SoSensational – Starting a Business at 60…How These Two Women did It.

Cyndy and Jan are two super cool ladies who started a business when they were around 60 years old! Yes it’s important that we mention their age as it can be an inspiration to many who are ‘umming’ and ‘ahhing’ about whether or not they can start something in the later years of their life.

We popped up to Jan’s home in London to find out more about their clothing website SoSensational, the fashion and beauty shop for grown up women! We were utterly blown away by their story and could not wait to share it with you all and inspire all ‘grown up women’ to take the leap, as it’s never too late to live your dream.

Read their fantastic story which will leave you inspired to start working on your story too!

So how did it all begin Jan?

Cyndy and I have been friends for well over 20 years, probably closer to 30. Her background was originally business then she became an image consultant. My background is journalism, including fashion journalism, and we were constantly being asked by friends and acquaintances where they could buy great clothes. There was a perception that the clothes on the high street were designed for under 25’s and they were always asking us where they could buy this or that, items for special occasions or just weekend wear. We thought about how we could make it a business. Initially we talked about doing seminars or a book but then came up with the idea of doing it as a website. We launched our first website in 2009 as 60&Sensational but quickly realised that there was a resistance to the age so we became SoSensational. We refer to it as fashion and style for grown up women as that covers choosing clothes and seeing how to style them.

How do you make your money?

We knew absolutely nothing about technology or anything like that but we knew about fashion and styling and that a website was the obvious thing to create and we have literally learned as we have gone along. The business has three income streams – online shopping via affiliate marketing, brand advertising and tenancies. All the clothing on our website is edited and curated, so that when older women come to our website they know they can find clothes and accessories from high street and high-end brands that have been carefully selected for them. We are not a transactional site. The upside is that we don’t have to carry stock but the downside is that we get a relatively small percentage on each transaction. However we do sell a lot of clothing. We have a fantastic range of brands on the site, including High Street giants such as M&S, Debenhams, Jigsaw, Karen Millen, Reiss, Hobbs and Ted Baker, as well as really upscale ones such as Hugo Boss, Liberty and Joseph, and budget brands like River Island, New Look and F&F. We cater for all budgets as there is the need for that.

Is there anything that defines the clothing you feature?

The cut and styling can sometimes be quite different for older women and even if you don’t have weight issues, the skimpy little dresses that you wore when you were 25 don’t necessarily suit you when you are 45 or 55. And there is also the question of sleeves – after age 50 or so, no matter how much you work out at the gym, your arms tend to go… We are also aware that a lot of women over 45 have weight issues so we feature a lot of brilliant Plus Size brands. But we are also aware that, regardless of their dress size, they don’t want frumpy, old-lady clothes. Not even old ladies want old-lady clothes. The reason why we are so successful is because retail fashion has forgotten about and ignored women over 50, yet women over 50 have both the money and the appetite for fabulous clothing and accessories. We feel our role is to show our demographic that there are plenty of gorgeous things out there for them. We show them how and where to find them.

We have thousands of products on our website. The clothing is all set out in categories that include workwear, partywear and mother-of-the-bride outfits. There are also sub-categories such as dresses with sleeves, knee length skirts, and that kind of thing. We have tried to anticipate the needs of our demographic and help them find what they want easily and quickly. People love reading our style tips and blogs and about how to style their clothing, so we offer lots of that, too.

How did you get these brands to sign with you?

There are affiliate marketing companies that we work with. But now we are finding that brands are coming to us more and more because they know that this is a demographic that has largely been ignored in retail fashion and SoSensational is the best way to access this demographic. In the UK, the older market is worth billions and in the States it is worth trillions. It is the demographic with the largest amount of disposable income.

“Do it! If you have a passion for it and if you have got an idea at any age, do it. You don’t want to get to 70 and think I really wish I had done that.”  Tweet This!

Have you come across a technical challenge with the demographic you are targeting?

It is a challenge but more and more people are going online. The long-term future of shopping is online. Women, including older women, are now buying much more online. Many of our site visitors are still working so they look at the website during the lunch hour then they go home and order. Sure, there are women who will look at the website for research and then go to the shop to buy, but that’s just how it is. That is why a lot of brands advertise with us because they know that this is how the market works right now. But we can use that to our advantage.

Do you have any plans for the future?

We just want to keep growing. Our Facebook following is now 26,000 and Twitter has grown substantially. We also have more than 50,000 women signed up to our newsletter. In time we hope to expand into the US market.

We have just completed a series of makeover videos and they are very popular. Our four models were all different shapes: one was petite, one was a pear shape, one was an apple and one had very broad shoulders. We showed them how to dress for their challenges, and how fabulous they could look. That is something that we will be continuing with for other body shapes and styling issues.

What age were you when you started this Cyndy?

I was over 60 and Jan was 59. Our peers and friends were starting to retire or at least cutting back on work. Both Jan and I have always worked and have had interesting careers. Sure, we both did a lot of juggling of roles when our children were young (we each have two – all 4 now married with kids), so neither of us were Ladies Who Lunch; it is not our thing to do nothing… We were both up for a new challenge!

What advice would you give to a woman around 60 who wants to start a business?

Do it! If you have a passion for it and if you have got an idea at any age, do it. You don’t want to get to 70 and think I really wish I had done that. We have never considered our age as any kind of barrier. With SoSensational, our age is an advantage because we understand grown up women. So we’ve had a few birthdays. It’s all just dates on a birth certificate. What counts is if you can make it work. We can because we are able to ‘talk’ to our demographic because we are part of it.

Are there any big mistakes that you have learned from?

Fortunately there have been no big mistakes, as we have done everything very slowly and have grown organically. However, we should have been more savvy about the development of our new website, when the developers said it could be done in three months. It actually took closer to nine months, and in total, a year by the time it was out of beta stage. That was a killer. But it is an absolutely beautiful site now, so we don’t regret the investment of time and money in the development, but it would have been better to have been more realistic about that time frame.

What is your proudest moment?

We were nominated for a Times Business Award and won! It’s very exciting and feels like at last, there is recognition that grown up women still want to look gorgeous and wonderful – and they absolutely can!

What do you do for fun?

Well Jan has 11 grandchildren and I have 5, so we keep busy with them. We love to walk and keep active and have a healthy social life.

SoSensational

www.sosensational.co.uk

Read more articles like this in Women’s Business News 

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