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Elder-preneurs show you are never too old to start your own business (Part 2)

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Bryna Singh

The Straits Times

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Some retirees discover new purpose in their lives by becoming entrepreneurs, or elder-preneurs

 

HE WANTS TO HELP SENIORS ORGANISE TRAVEL NECESSITIES

MR JAMES LAM, 62 CREATOR OF THE ELDER POUCH

 

After observing that more senior citizens were going on post-retirement holidays but were disorganised when it came to packing travel necessities, retired businessman James Lam came up with a solution.

 

Called the "elder pouch" and launched three months ago, the kit contains 12 useful items for older travellers.

 

These include a distress alarm, a fever strip, a pill box and an emergency call list.

 

At pharmacies, he found that there were first-aid kits, but no package was geared specifically for older travellers.

 

After gathering ideas for what the pouch should contain and getting a grant from social enterprise Silver Spring, he flew to China to find a factory to produce the pouch.

 

His contacts from the time he was doing business, importing and exporting items from China, came in handy.

 

The green, zippered pouch opens to reveal multiple compartments. The items inside are either sourced from overseas or made by the factory in China.

 

Some of the first run of 300 pouches have been given to friends for feedback.

 

Eventually, he hopes to sell the pouch to travel companies, especially those that cater to the elder travel market.

 

He is looking to price the pouch at $25, which he says is just a few dollars above its cost price.

 

Meanwhile, he is starting work on another project - elder-safe shoes that will help to minimise falls among the elderly.

 

"I always believe in making plans a reality," says Mr Lam, who is married with two adult children.

 

"I don't want to just learn more and upgrade my skills, but also to actually do something meaningful."

 


 

Many retirees look forward to putting their feet up after years of work, but some find new purpose and meaning at this stage of life by becoming elder-preneurs - entrepreneurs who begin businesses in their silver years.

 

Mr Richard Koh, 55, and Ms Audrey Lee, 54, were compelled to do so because of personal challenges.

 

Mr Koh was retrenched from his regional business manager job in IT last May, but did not feel "ready to retire".

 

Last November, he co-founded his online company 1°C, which specialises in handcrafted cold-brew coffees and cold teas.

 

HE RECOVERED FROM RETRENCHMENT BLUES TO START A COFFEE AND TEA BUSINESS

 

MR RICHARD KOH, 55 CO-FOUNDER OF 1°C, A START-UP SPECIALISING IN HANDCRAFTED COLD-BREW COFFEES AND COLD TEAS

 

When Mr Richard Koh, 55, and his wife Bee Yan, 61, make deliveries of their cold-brew coffees and teas, some people ask them: "Is your son or daughter coming?"

 

People assume that coffee entrepreneurs like them tend to be young.

 

"We say, 'No, no, it's just us'," Mr Koh says. "We don't find it offensive. We think it's funny."

 

Their nine-month-old business, 1°C, specialises in cold-brew coffees. Cold brew is a method of preparing coffee by steeping the grounds in room temperature or cold water for as long as 24 hours, depending on the recipe.

 

Sold in glass bottles online, the drinks start at $4 for a cold tea and go up to $7 for a speciality coffee.

 

About twice a month, the brand participates in pop-up events to increase its exposure.

 

The founders unveiled their first two products, Black and White Cold Brew coffees, at a pop-up event last November.

 

In the past few months, they have launched new drinks, including a Masala Cold Brew Coffee; an Almond Milk Cold Brew Coffee, which is vegan and lactose- friendly; and Blue Pea and Basil & Mint cold teas.

 

The couple run the start-up with one other partner. They have two adult children who are not involved in the venture.

 

The couple started the business after Mr Koh was abruptly retrenched in May last year from his regional business manager job in IT, which he had held for 10 years.

 

For months after that, he felt down and demoralised.

 

But his wife urged him to stop moping and to channel his energies into their common passion - coffee.

 

They go to cafes together at least once a week to get their java fix and each drinks several cups of coffee a day.

 

Last July, Mr Koh decided he was ready to move on from the retrenchment episode and the couple started to research the beverage.

 

They decided to focus on cold- brew coffees because they found that these were gentler on tummies, being far less acidic than hot- brew coffees.

 

Going to at least 10 roasteries here to source for beans, they tried to mix and match bean types and quantities to create their own unique blend.

 

After four months of experiments, taste tests and focus group discussions, their brand 1°C was launched in November last year.

 

The C in their brand stands for Coffee and Cold, and the 1° stands for it being a made-in-Singapore product as Singapore's location is about 1 degree north of the equator.

 

So far, they have recouped the mid-five-figure sum they invested in the business.

 

They have more flavours in the pipeline and are looking to stock their products in cafes here.

 

Mr Koh is pleased with the progress.

 

"I've always wanted to be an entrepreneur," he says. "I thank God for leading us to the right people and for giving us the creativity and spirit to do this."


 

Ms Lee was given the responsibility of caring for her mother in 2011 after the latter was struck by accelerated dementia following hip surgery.

 

She says: "I remember feeling very lost. Everyone in my family felt bewildered as we did not know what was happening."

 

Becoming her mother's caregiver was a steep learning curve and it made her want to help fellow caregivers.

 

In 2013, she and other like-minded seniors founded the Silver Caregivers Co-operative, which has the mission of caring for caregivers.

 

She says that caregiving can be a thankless 24/7 job, one that leaves the caregiver feeling sapped and trapped.

 

She and her co-founders wanted to help others like her know that they can embrace this new role rather than resent it. Silver Caregivers offers workshops, seminars and courses to help caregivers with their roles.

 

No matter the reasons behind their start-ups and social enterprises, these elder-preneurs are living proof that age is no barrier to starting something new.

 

(Extracted from The Straits Times)

The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.