11 Senior Citizens Whose Amazing Startup Success Will Make You Rethink Retirement

senior citizens

There is no age to be a startup founder. Running successful businesses when most people choose to retire, these 11 senior citizen entrepreneurs prove how true this is.

At the age of 85, Manju ji has no intention of retiring. She never takes a day off and loves hustling at her restaurant in Brighton, UK.

While Manju ji is a senior citizen who has started a business at a later age than most would, she isn’t the only one.

We bring you 11 such inspiring souls who not only believe that age is just a number but who have gone ahead and proved it.

1. Manju ji, 85

Manju ji
Manju ji

Manju ji started her restaurant Manju’s when she was 80. While she would see to it that her kids relished her kadhi and daal dhokli, she harboured a silent dream to have others taste these too. So at 80, when her sons gifted her the space in Brighton, England, she couldn’t have been more thrilled.

Today, she says that after a lifetime of bringing up a family and putting her dreams on the backburner, she is blessed to have got an opportunity to follow her passion.

2. Nirmala Hegde, 64

Nirmala Hegde
Nirmala Hegde

While Nirmala loved cooking and feeding whoever would come home, it was only during the lockdown that her passion turned into a business. She began cooking for the building security guards.

Later, when Nirmala started her home food venture, within two days she had earned Rs 8,000. Today, the bestseller on the menu continues to be the appam and garlic chutney which has received hundreds of orders to date.

3. Nagamani, 88

Nagamani
Nagamani

When Bengaluru-resident Nagamani, or as she is fondly called ‘Mani aunty’, would experience hair fall in her college days, her friend shared a home remedy with her. It worked wonders. Today, the 88-year-old’s brand Roots & Shoots is born out of this idea.

What makes the oil stand out from others is its preparation. After collecting the ingredients, the seeds are hand-pounded and then added to the coconut oil and left under the sun for at least six weeks. “We don’t grind or heat the ingredients and oil,” she says.

4. Santoshini Mishra, 74

Santoshini Mishra
Santoshini Mishra

This Odisha resident’s husband ran a paan shop and was the sole breadwinner of the family. But when he passed away due to an illness, the responsibility to provide for the family fell on her. Since cooking was what she did best, she decided to rely on it.

Today, her catering service in Odisha is a hit at weddings and other occasions. Quite popular at weddings, Santoshini is an example of rising to the occasion. She is recognised in the region as a go-to for catering and even has 100 employees working under her.

5. Laxmi Ammal and Kasthuri Sivaraman, 89 and 71

Laxmi Ammal and Kasthuri Sivaraman
Laxmi Ammal and Kasthuri Sivaraman

The mother-daughter duo from Tamil Nadu confronted their fears of running a business when they started Pico Farmstay on their 185-year-old organic farm in Tamil Nadu’s Rettanai village.

As the land had been barren for 37 years after Laxmi’s husband passed away, the farm stay was a way of reviving it.
Guests at the farm stay enjoy the modern amenities along with leisure time and delicious cuisines made from vegetables and fruits grown on the farm.

The farm stay has hosted over 200 guests so far.

6. Alamelu Ammal, a.k.a Ponnu mami, 85

Ponnu mami
Ponnu mami

Who doesn’t love aachar? A resident of Kalpathy town in Palakkad, in Kerala, Ponnu mami is known to many for her delectable pickles and what’s more is that she does all the preparation herself!

Growing up in Kannur, Kerala, she was always surrounded by mango trees. As a young girl, she began picking these mangoes and making pickles of them that her relatives would enjoy. Today, not just mangoes, but she also makes pickles of lime, magali kizhangu [a root known to have several medicinal properties], etc.

What started as a small business with about 5 half kg packets being sold a day, now sees close to 10 kg of sale every day.

7. Manju Devi Poddar, 65

Manju Devi Poddar with her granddaughter
Manju Devi Poddar with her granddaughter

Anyone in Kolkata will tell you that Manju Devi’s sweets are a must-have. The famous ones are ‘Mava ki Parwal’, a sweet dish made by stuffing the pointed gourd; ‘Nariyal Chakki’, a fudge-like sweet dish made from coconut, kesar and pista; and ‘Mava Peda’.

For these delights, we have her 21-year-old granddaughter, Yashi Chowdhary, to thank. She pushed her nani to start the venture called ‘Nani’s Special’.

The duo does regular deliveries to Bengaluru, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Dibrugarh and Assam, among other corners of India. During the festive season, their revenue touches lakhs.

8. Retd Army Captain V K Mehra (78) and his wife, Cuckoo

Retd Army Captain V K Mehra and his wife, Cuckoo
Retd Army Captain V K Mehra and his wife, Cuckoo

In the bylanes of Noida, there is a cafe that is as old as time. Here the chai never gets cold and the conversation never runs dry.

The couple behind this venture called ‘Teasta Tea Shop’ are Captain V K Mehra (78) and his wife, Cuckoo. As the army officer was inching towards his retirement, he says he wanted to build a business around tea as he had worked on tea estates previously.

So, in 1995, the couple started the venture in Mehra’s garage. Today, they say the space has grown but the charm has stayed the same.

Teasta serves mouth-watering food while staying affordable and the teas and snacks are priced between Rs 40 and Rs 60, but their quality never falters. All teas and coffees are brewed in-house and Cuckoo bakes the muffins and cookies herself.

9. Rajinder Kaur Chatha, 92

Rajinder Kaur Chatha
Rajinder Kaur Chatha

When Rajinder was married in 1948, she says things changed so much. “In a world that was unfamiliar and sometimes heartbreakingly cruel, I sought comfort, which for me had always been chai,” she says recalling how she bought handfuls of different spices from the bazaar in Amritsar and started experimenting with different combinations of flavours.

After a week, she came up with a concoction that was so flavorful that it felt like ‘sunlight on a drab winter afternoon and the comfort of a mother’s arms’.

From that very recipe, the brand Ammiji was launched in 2015 on an online retail platform.

10. Asha Puri, 75

Asha Puri with her granddaughter
Asha Puri with her granddaughter

For someone who had been knitting sweaters, mufflers, etc for more than 50 years, Asha Puri was very unsure of her skills. So when her granddaughter, Kritika Sondhi, suggested turning this into a business, she was sceptical.

“I didn’t believe people would purchase the disappearing art of hand-knitted items in a world full of machine-made mass-produced goods,” she says.

However, the venture ‘With Love From Granny’ (WLFG) started in 2017 bags at least 100 orders every month.

11. Kokila Parekh, 79

Kokila Parekh
Kokila Parekh

Mrs Parekh had a simple routine. She would go to the temple in the morning, spend time with her daughter-in-law, take an afternoon nap, meet a relative or a friend in the evening, and help around the kitchen to cook dinner.

But during the lockdown, it all came to a halt.

Until now, only her family and friends had tasted her unique chai that was made with an even more unique masala. So Kokila thought why not have India taste it as well?

She set up her venture during the pandemic and named it ‘Kokila and Tushar’s Chai Masala’. Today she receives hundreds of orders from pan India.

Edited by Yoshita Rao

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