I want to start my own soft play business for disabled children.
I am studying a business plan and becoming more confident as time goes on despite people trying to put me off because I am 61 and disabled. What do you think about an older woman trying to start their own business?
I work 7 days a week – I have no social life or partner and live with my grown up autistic son. My work as a health social care worker gives me insight to what I want to set up.
Is it wrong of me to want to pursue my lifelong dream of starting up on my own business? Do you think I’m doing the right thing at my age?
My friend who has a disabled son and runs her own business is at hand to give me advice and my old boss is going to make a website for me. I admit I am slow but I’m really enjoying it and I think I could make my business into a success.
I want to start a soft play business for disabled children in my local area – at 61, am I too old to pursue my dream? Dave Fishwick replies
Dave Fishwick, This Is Money’s business doctor replies: This sounds like a fantastic idea which has the potential to benefit disabled children, their families and carers and the community as a whole.
I think with the benefit of age comes a tremendous amount of wisdom.I employed a woman called Mavis, in her early seventies, in my Minibus sales business. She was one of the most wonderful, honest, decent, ethical, moral, and intelligent individuals you will ever meet, and her management skills were legendary.
At the Bank of Dave, I have seen many women take loans to start new businesses and become very successful. I don’t see either your age or the fact that you have a disability as issues which should prevent you from starting this business.
However, it will definitely involve taking on more responsibility and you do need to be prepared for this.
You know your abilities and limitations better than anyone. Given your circumstances, the fact you still have the will and the drive to do this suggests that you have a great deal of determination and resilience.
We’re all human, though, and nobody is indestructible. I think the more support you have in launching this project, the better the chances of success.
This could be more than just another business, and I feel that money isn’t your primary motivation for doing this. If this is the case, it may be best to approach this slightly differently, perhaps by establishing it on a not-for-profit basis.
If you set up a not-for-profit or charitable entity, there will likely be much more willingness from local people to help and support the project. Whether volunteering a few hours of their time or donating money, supplies or equipment, the people of this country are often very generous in their support of good causes.
Not-for-profit organisations can still pay wages and provide expenses, but profits should be reinvested into the enterprise to continue to benefit the community. There are several legal structures which can be used.
The exact format that is most suitable will depend on several factors, such as the sources of income and the number of people involved and positions they hold.
Where the business sector is competitive in nature and commercial secrets are closely guarded, the charitable sector is more like a community and you’re more likely to find people who are willing to give advice and support.
Speak to your local council, relevant charities and support groups to see if they can assist. You may get a better deal on the premises or be allowed to use premises owned by the council for free.
As a charity, you could be entitled to reduced or zero rates and on a large building needed for this sort of business this could help you.
I would recommend researching the number of disabled children in the area to assess the number of children likely to use the facilities.
If your local area doesn’t have a sufficient number of disabled children to sustain the operation, perhaps you could consider providing a mixed-use facility rather than one which only caters for disabled children.
Alternatively, choosing a location with a larger catchment area or organising transport services may be necessary.
There are likely to be significant initial capital expenses to convert the premises to meet the requirements of the children, and there may be some funding available to help. I recommend exploring every avenue before investing your own money or taking out personal loans.
If you’ll be renting premises as a business, it’s normal to enter into a commercial lease, which ties you into paying rent for a fixed period, usually of several years, whether or not the business makes money or even if it ceases trading. Therefore, if you decide to pursue this as a business I would consider setting up as a limited company instead of a sole trader to protect your personal finances.
I love your idea and whichever route you choose I wish you every success.
Ask Dave Fishwick a business or career advice question
Self-made millionaire and entrepreneur Dave Fishwick is our new columnist responding to your questions about business and careers.
Dave has a hugely successful minibus and vehicle business based in Lancashire and rose to fame with his BAFTA-winning television series, Bank of Dave, which saw him battle the big banks.
He is ready to answer your questions, whether you own a business, thinking about starting one or have general career questions.
In his spare time, he likes to give talks to inspire people to be the best they can.
A Netflix movie about Bank of Dave is set to air at the end of the year/start of 2023 and he has been a friend to This is Money for the last decade. He now wants to impart some of his wisdom and advice to our readers.
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Dave will do his best to reply to your message in a forthcoming column, but he won’t be able to answer everyone or correspond privately with readers. Nothing in his replies constitutes regulated financial advice. Published questions are sometimes edited for brevity or other reasons.