As told to Anahita Masters
1) Tell us a little about your disruptive professional platform Retired Not Out. How long ago did you start up? What has been your motivation and what do you aim to achieve?
In 2016, my mum retired after 35 years of working as a teacher and found that it was almost impossible to get any skill or experience-appropriate opportunities for people over 60. Those that existed were not easily accessible. This was what triggered the beginnings of Retired Not Out.
Retired Not Out officially was launched in June 2017 and has evolved into a professional platform for people over 50 to find meaningful opportunities to work, learn and network.
We hope to achieve a change in the way retirement is viewed. Retirement is not a “best-before” date and there is huge social and economic merit in leveraging this talent pool. This is increasingly true as the world ages more rapidly than ever before (in the next 3 years there will be more people aged 60+ than kids under 5) and retirement spans extend to almost 30 years in some countries.
Since we started we have grown into a 250+ strong community and placed over 30 people in full time / part time roles based on their skills & experiences. And this is just the beginning.
2) Where did the inspiration for setting up this business in Hong Kong come from?
Early last year I moved to HK for personal reasons but wanted to give form to this idea. We did research with a university here to understand if the need for such a service existed and discovered that Hong Kong – being one of the most ageing regions in the world was absolutely ready for this. Unlike India where the median age is 34, in HK the median age is close to 50; 30% of HK’s population is set to be over 65 in the next 20 years and the workforce is rapidly shrinking.
Hence driving senior inclusiveness in the workforce has huge economic and social imperatives in HK.
3) How has your experience been so far, as a woman entrepreneur in the country? Are there forums and platforms for women entrepreneurs to connect and support one another?
Hong Kong has a great network for women entrepreneurs. There are industry and entrepreneur associations to share, learn and seek mentorship. It is possible for people exploring different careers or business opportunities to find a mentor easily with several options such as mentor walks, coffee catchups available for accessible informal support.
I also crowd funded successfully on a women-focused crowd funding platform here called “Next Chapter” which helped me get access to an amazing, supportive community of female entrepreneurs.
4) How easy/ tough has it been for you, as a woman entrepreneur, to market, fund and scale up your business?
In my opinion, starting a business is tough for any individual. You have to get out of your comfort zone, learn a lot quickly and pivot business models to get traction. For someone who never ran a business before I do believe one has to “fake it till you make it!.” However, most women entrepreneurs that I have met have one thing in common. They are in it for the long haul, unlike most male entrepreneurs who are open to quick exits. This makes traditional VC funding routes more complicated for women entrepreneurs – where quick exits are the norm. This is why less than 3% of all VC funds go to female founded companies.
5) Do you think being a woman entrepreneur worked to your advantage or brought challenges to your path?
I feel being a woman and a mum, gives me natural empathy which is crucial when it comes to building a community for seniors or running an enterprise with social sustainability at its heart. It also gives me the focus to be able to prioritise and be more results oriented.
6) Do you think women entrepreneurs support other women across the value chain of business? How have you impacted/ supported/ mentored the careers of other women through your venture?
Women do support women. I have had the luck of meeting some incredibly talented women who have opened up their knowledge and networks to me. Through Retired Not Out, I also support senior women entrepreneurs and help their businesses gain traction. I feel entrepreneurs understand each other well and help given is help received. The world is a small place and it always serves well to be considerate and helpful!
7) What would be the top 3 things to watch out for if you’re a woman looking to start her own business?
- Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Be it funds, help or resources. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
- Don’t let self-doubt come in the way of what you want
- Learn what you don’t know and un-learn what is stopping you from getting to your goal.
- Don’t do it just for the money
8) How has the support of friends and family played a role in your being a successful entrepreneur? How do you balance your professional and personal life?
I couldn’t have done this without the support of family. I have a 3 year old and my husband has been the most incredible pillar at this time. I’ve been working on this without generating my market value in income for about a year now; and he has given me the time, space and support to be able to invest in my company and myself. I work out of home and co-working spaces and around nap-times to make sure I’m not missing out on wondrous toddler years as well as my passion to create a world where ageless hiring will be the norm.
9) What next for Retired Not Out, and for Priyanka through 2018?
2018 will see us expanding our footprint, helping place more seniors in meaningful roles and building training programmes to upskill them. We will also be evangelising for policy change and drive mindset change in organisations to look at this talent pool with a new set of eyes.