Victoria Tomlinson: I Started Next-up To Help People Use Their Skills in New Ways in Unretirement

August 7, 2022

I started Next-Up to help people use their skills in new ways in unretirement. A generation of people now retiring want to move on from their old 24/7 working life and do ‘something new’ but have no idea what or how.

We now work with employers to help people as they are coming up to retirement. We do this through workshops and an online platform where employees can work through ten modules independently and build a plan as they go.

We are really excited about how employers are responding. Many say they feel guilty that they offer so much training and support in early careers but fail to do anything in later life.

Tell us about yourself?

I am 66 and love being a tech entrepreneur at this stage in my life. Hopefully, I am an example to help others realise we can do whatever we want still at this age!

My early career was in aerospace, and then I sold banknotes and passports to foreign governments with what is now De la Rue. I joined the global accounting firm EY, became a director, and was on the London leadership team at 32. Then I met my husband, moved north to marry him, and started a PR/marketing business.

Over time we did business in Dubai, and I got into social media very early – I have been blogging since 2018 and became an expert on LinkedIn. That is what led to our new business. People who were retiring had hated LinkedIn yet suddenly realised it is the best marketing tool when you don’t have your employer’s brand behind you.

And from all this, Next-Up was born! I realised what a difficult stage of life retirement is, and it is not the dream that so many imagine.

If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

When we launched Next-Up, it was aimed at helping individuals. We had had a stream coming to us in our previous business, so I knew there was a need and what people would pay.

However, a lot of friends said I would find it difficult marketing to individuals, and they were right! I should have started selling products and services to professional firms and organisations from the start. But I learned a lot in the process, so I don’t view it as wasted time or effort.

What problem does your business solve?

The retirement age was set at 65 decades ago when it was the age most people died. Now, most people live till their late 80s -and that is a lot of life to fill.

Unretirement is a time of great opportunity for people, but many don’t know what to do or how to go about it. We provide inspiration and share stories from hundreds of people about what they now do after full-time working life.

We also give practical help on creating a new personal identity that doesn’t rely on your work identity. We teach them how to use LinkedIn and social media to network and build their personal brand.

What is the inspiration behind your business?

In my old business, I met many people who wanted help with introductions, building a LinkedIn profile and gaining confidence for this stage of life. I realised retirement isn’t always the magical time it is portrayed to be, and also, it didn’t take much help to get people fired up and doing new things.

They just needed someone to believe in them (so many people write others off at 50!) and help them in a practical way.

What is your magic sauce?

We are storytellers and believe in an experienced generation’s potential. We collect stories of what people do at this stage of their lives. I was at a wedding last week and met the lady who had grown all the herb pots on the wedding tables in the marquee.

She started the business when her husband retired from the Army, never having worked while he was in it.

She spotted how people didn’t want the waste you get from wedding flowers and began growing and hiring out her trees and pots. Isn’t that inspiring? We have so many stories that make people think, “I could do that”.

What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?

We have launched a Professional Services Retirement Forum with about 25 member firms. We want to grow this and develop best practice for partners who are retiring.

We hope it will become the norm for all firms to send their partners on workshops before they retire.

And we have developed an online platform so organisations can help all public, private and voluntary employees. We want retirement support to be recognised as best practice for all Best Companies to Work for organisations.

I want to build Next-Up and hopefully achieve a sale in five years. I then want to create a Foundation that researches and develops best practices for people leaving full-time work.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

Recognising that we couldn’t make our first or second business model work! We had to ditch many of our ideas and plans but learnt from them too. I now know we have so much to offer employers in all sectors.

How do people get involved/buy into your vision?

Go to and watch some of the videos. Charities and entrepreneurs are talking about the help they need, and we have lots of stories of unretired people and how they are using their skills to help others. It is incredibly inspiring.

For employers, if you want to know how we can help your employees contact us on 01423 562400 or [email protected]. We’d love to make a difference!

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