Many of us dream of being our own boss, but the stresses and strains of midlife – not to mention a society that thinks women over 50 are past it – can make this seem impossible. So step forward BoomBoss founder Ali Miles-Jenkins, who makes this dream a reality for women every day.
BoomBoss is Ali’s manifesto for women over 50 to support and guide them to become female business owners. It began in April 2016, when the award-winning businesswoman – she has ran a training and management consultancy since 1990, helping more than 60,000 people around the world – more than attended a conference in San Diego and suddenly found herself feeling out of place among the young men in the audience (a feeling I sadly know well).
“I was sitting in a conference hall with the amazingly successful entrepreneur Russell Brunson,” Ali, 61, from Colchester, tells me. “At that time I was part of his inner circle and the training was great. But I felt out of it because I was different.
“I was female, over 50, with a perceived incomparable lack of techie skills and the latest jargon compared to the young male whizz kids who made up the majority of the audience.
“The more I became aware of it, the more self-conscious, looked down upon, unattractive and unwanted I became. And I felt old.”
Woman, age and business was something that had been on Ali’s mind a lot that year. She’d not long previously given a talk about CVs and interview techniques in London and had been thinking about the opportunities available to the young people in her audience.
“New life ahead, starting out, endless possibilities,” she says. “You see, after more than two decades running my own training and management consultancy, I was feeling a bit bored. I was fed up with the travel. I wanted a new challenge.
“I was mid-fifties, but 30 years away from slippers and a rocking chair.”
It was then she received an email from a client she had been coaching who was also in her 50s.
“It was the ‘Aha’ I’d been searching for. My client said she wanted to be like me – run her own business as a coach and consultant and ditch her CEO role with her employers. I decided to set up a business helping women like her realise their dreams.”
And so BoomBoss was born
All it took was that moment in the conference hall in San Diego to give her the final push: “It was then I became a woman on an even more important mission. I was going to create a big community of women like me – over 50, but who didn’t want to be overlooked.”
Since then, her passion has touched the lives of thousands of women, with a thriving Facebook community and press coverage on the BBC and more. She’s even give an TedX talk about The Surprising Truth About Women Over 50 that I highly recommend.
I love it. Ali couldn’t be more of a 50Sense woman – challenging stereotypes and changing perceptions.
Here, she tells us more about her BoomBoss Manifesto, how to start your own business and why women over 50 are a force to be reckoned with…
How do you define a BoomBoss? Can anyone become one?
A BoomBoss is a woman over 50 who refuses to be overlooked and who becomes a secure, confident, and successful entrepreneur. She is the CEO of her very own business, finally securing the time, income and location control she deserves.
I wrote the BoomBoss Manifesto specifically to support women to make the mindset shift and develop the tenacity you need as a female business owner in later life. It sets out the vision, the reinvention, reinvigoration, values and the benefits of becoming a BoomBoss. It was a big step in creating momentum for them and me and made the business concept stand out. I chose the name because it’s a play on “baby boomer” and being The Boss.
Ultimately, anyone can become a BoomBoss. In the challenging times we’re facing, I want to help as many people as possible secure the lifestyle they deserve so I may well pivot and include men and younger people too.
What makes a woman over 50 want to start their own business?
They want a second bite of the cherry for a whole variety of reasons. They’re women who are embracing the future and looking forward not back.
Against the backdrop of age discrimination at work, divorce, illness, bereavement, eldercare, boomerang kids and multi-generational households, we women over 50 may be feeling the financial and personal pinch.
Conversely, many will be reaping the rewards of generous pension provision, divorce settlements, inheritance, redundancy payments, stable relationships, equity in property and time on their hands as the kids fly the nest.
As I said in my TedX talk, what binds us together is an overwhelming desire to be in control of our own destiny, to feel relevant, respected, and that we still count, finally working towards our own priorities, making our mark, feeling vital, connected and financially independent.
With a reputation for being trailblazers in the 1960s and 70s, we want to do our own thing and if we can change lives and improve the world in some way as a result of our endeavours, even better.
At this time in our lives, we are feeling the need to do something for ourself, counterbalanced perfectly by our desire to give back, learn and grow and debunk the myth, the stereotype of the woman over 50.
So, we’re not going to be over 50 and overlooked. We’re going to be over 50 and become the very best version of ourselves we’ve ever been.
What holds women back – and how can we overcome this?
For many, it’s the fear of the unknown; handling resistance from family and friends and a concern about how much money they need to invest upfront without a guaranteed return.
For others, it’s stepping outside of the comfort zone, building their personal brand and choosing the right type of business.
However, the biggest thing that holds them back is how to get leads and clients – the whole marketing piece and getting their heads around the technical side of the online world.
The BoomBoss Manifesto and a community of women just like them really helps. But most importantly, they need to embrace the learning, training, and support that makes all the difference between success and failure. That’s what my business is all about – sharing my 30 years experience, the expertise, tips, insider secrets, skills etc that can make or break business success these days.
Ageism is a big problem in business, especially towards women. How can we fight this?
We are fighting it by redefining the over-50s landscape. We are flouting the stereotype.
You only have to think how older women are usually portrayed and stereotyped in the press, on TV, in adverts, in films. Most of the time we’re portrayed as dowdy, out of date, out of touch with the tech, destined for the rocking chair – or at the other extreme, travelling the world and being self-indulgent spending the kids’ inheritance!
In the world of work, this stereotyping still abounds.
I discovered that even companies considered to have great HR policies and an open-minded, collaborative culture can still see older workers in a less than flattering way. Top concerns, according to various studies I’ve examined, are a perceived lack of technical competence and lack of ability to learn new things.
And now, connecting daily with women over 50 as I do, I constantly hear their concerns about being marginalised, missing out on appointments and promotions, further confirming that stereotyping and unconscious bias exists.
There are fears about older women not wanting to work for younger female bosses, and concerns about energy levels, the menopause denting performance, having to take time off for various conditions, eldercare commitments – the list could go on and on.
From the hundreds of stories and comments I hear, it seems very little has changed.
We need to educate employers about the real truth about our generation. As “Boomers”, we’ve experimented with things our whole lives. We’re still capable of so much more.
While one day our grandchildren will be incredulous that we survived the cradle without masses of technology, it’s important for now to remember that there are countless examples of our generation flouting stereotypical perceptions in the use of technology at work and play.
These role models can be hugely influential in reversing negative thinking about women over 50.
This is an important concept to hold on to, particularly if you have got towards the end of your career and now catch yourself feeling invisible and even marginalised by work colleagues or bosses.
So we shouldn’t feel invisible and marginalised. We have decades of work experience, skills, experience, expertise and knowledge that others will pay us handsomely for.
That’s the kind of experience that can’t be faked or gained overnight.
What three tips would you give women wanting to become an entrepreneur?
These are super important points that can make all the difference between start-up success and failure:
- Don’t go left of field and pick something you think you’ll love doing but know nothing about. All my experience tells me you need to reduce the unknowns. So analyse your existing skills, experience, expertise and knowledge (SEEK). Identify a micro-niche market that needs these that you would also enjoy working with. Devise a solution for this market based on your SEEK.
- Draw up a very clear avatar – the persona of your ideal client, with specific demographics and psychographics worked out in detail.
- Put together a minimum viable product (MVP) to test the market and the solution you are offering aƒnd reach this market by using Facebook Paid Ads (organic or boosted posts take too much time and are less effective for testing).
What an inspiration! You can get more hints and tips from Ali’s brilliant podcast BoomBossing It!
Do you dream of starting your own business? What would you like to do – and how can you do it?