from a shy person to one who is not scared to talk in front of people having presented around the world. I am now far more confident.

Are you fazed at all by the crazy speed of development in tech?

The crazy speed is what I find attractive. There’s always something new to learn and that stops it getting stale. Just because I’m older doesn’t mean I don’t want a challenge or that I’ve stopped pushing myself. My kids are less dependent now that they’re at secondary school and this gives me a new focus that’s exciting. I’m a graphic designer by trade and learnt to code from the kitchen table when my boys were small. It’s addictive, and the barrier to entry is really low. There’s so many free online resources and support groups to encourage women in tech in particular,  I’ve found it really easy to get started, even with no technical background and at my age. Being accepted onto the 5th cohort of the Google Campus for Mums and Dads Startup Programme was a huge boost right at the beginning of our startup journey where the age range was wide, and that really helped. Sure I was fazed at first and did doubt if I was too old to start all this, I did feel out of place at first at the meetup groups I went to. But then this is where the ‘older me’ is different. I was prepared to give it a go anyway, I’ve nothing to lose but so much to gain. I can now appreciate how fast time moves, I’ve started to build myself a second career and I don’t intend wasting any of it.

There is a joy to new technology. I have always worked with technology and within technical organisations – usually telecoms. So I am used to working with cutting edge technology and very technically able people from engineers to programmers. I have always been an early adopter and love trying out new tech. It is odd to suddenly realise that you are actually old enough to be your colleagues mother! People who work within the technology sector tend to be co-operative. People are happy to share knowledge and always keen to share ideas. While the stereotype is that the tech sector is full of young men, I have never found it to be a closed shop.


You can read Alison’s full article It’s Consumer-Driven Tech All The Way For Branson, If He Was Just Starting Up Today on the Forbes website.


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