Another Big Birthday Come & Gone

Reflections on decades past

My 60th birthday has come and gone. My Oyster 60+ card broke its cherry as I spent the day travelling between Wandsworth Common, Willesden and Caledonian Road, mainly in the rain, visiting old and new(wish) friends. We ate keto-friendly chocolate and raspberry tart that I'd prepared the night before, drank tea, a G&T out of a tin. I received many lovely presents and even more lovely messages via every possible means of communication. I have heard that I have been an inspiration to many. As far as lockdown birthdays go, it was a good one, and I felt very loved.

Hitting 60 feels significant even though as I'm fond of saying, 'It's just a number.' I remember, sometime around my mid-thirties, that I was determined to retire by forty. Looking back, I was probably closer to that goal than at any time in my life, as co-director of a PR agency that had passed the £1m turnover threshold and with several larger agencies eager to acquire us for far less than I thought we were worth. Instead, on my 47th birthday, we decided to close the Agency as it became clear that the home entertainment sector in which we worked was imploding, and larger entities were swallowing up our clients. I took my biggest client, LazyTown, while our other retainer clients worked with my ex-husband and our remaining staff, now all freelancers. We sold our fancy office, and I've been working from home ever since. That was 2008.

I spent my 50s in a menopausal haze, where I learned the true meaning of insomnia and how to live on less. Like many women my age in the UK, lucky enough to purchase property in my twenties, I downsized, got rid of the big house and the big mortgage, juggling multiple jobs to stay afloat and reinvented myself as a tech startup entrepreneur. I'd been a kid that had spent my childhood taking apart and putting together appliances and later, running my PR business, the one that built a database and then managed a website for our growing company, in 1994. When the internet had come along, I'd taken to it like a fish to water.

In retrospect, I should not have been surprised that the startup scene did not immediately embrace me with the same enthusiasm they showed for pasty, young white men who had graduated with computer science degrees from Stanford or Imperial College. While I did not have a computer qualification, I knew enough about coding and computers to believe I was worthy of being included. It was 2013 and I'd bought into the dream set by Facebook and Twitter that if you build it and enough people like it, then someone will write a cheque large enough to be able to let me live out my golden years travelling the world without a timetable.

Sadly, that didn't happen, despite the thousands of downloads and the accolades.

Many tech startup businesses crash and burn but there's a new expression in startup land for those that crawl along, remaining alive and growing slowly. They're called a cockroach, and such is it that Frugl has turned out to be that. Yesterday, a business specialising in getting a company to the front page of Google had a look at the number of people looking at the site daily and nearly fell off his chair; our ranking was so high. While I'm still far, far off unseating Jeff Bezos from his throne, there's life in the business yet. I may even be able to sell it one day for six or seven figures. The dream lingers on.

So here I am at 60, having once again reinvented myself and working in the world of social enterprise and 'impact,' the new buzzword for people who want to change the world for good. I am making slow progress. I am earning less than I was in my late twenties. While I tell myself this is a temporary situation, I have to acknowledge that I have contributed to it in always choosing to go down the more challenging path. I find it difficult to reconcile being both inspirational to many while unable to afford much beyond my essential means. I am determined to fix this and open to suggestions, hippy-dippy or otherwise, of how to manifest abundance as long as they don't involve enrolling on an internet course that features a price tag containing the numbers 4, 7 or 9.

I am equally determined to celebrate my sixtieth birthday properly, surrounded by friends and family in the summer when lockdown will (with any luck) be a thing of the past.

In the meantime, I'd like to leave you with a testimonial video from Startup School, my latest adventure, of which I'm very proud. We have a new course starting in May, for which we will be charging a small amount, as new funders have not, as yet, come forward. If you know of anyone that could benefit from joining, send them here to pre-register.

As always, stay safe & well,

Suzanne