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Six Successful Entrepreneurs Over 40 Who Prove It’s Never Too Late To Start Your Own Business

Updated: Jan 25, 2023

Do you ever feel like you missed the boat when it comes to realising your ‘big dream’? All these ‘30 under 30’ lists and barely-out-of-school business prodigies (Hi, Mark Zuckerberg) would leave you feeling like you missed your chance and you’ll never compete. But the fact is, it’s never too late to start a new adventure, and these six people are the living proof. So next time you’re feeling defeated/too old/behind, look back over this list and remind yourself that when it comes to creativity, age is literally just a number.

At home…

Ryanair Founder Tony Ryan

Yep, probably one of the most recognisable (and infamous) brands to come out of Ireland, Ryanair, was co-founded by Tony Ryan when he was 49 years old. The high-flyer, who was known as ‘Ireland’s Gatsby’, started his career working for Aer Lingus before setting up airline leasing company Guinness Peat Aviation(GPA). GPA didn’t go so well, but he when he pulled in Michael O’ Leary and rebranded as Ryanair, well – the rest is history.

Aran Candy founded by Peter Cullen

Peter Cullen was 50 when he founded Aran Candy with his son Richard after they saw a gap in the market for American-style high-quality jelly beans. The gourmet sweet company was founded in 1998, and in May 2014 it was acquired by Swedish confectionery firm Cloetta for a whopping for €15.5m. We think you could call that a success.

….and beyond

Vera Wang

Famous bridal fashion designer Vera Wang led many lives before she found success in the couture wedding gown world. She was a champion figure skater in college, and became senior fashion editor in Vogue at 23. She stayed in that role for fifteen years, then moving on to accessories design director at Ralph Lauren. It wasn’t until she was forty-years-old and planning her own wedding that she considered opening her own bridal boutique. Vera opened her own boutique in New York City in 1990, and now has boutiques all over the world.

lululemon Founder Chip Wilson

Research has shown that creative breakthroughs have nothing to do with age. That’s certainly true of Chip Wilson, who was 42 when a yoga class inspired him to create a range of stylish women’s yoga wear. He previously had shares in a snowboard apparel company, and figured the fabric they used for long underwear would appeal to yoga-goers. While Chip has since cut ties with the business, it is still one of the most successful sports wear companies in the world.

Coca Cola Founder Asa Candler

Arguably the biggest brand in the world, Asa Candler founded Coca Cola when he was 41. While the recipe was invented by Dr. John Pemberton (who was 55), when Asa Candler got his hands on the soft drink he took it to the next level and started to distribute it in soda fountains outside of Atlanta where it was selling an average of nine beverages a day. Today, there are approximately 1.9 billion Coca Cola beverages sold a day, so you could say he did a good job.

Starbucks Founder Jerry Baldwin

You can’t cross a city without passing a Starbucks, and it was all the brainchild of co-founder Jerry Baldwin, who was 42 when he kickstarted the world’s coffee obsession. Jerry and his two friends Gordon Bowker and Zev Siegl would meet up every week to brainstorm ideas for a new business, and a really bad espresso over lunch gave them the idea to open their own coffee store in their hometown Seattle. Today, Starbucks has more than 24,000 stores in 70 countries.

Read Next:

Those who can take an idea and make it grow early in their careers have a special something that sets them apart and makes them an intriguing prospect to follow. Here we take a look at 12 upcoming Irish entrepreneurs, most of whom are younger than 30 years of age, who we can be sure have exciting futures ahead of them.


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