The “change” is something that happens to women of a certain age – but some women decide to make more far-reaching changes in other areas of their life, especially when it comes to their careers.
Having made the leap from being a freelance journalist for 25 years to launching my own bridal website aged 43, and four years later creating a restaurant loyalty scheme, I was keen to talk to other women who have embraced a different direction later in life.
Company lawyer to consultant – Andrea Cohen
is a lawyer who spent many years working for a large firm in risk and compliance. Five years ago, feeling a little unsure about her future at the company, she took the plunge and set up her own risk and compliance consultancy.
“It was exciting and scary at the same time,” she says. “I was 50 and suddenly I was having to do advocacy work and court appearances again, which I hadn’t done for years, as previously I had a team of assistants and barristers to call upon. I was totally outside of my comfort zone, but I realised that you’re never too old to learn.”
Andrea found that she loves the flexibility of working for herself, and the self-satisfaction of knowing that her clients believe in her enough to give their business to her as an independent.
When she was approached recently by another law firm to work in its risk and compliance department, she was initially reluctant.
But the company offered Andrea agile working, meaning that she can work from home three days a week.
All Andrea’s clients have come with her to the new firm, and she once again has the support of a team and the resources of the company.
Actress to stand-up comedian – Sandra Hale
enjoyed a long career as an actress in TV dramas and commercials. “When the work dried up, my sister tried to persuade me to turn
to comedy,” she says. “I was really reticent. In acting, you hide behind a character, you are given a script, you have a director and a producer – but in stand-up comedy you’re on your own. I still needed to scratch the performance itch, and then on Groupon I found a one-day course for £30. It wasn’t much good, but Trevor Lock was the headline act and he inspired me.
“I went on to do a weekend course and then, aged 60, I did my first gig.”
The adrenaline kicked in, the punters laughed, and since 2013, Sandra has performed all over the country, including at the Edinburgh Fringe.
She has also written a book. Self Helpless
is the antithesis of the self-help book.
“I give out sh*t advice, such as never be yourself – it doesn’t work!”
Her humour is observational and self-deprecating. She has two children, four grandchildren and two ex-husbands.
As for the age thing – she simply doesn’t let it get in the way. “When I go for an audition or fill out a form, I leave the age section blank. I’ll be whatever they want me to be,” she says.
Researcher to drama school owner – Vanessa Bergman
Before she had children, Vanessa Bergman worked at Lloyds of London doing research in airline aviation underwriting. When the children were little, she worked locally in an admin role and then in the office at a theatre school in Enfield. When one of the teachers was unable to come in one day, her boss asked her to cover.
“I was really reluctant, but he said, ‘I know you can do this’ and he was right. The teacher never came back, and I stepped seamlessly into the role.”
Over the eight years, she worked there, the school had opened more branches. The founder could not manage them all, so he started franchising them and Vanessa bought one in Southgate, where she lives. She was 47.
“By this time, my kids were grown up and I was running the school in Enfield, so I knew exactly what I was doing,” she explains. “I spent a lot of time out on the streets promoting the new school in Southgate; word spread and now I have a thriving business. There are three age groups, and it runs every Thursday, from 5.30pm to 8.30pm.
We also run summer camps and put on shows.”
In 2016, Vanessa bought the theatre school in Enfield as well.
Personal trainer to fashion entrepreneur – Caroline Freedman-Brower
She has been a personal trainer for 21 years. She has built up a loyal clientele and this, together with her background in fashion styling for television, led to her being asked to help out at a charity fashion show
a couple of years ago.
“The models were ordinary women, and many of them were self-conscious about the length of the tops they were asked to wear,” Caroline told me. “They didn’t want their stomachs to show and so they were all reaching for vests to wear underneath their tops, but the straps were unsightly and ruined the look.”
Caroline saw that there was a gap to fill – literally – and set about designing something to fill it. At the age of 50, she launched a revolutionary product. Laya-T is a genius shapewear ‘tube’ that sits just under the bra and comes down to the hips, elongating your top and holding you in at the same time. In fact so many people are wearing it, that Caroline is about to launch a special “active” dri-fit Laya-T that tones the muscles.
“Laya-T is the piece everyone needs, but they don’t know it. It’s a total problem-solver,” says Caroline. “It’s also brilliant for women of a certain age.
“During those ‘hot’ moments, you can just shove it down – you can’t do that with a vest!”
Secretary and therapist to B&B owner – Linda Martin
She used to work as a secretarial executive for a chemical process engineering company. She gave up her job to raise her children and retrained as a remedial therapist in her late 40s after she was sadly widowed. “When my husband was alive, we used to go to the Sound of Mull in Scotland twice a year for salmon and trout fishing,” she told me. “It’s a beautiful, rural area with wildlife galore and I decided that I wanted to retire there.”
In 2011, she bought a plot of land and lived in a caravan onsite while building her dream house, Willow Brae. It has a double kitchen for milk and meat and another small one for Passover.
Not long after she’d moved in, a neighbour asked if she could put up his friends for a couple of nights. Linda found she rather enjoyed offering hospitality and, despite being in her 60s, decided to open up her house as possibly the only kosher B&B in Scotland.
“Non-Jewish guests have to accept that I won’t cook a full English breakfast, but I do make some rather delicious fishy delights!” she says.
Linda, an ambassador for the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, sources her meat from a kosher butcher in Glasgow and welcomes guests who are Shomer Shabbat.
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