Vernon Hogg – Co-founder of Silverpreneurs®
Unexpected redundancy hits hard at any age, but especially when you’re over 50. No matter how far up the corporate ladder you have climbed, losing a job you enjoy and you thought was secure is a blow not just to the budget, but to the self-esteem as well.
Vernon Hogg had spent 36 years in the automotive industry, first with Honda and more recently as Managing Director of a group of Jaguar-Landrover dealerships. But when the dealerships were sold, he suddenly found himself back on the job market.
‘I can’t claim there hadn’t been times when I fantasised about stepping off the corporate treadmill and finding a better work/life balance,’ admits Vernon who was 52 when the bombshell landed. ‘But I had nothing in mind, so I began applying for new positions. By the time I’d sent off more than 20 applications with very little engagement in return, I realised there was a huge problem for older workers.’
Whilst he waited in vain to be snapped up, Vernon set up a business consultancy from his home in Oswestry, and began attending networking events in Shropshire and nearby Birmingham. With a Masters degree in business strategy and a wealth of corporate training courses behind him, Vernon wanted to give something back to the business community, but quickly found the project was eating into his cash reserves.
‘I needed a better income, but still couldn’t find an appropriate job. Then I started wondering how many other people were in my position across the country, so I began investigating. I was staggered to find that 59,000 people over 50 have been made redundant since March 2022, but that only 20,000 of them have found new jobs.
‘I also began reading people’s stories on line and repeatedly hearing stories of depression, broken families, and alcohol problems amongst the over 50s. I teamed up with a university student from Birmingham at a networking event, mentoring him through his dissertation whilst he researched the 50+ sector for me in his city. He really engaged with the project – probably identifying the target sector with his own parents – and ended up with a 1st Class Honours Degree whilst I ended up with some valuable research!’
Vernon also met with Chris Gough who had formerly worked in Business Management and Operations in the IT industry. They discussed Vernon’s idea for a programme to help entrepreneurs over the age of 50 with their small business issues and so Silverpreneurs® was born.
‘We invested in the website, launched the business on 16 March 2020, and in less than a week, the country was in lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic,’ recalls Vernon. ‘But things took a turn for the better when we received a call from the Growth Hub at the Marches Local Enterprise. Could we help people with navigating furlough payments and bounce back loans, and generally running their small businesses in a trading crisis? Absolutely, we could!’
After eight months of paid work on a variety of mini-projects, Vernon received another call from the Marches Local Enterprise. Funding was available for innovative ways to help local businesses. Did he have any ideas?
‘A lot of people retire to Shropshire so we have an older demographic than many areas. So I outlined how I felt Silverpreneurs® could help start-ups with marketing, business planning, and so on, and to our delight, we were offered funding to provide 12 hours of help to successful applicants. We promoted the scheme via our website and various social media platforms, and were amazed at the level of interest. The initial cohort of 12 was a big success, so they then funded two more groups. By May this year, we had helped over 40 small local businesses.’
Vernon always hoped that entrepreneurs would be able to meet face-to-face for mutual help and networking opportunities, and whilst Covid restrictions made this difficult, he has now set up a co-working hub in Oswestry where members of the programme can gather to work or just chat over coffee.
‘We’ve been able to help entrepreneurs in a huge variety of sectors from design studios to cheesemakers, fashion retailers to first aid courses. Up till now, they are all from the Shropshire area, because that is where our funding has come from, but I see huge potential for Silverpreneurs® to go national.
‘We can offer three months of business support, delivered through a combination of group and 1-2-1 sessions. Nobody else is offering the same kind of programme to this age group but there is a huge market for it. I also want to offer help to anyone over-50 who is unemployed and needs help with their CV or job applications to get back into he job market.
‘One area that really stood out from our research was that there was nowhere to go for our age group to talk, be understand and be listened to when they needed guidance and support. We have just changed all that.’
Author: Gillian Thornton