Women entrepreneurs: Starting out in your forties

“Timing is everything,” says entrepreneur Raquel Johnson.

“By the time you’re 40 years old, you’ve learned a great deal, both professionally and personally, and made a lot of mistakes. And I think respect comes with age – people take you more seriously.”

It certainly worked for Johnson. It was as she was turning 40 that she set up the San Francisco-based product design company, Coupage, with her engineer husband. Business has been booming ever since.

She is not alone, it seems. Many women entrepreneurs are waiting for the right moment, and are starting their businesses in their forties or beyond – as a second or even third career – having bided their time until they are absolutely ready.

Having worked in product design and then in advertising, Raquel Johnson realised that she did not want to return to the corporate world after she had her younger daughter.

It was challenging walking away from the “sure thing” of a steady salary, she says, but she also found it liberating. She has found her “true passion,” she says.

“Even the stress I feel now is more enjoyable,” she explains cheerfully. “It motivates me and pushes me forward.”

Starting small, the business was run from home and was self-funded at first.

“[When you are older] there is more opportunity for some savings to have accumulated,” points out Johnson. “You don’t have to take out large loans or search for funders right away.”

Having started with a prototype for a device to integrate an iPod into a car, Coupage has grown steadily, bringing ideas to life in the fields of audio, energy, cars and Apple-related products.

‘Keep going’

“Once you reach your forties you have the confidence to follow your own path,” says the US-born businesswoman, Karen Scofield, who set up her company when she was 46.

A sense of humour is also important, she adds with a smile. In the early days, she had to run her firm, London-based fashion brand Lucza, single-handedly.

It was all down to her, from technology mishaps and admin dramas to sudden, urgent errands, like dashing out to the shop to buy a copier cartridge. “Humour was definitely needed on that day,” she laughs.

All of which is a far cry from her previous career as a television executive in New York, working for a smooth-running corporate machine.

When she moved to London with her husband and started a family, it was time to think again.

But the skills she had learnt in TV – time and people management, organisation, as well as research and analysis – were highly transferable, she says: Some things, however, she is doing very differently from her old workplace.

Her leadership style at Lucza is “inclusive,” she says.

Our videos