The new business of growing old: meet the founders

Three older founders on setting up brands from accessible design and luxury eyewear to coffee and fashion – without resorting to stereotypes.
growing old: founders hero

Why being risk averse and refusing to slow down helped Janjri Trivedi kickstart her Indian ‘seed-to-shop’ textile company.

‘When you’re older, you are less risk averse,’ says Janjri Trivedi, ‘because you have dealt with a lot already, and you are prepared for mistakes.’ Janjri, 64, is the founder of Re-Wrap, a social enterprise employing marginalised women in India to create handmade and organic textiles.  

Growing up in Mumbai, Janjri worked in her family’s garment busines, which turned waste textiles into re-woven fabric. In 2002, she visited an area in western India known for its artisanal crafts, and came across rural women using hand-embroidered and hand-printed fabrics to make potlis, bags made by wrapping and tying fabric.  

These potlis, or wrap bags, gave rise to the Re-Wrap brand and the line of bags that the company now makes in its two units in South India, where it also offers training and financial independence to 225 marginalised women.  Re-Wrap also supports tribal farmers through its seed-to-shop initiative. This ensures that the farmer is paid a premium for their cotton, and increases traceability.

‘I can point to the square hectare where the cotton of that bag was grown,’ Janjri explains. So far, Re-Wrap has supported 3,500 farmers across 50 villages, producing 5,000 tonnes of certified cotton. ‘We are very much in excess of our requirements,’ Janjri says, ‘so we are trying to link the farmers to the cotton market where people can procure cotton directly from them.’ 

The success of Re-Wrap, according to Janjri, is down to having a variety of professional experiences. ‘I haven’t grown in the garment industry from the bottom-up,’ she highlights. ‘I pool my commercial and design expertise, our CEO brings sourcing and logistics, and our sales team has substantial experience. We want to make a social enterprise that works professionally.’  Her experience gives her an ‘automatic advantage,’ she says, ‘but you need to be able to constantly reinvent yourself and your company. After you have been active, suddenly putting your feet up in retirement is difficult. It’s difficult to stop.’


The Costello sisters were the ones to bring style to the table with their accessible kitchenware range.

Susan and Anne Costello were shopping for a cup with two handles for their mother, who has tremors in her hands. It was their first interaction with mobility products, an industry that seemed to have been forgotten by recent marketing and design trends. ‘Why should everything you want be beige and plastic after you turn 75?’ asks Susan.  

Seeing the lack of luxury, well-designed products, Susan and Anne co-founded Eyra, which designs utensils aimed at making cooking easier for older generations – who the brand says ‘demand better design’ – without compromising on a contemporary aesthetic. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, the kitchenware range will launch in February 2021, with an adjustable table, armchair and bathroom range soon to follow, all made in collaboration with the leading British industrial designer Sebastian Conran.  

Susan herself has had an extensive career in design, working across branding, marketing and product development for more than 30 years. So much design currently ‘others older people – as if when you get to a certain age, everything that matters to you should disappear,’ she says. She also points out that the generation ageing today demand much more as consumers than their parents – which she calls the ‘make-do generation’ – ever did. This generation, having witnessed digital revolutions, expects to have more choice.  

Bringing her background to the table, Susan set out to create a brand experience around Eyra’s product range. Where traditional mobility products did not favour art direction, lighting or compelling copy, the Eyra brand was developed through a user-centric design approach. An occupational therapist is embedded into the team to better understand the emotional needs of older people, as well as co-designing products. ‘People are squeamish when it comes to ageing,’ says Susan. She sees the brand proudly and universally positioned in the kitchenware aisle for consumers looking both for luxury and ergonomics.


Seeing beyond his polished range of reading glasses, Tim Parr branched into a taboo-busting digital platform.

Tim Parr was 45 when he realised he needed reading glasses. He went to a design-conscious, luxury optometrist in Malibu, but even there he could only find outdated reading glasses for older people hidden away in a drawer. ‘They were in all sorts of prints and there were these crazy folding glasses,’ he says. 

And so he began a three-year product research journey that led him to founding Caddis, an eyewear brand for the older consumer that pairs contemporary design with functionality. However, despite creating a great product and packaging, he still felt as if he was lacking a ‘why’ to fully get behind his brand. It wasn’t until a meeting with a venture capitalist that Tim found his brand’s purpose. He was told that nobody over a certain age would want to be ‘told’ their age and that everybody, in fact, wanted to believe they were 15 years younger than they really were.

It was only after leaving the meeting when Tim realised that the venture capitalist’s negative reaction would be the thing that prompted Caddis’ future direction. ‘It was no longer just about reading glasses, but rather about people owning their age,’ says Tim. This slogan comes printed on the boxes that deliver Caddis’ eyewear.  Central to Caddis’ purpose was combining the product and the brand experience to challenge lifestyle marketing to older consumers. ‘We extensively outline demographics and psychographics of consumers up until they turn 45,’ he explains, ‘and then the lifestyle market just drops out.’  

‘Today’s older consumers have gone through the eighties and nineties,’ Tim says, referencing the brand mania that erupted during that time. ‘You have an entire forgotten generation who are used to cultural triggers to purchase products and who have been at the forefront of lifestyle marketing.’ Part of the experience of owning age with Caddis comes with unpicking the associated taboos. Caddis’ sister brand, Humongous Living, is a digital community full of uplifting content and discussions about topics such as ageism in employment, technology and relationships. ‘All we provide is a safe zone and we let the customers lead the conversation,’ says Tim. 

This is part of a larger feature on the new business of growing old.

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This article was first published in Courier Issue 37, October/November 2020. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.

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