Article by Ceri Wheeldon
Liz Wisbach shares her midlife reinvention story as she set up a new business in her late 50s.
“Last year, when I was 58, I had an idea!
I am a bit of a narrowboat nerd and have my own boat (I don’t live on it yet, but would like to), which my daughter and I moved from a marina in Northamptonshire to Aylesbury in Bucks. This is a town centre mooring owned by the Canal & River Trust.
Whilst relaxing on my boat an chatting to passersby, it became apparent that something was needed in this new refurbished basin for people to do. So, I thought, why not run a Trip Boat.
Initially, whilst filling in all the forms to gain all the correct permissions, I really didn’t think I would see the end of this journey and something would happen which I couldn’t negotiate. But no, everything I did over the succeeding 9 months worked! I had to cash in a small pension to fund this, and spent the bulk of it on the boat, leaving nothing for advertising or any other extraneous expenses.
My biggest problem was finding a suitable boat, it took me about three months of searching but eventually found a fire damaged boat, just the right length and with just the right engine and the boatyard in which she languished were happy to do the conversion. Bingo!
Previously, in another life, I worked in admin in various office, and post children, I started teaching swimming, a job I loved. As the years rolled by and fast approaching 60, I couldn’t contemplate carrying on with this. I am not slim, and to keep putting on a swimming costume and a t-shirt and running around after four year olds was becoming very tiring. I do miss the work though as the children are endlessly entertaining and every day was different.
I felt I held the requisite skills to run a business such as this.
Limited employment options so I set up my own business
I have also felt increasingly frustrated when looking at employment options for women of a certain age, that doors are slammed in faces and the life and work experience we have gained counts for not very much. I have friends my age, who having taken redundancy from very good, well paid jobs, have then struggled to get any kind of job, let alone one that reflects their experience and skills.
So, my boat launch happened on Easter Saturday, with the Mayor in attendance, pictures in the local paper and a flurry of activity. Then on Easter Sunday not a single person turned up for a trip – very demoralising!!
I am doing OK at the moment, although the winter months are becoming a worry, when I can’t run the trips. I am doing nearly every weekend trip, there are four each day, and a few of the weekday trips. Half Term in May was good for us, and I am hoping that the summer holidays will be the same. I have to save enough money during this time to cover my costs over the winter months, and I am getting there.
Whilst this will not be a gold mine, and I am barely making a living at the moment, I am enjoying the freedom of the decision making and loving doing the trips for a diverse clientele. We are taking the Czech ambassador out this coming Saturday! Don’t Ask.
I have decided to stop worrying, just enjoy the next few weeks and then take stock in September and see if I can carry on.
Wish me luck!”
3 Tips for Women over 50 wanting to do something similar
If you are passionate about something, just do it!
Trust your instincts.
Don’t listen to the moaners.
A little bit more about me…..
“I was born in Stepney in London, and was immediately adopted by my beautiful and loving parents and spent my early years in the Far East as my father worked for Shell. My formative years were spent in Basildon, Essex, as there was a refinery on the estuary where my Dad worked. I have always gone to single sex schools, I don’t know why my parents chose these schools, and I wasn’t great academically, except for English which I loved.
After school, I spent two years gaining a Business Studies Diploma at a college in High Wycombe, where my parents had settled as my Dad was born and bred in the area. I had a succession of admin jobs over the next twenty years, the most notable was as a training supervisor for a finance company so that meant I travelled a great deal to train in the branch offices across the midlands and south west of England, and Wales.
At 41 my then husband and I adopted a sibling group of three children. We were already doing respite care, and social services approached us to see if we would consider long term fostering for these three. Which we did. It has been a difficult couple of decades and our marriage didn’t survive, but all are now in their 20’s and doing OK for the most part.
A couple of years after the children moved in I needed to work, and via an aquafit class I attended, I ended up doing a course to teach swimming, which I did at various different leisure centres and private swim schools for about 15 years. This is a job I loved. The children were eternally entertaining and I feel I had a good reputation as a teacher.
As I approached my 60th year, I felt I couldn’t continue putting on a swimming costume, a t-shirt and immersing myself in cold water forever, and looked around for something else to do. At that time, I moved my own narrowboat from a marina in Northamptonshire to a mooring near where I live. Whilst on my boat in a basin in Aylesbury, there seemed to be something lacking, so I started the process of setting myself up running the trip boat. I didn’t expect the highs of doing this to be so high, neither did I expect the lows to be so low. It has been an interesting journey so far.
All time favourite book or film….
To Kill a Mocking Bird….. both the film and the book are equally good.
How would you describe your own style…….
I try to stay tidy and wear diluted styles of current trends. I mostly feel dishevelled! I only look in the mirror once a day – and that’s when I put mascara on, the only make-up I wear. I never got the hang of make-up and am not really interested.
Three words that sum up your life over 50…..
GO FOR IT!!