I created the Canadian WISE 50 over 50 Awards in 2017 to draw attention to entrepreneurs who started a business over the age of 50. I had no idea how they would be received and was over the moon when I received 96 applications the first year! I had no way of judging whether that was good until I spoke to a well-known and established organization running an awards program unrelated to the WISE awards for several years and had never had the success I had.
I did the awards to point out that people over the age of 50 are starting businesses and should be recognized the same as other groups of entrepreneurs are. It’s been a struggle, but I believe the awards have made a difference. I ran them for three years with very little financial support. It took nine months from when I opened the applications until the winners were announced.
After three years, I knocked myself on the head and said, why am I doing this? No one was interested in sponsoring them, and I was paying for most everything myself. I was fortunate that I had some winners who offered their services to make it easier, but I didn’t want to continue taking advantage of them even though they offered to help.
Looking back, I have no regrets. I love making the connections to help “my 50 over 50 winners”. I’m regularly contacted by companies, individuals, and media, looking for introductions for them to highlight in their own stories. One question I always get is – do you know of anyone ……?
I’ve written articles and highlighted winners for several Canadian publications, including CARP, Silver Magazine, Zoomer Magazine and the Globe and Mail. I’ve been a guest on several podcasts and on panels where I was able to discuss entrepreneurship after the age of 50. These articles, podcasts and conferences allow me to bring attention to the importance of supporting entrepreneurs over the age of 50, the types of businesses they have started and tell their stories of why they started their businesses.
It’s not only for publications. An American company I know asked if I knew anyone that I could introduce them to at DMZ. I said no but did know the person who worked on creating the DMZ and offered to do an introduction to Val Fox. It was a good meeting, and they will be speaking again. Another referral to a venture capital firm has turned into a second meeting.
Although I treasure all the connections, the most meaningful is when CBC GEM contacted me to see if I could offer some names of Alberta entrepreneurs over the age of 50 who would be interested in being in a TV show. To my surprise, CBC GEM asked me to be a mentor during the segment, which I readily agreed to. I provided the winners’ names, and they selected Laura & Chris Grant, founders of Alberta BikeSwap.
Laura gave me an update recently on how their involvement with the show has escalated their business:
The CBC Gem show, thank you for suggesting us, got our software coded into a cloud-based format so that we can packet it for others to use, and also got us one discussion about a buyer.
If you are interested in reading the stories of the WISE 50 over 50 Awards, please visit the Award website. I’m always happy to do an introduction if you come across someone you want to connect with.
I’m fortunate that I have connections and can assist others in their business. But I’m not any different than most people in the industry. Everyone knows someone, don’t be shy about asking if they can help you.