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A new programme to inspire older entrepreneurs

Davina Zimmer
Last Week's Launch of the Senior Enterprise Programme
Minister for Seniors, Ginny Anderson, with other officials at last week's Senior Enterprise Programme launch  Supplied by Chris Kirk

Government is funding five new senior enterprise programmes in response to an overwhelming amount of people applying to take part in last year's pilot course in Ōtautahi/ Christchurch.

An online model of a successful senior entrepeneur programme will help those disadvantaged by distance to take part regardless of where they live.

Last week Minister for Seniors, Ginny Anderson, announced the launch of the Senior Enterprise Pilot Programme, offering free courses from five different providers, tapping into the creativity and drive existing among older New Zealanders.

This is in response a pilot programe run in Ōtautahi/Christchurch last year being overwhelmed with people applying to take part. The course’s organiser, Chris Kirk, saw there wasn’t a programme that specifically catered for the needs of those over 50 to take the leap and start a new business.

University Enterprise and Innovation Coach Chris Kirk
University Enterprise and Innovation Coach Chris Kirk Supplied by Chris Kirk
“I thought, why don’t we try and make up a course or a programme to overcome the items that they had identified as really important.”
Chris Kirk

He acknowledges starting a business from scratch can be daunting but believes older people bring good assets to the business table, such as experience, work and life skills. According to Kirk most have what it takes to be successful but need that extra guiding hand and mentorship to get going.

The pilot programme, named Starting a Business Later in Life, launched last year in partnership with Selwyn District Council and the Government’s Office for Seniors. Consisting of four weeks of in-person workshop and one-on-one mentorship, and followed by four weeks of practical mentorship, the course took helped applicants take their ideas and turn them into a business model.

Out of the 12 participants, seven have gone on to create a business or expand an existing one.

neat spaces logo
Neat Spaces Canterbury Supplied by Helen Pidwerbesky

Helen Pidwerbesky became a professional organiser and declutter consultant and took part in the pilot programme to grow her confidence and expand her existing business.

The owner of Neat Spaces Canterbury said the course gave her the confidence boost and 'I can do this' attitude she needed to grow her professional network.

“It took away the mystery of having your own business and the course focused on what we needed to know and where to focus our energy.”
Helen Pidwerbesky

Pidwerbesky said the programme opened up a whole new world and gave her such a wide cross-section of people.

When more funding was made available by the Government, Chris Kirk took this programme model and pitched it as an online version.

“New Zealand is a lovely country, but it’s quite spread out. Could we transfer the programme into a successful online version and therefore offer it to people disadvantaged by the distance or where they happen to live.”
Chris Kirk

Now that the funding is official he will be spending the next few months working with online experts at the University of Canterbury to create the programme and hopes to launch a trial one with 20 participants by the end of the year.