A FORMER regeneration officer for Kirklees Council, Maggie Mellor, now spends her days bathing, brushing and clipping dogs.
To say that she has made a major life change is putting it mildly.
But the 55-year-old, who spent 16 years working for the council, is delighted with her chosen new profession and says she has no regrets about taking redundancy to start her own business.
Maggie is just one of a growing number of people who are changing direction in mid life. In some cases it’s a move enforced by job loss, in others it’s a conscious choice to fulfil long-held ambitions or take on new challenges.
“I’ve always been a person who enjoys a challenge,” says Maggie, who lives in Meltham.
But her first challenge after applying for redundancy was to decide what she would do.
She had previously worked with charities and training organisations and was involved with the process of administering grants for rural business schemes. Her years of involvement with economic development programmes had given her a valuable insight.
“I decided I would like the opportunity to set up a business and considered a range of options,” she explained.
“I thought about a cafe and tearoom because I enjoy baking but there are a lot of establishments like that out there.
“When I looked around I realised that it was the personal services that are springing up and doing well – beauty shops, bridal shops and tanning salons. Even though it’s a recession people still appeared to be spending money on affordable luxuries.”
As a long-time dog owner –the family has a re-homed West Highland terrier – Maggie started to think about opening a grooming salon. “I’d had difficulties getting an appointment for my dog as the salon always seemed fully booked.
“I thought, if I’m going to change direction I wanted to do something that I really enjoyed and being with my dog makes me happy.”
Maggie, who is married with two grown-up children, took redundancy in September and used her severance money to pay for a grooming course at a training salon in Keighley and to buy equipment for premises in Lightcliffe Road, Crosland Moor, which she has named The Dog House.
She also sought help and advice from the Prince’s Initiative, an organisation that offers a service to older people facing redundancy or unemployment.
“I went on a free course for mature entrepreneurs – an introduction to self employment. I found it very helpful.
“On the course there was a lady who wanted to be a children’s entertainer; someone who was opening a gluten-free cafe; an artist looking to become an art therapist and an HR consultant who wanted to become self-employed.
“Most people were making a big change.”
Of course, giving up a public service job meant losing sickness benefits and the certainty of a pay cheque at the end of every month. But Maggie is old enough to be able to access her pension.
She says: “It is harder as you get older to change direction but I get quite a buzz out of what I do now. You might feel horrified at the thought of losing your job, particularly if you have worked somewhere for a long time but when you look at the alternatives it needn’t be that scary.”
Terry King from the Prince’s Initiative says the organisation’s courses for the over 50s wanting to set up in business were created in response to the fact that there are now 3.5m people aged 50-64 who are economically inactive.
“I have been running the courses around the region since April and the majority of people I see have been made redundant or have taken severance,” she said.
“They have been down to the Job Centre and seen what’s on offer, which isn’t much, and are thinking either about doing what they did before but as self employed, or setting up their own business.
“The proportion of people over 50 who are unemployed is increasing. The Prince’s Initiative wants to help them in a focussed way.”
As well as offering eight-week home-study courses with three one-day workshops, the trust also has a pool of business mentors.
For details check out www.prime.org.uk