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‘Fabpreneur’ Helen turned her passion for walking into a business

midlife reinvention imageArticle by Helen Wenley,

Helen shares her story……

I live in Auckland, New Zealand.  I am married to a dentist and have two young adult children living at home (I am an ‘older’ Mum)

What prompted you to set up a business in your 50s?

I like to stay engaged with the community, and doing something that gives me enjoyment means that I can provide others with the same opportunity.

What did you do prior to setting up business?

I have been an at-home Mum since my son was born in 1989.  I also have done the book-keeping for my husband’s dental business from home.

What is your new business?

I have explored, and discovered short walks that I have documented.  These self-guides can be downloaded from the website I built myself.

Why this particular business?

When our children were small we wanted to explore Auckland on foot with them.  At the time there were books available but they did not provide enough information to help us make a decision as to whether or not the walk would be interesting for children (and us).  I did a lot of walking and cycling when I lived in England for 16 years and when my friend Grace suggested exploring Auckland with me, I did not hesitate. Grace has lived in Auckland longer than me and knows her way around.

New skills needed to set up a business in your 50s

What new skills have you had to learn?

I learnt how to use WordPress to build a website, and online marketing.  I also learnt to use Publisher software to create the guides.  I have always enjoyed photography so I treated myself to a digital camera that I use to take many photographs while I am out walking.

What challenges did you initially face?

My initial challenge was getting the walk guides into an easy to use format.  It took time to do the walk, write up the directions, and check the directions and to load up the document.  Then I needed to have the software to sell the guides using Paypal.

What help did you need most and how easy was it to find?

I needed help finding Paypal shopping cart software to sell the guides and I was able to call on a friend who helped me find what I had in mind. I also needed help from my friend Grace for walk locations – we enjoy each other’s company and our skills complement each other too.

Did you receive any grants/funding?

I do not receive any grants or funding but I am working on that because I think that the Auckland Council would benefit from what I am providing. I have made myself known to Auckland Transport and Auckland Tourism, so now just have to keep moving forward.

Have you had a business mentor/role model?

No I do not have a business mentor/role model.  My friend Grace and I are self-sufficient, creative and business savvy.

What was your first ‘success’/achievement  in your new business?

My first success came this year when I was asked to contribute 5 walks to an annual walking program called the ‘Walk It Series’ which is a program to encourage people of all ages and abilities to get out walking.  Even though I do not get paid for providing the walks, it does provide me with ‘free’ advertising.

How have friends and family reacted?

Everyone I speak with thinks the project is a great idea.

Has the use of social media sites helped your business, and if so, in what way?

I do use social media and to date, they have not made a positive difference to my business.  I use Facebook and Twitter.

What lessons have you learnt in setting up your business so far ?

Just to take it one step at a time, and not to worry about making money as a first priority.  It is more important to concentrate on providing value for money, doing what you enjoy and continue to learn.

Has the business developed in the way you anticipated?

Not yet, but who knows what is around the next corner?

What’s next?

I have begun writing a series of walks in Auckland books.  I am hoping that these will provide more people with want they want (apparently in New Zealand people prefer hard copy as opposed to eBooks).

Any regrets? No

3 Tips for setting up a business in your 50s

What 3 tips would you give other women over 50 looking to do the same?

  1.        Find something you enjoy doing
  2.        Research to find out if you can create a product that will fulfil a market niche related to what you enjoy
  3.        Ensure that you have enough capital up front to begin the journey


Helen Wenley was born in Australia and has lived in Auckland New Zealand since 1989 after living and travelling in Europe for 16 years.  Her interests are live theatre, reading, walking, health and nutrition, and learning.  Helen started her ‘Short Walks in Auckland’ business at the beginning of 2011.  Visit http://www.walksinauckland.com for more information.

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  1. Kathy Brown

    April 18, 2012

    Great stuff! And something I can identify with, as can many of my colleagues who have chosen to become Treasure Trails licensees in the UK later in life. We have many over-50 fans amongst our customers too – but we are also LOOKING for new licensees in some parts of the country (eg Kent, Cheshire) which would particularly benefit from the wealth of accumulated experience that an over-50 could bring.

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