Most Successful Disabled Entrepreneurs In The World
Here is a list of world famous entrepreneurs with a disability. These are the profiles of them who has had their share of bad news and upset in life, but continues to fight for a better future and keep their mind pro-active. Disabled entrepreneurs Business life storeys and Achievements can are so uplifting and positive to those who feel down about life.
Do you own a business or done something great?
Are you a disabled entrepreneur?
Have an inspiring business story to share?
If so we want to hear from you!
He left school when he was 16 years old because his school did not hold GCSE tests. He left his family at the age of 16 and went in search of greener pastures and a better life. Shane had a very challenging childhood and he thought that education might have been his way to escape from life’s toughest challenges (my disease), With very little qualifications behind him, it was tough to find any decent job without mentioning the health problems he faced. The changes in his health conditions threw him into serious long lasting depression.
Shane went to the Jobcentre with the aim to get a job that will keep him so busy it will help him ease him out of his state of depression, but he was told to stay on disability benefits due to the fact that he would be paid more doing nothing. He knew he had to make his own decisions, as such, he chose to devote his life to humanity and helping others to achieve their purpose in life, with the knowledge that a life without Love and care towards others is not worth living at all.
Having lived in fear of death for in his early 20s due to his health, he set up a new type of charity, a shopping service that gives independence back to elderly people with mobility issues working with Sainsbury’s. He wanted more so Mobility Buy was born a one shop for everything mobility he went from a market stall to a shop even franchising and trading worldwide online. unfortunately, after an attack for money at his shop, it made him confirm the decision to sell his company.
Shane now is the owner of over 6 worldwide companies, including a business investment company.
His unique approach hi if I can do it with a disability, why not you?
Topic: Business building, marketing, advertising positive, inspirational,
Based out of York, Dom runs his own online and print music magazine Soundsphere and works as part of the Disabled Entrepreneurs and Creative Condition networks. He is also an Enterprise UK and NYBEP STEM Ambassador who has the opportunity to conduct regular workshops and talks around the country about entrepreneurship, media, and journalism.
Over the course of his career, Dom has interviewed the likes of Dynamo, Royal Blood, Asking Alexandria, Rammstein, Incubus, Placebo, Andrew WK, Black Stone Cherry, McBusted, Scroobius Pip, Pulled Apart By Horses, Gary Numan, While She Sleeps, Skindred, Thievery Corporation, Leftfield and more.
Aside from his journalism work where he has worked for NME.com, WhatCulture, Metro, The Quietus, Rock Sound, T3, Stuff, Metal Hammer, as well as more corporate clients including Muzo, York City Council and Hull City of Culture. Dom also acts as a mentor for schools, colleges and universities around the UK, giving workshops in disability, the music industry and entrepreneurship to young people keen on learning new skills, and considering a career within the music, arts or entertainment industry. Dom has also won a National Diversity Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence for his work.
Commenting on his career this far, Dom says: “I’m lucky to be where I am, and I am lucky to have been able to meet who I have. I’ve had a lot of support from incredible individuals, like Shane Bratby who co-founded Disabled Entrepreneurs with me.
“I think that it’s important for people to try new things, to travel as much as possible and to work as hard as possible to make yourself, and other people happy. I hope that I’ve managed to do that in some small way over my life, and career.”
Topic: Disability, Business, Social Media, Magazines, The Music Industry
Disability: Cerebral Palsy
Success in any environment is characterised by having a winning mentality. Danielle’s experiences of competing at international level for seven years has given her a unique insight into exactly what it takes to thrive under pressure and employ that winning mindset to achieve a dream.
Danielle has considerable experience talking to both large and small audiences, using a highly individual style to explore the arduous climb to success and the utter blows of failure. Danielle’s drive to push herself to an able-bodied standard, as well as bouncing back when her world collapsed after failing her classification gives her the capacity to inspire all audiences. Danielle has an honest and engaging approach, coupled with a broad understanding of different learning styles which qualifies her to put her message across in an articulate manner that is accessible to all. Danielle’s story will motivate listeners to strive to better their own performance in their given profession, teaching them how to quickly recover from setbacks and turn any negative situation into a positive unique one.
Each speech is tailored specifically to cover your individual needs, whether for a classroom setting, a conference, or team building days. Whether you want your speech to explore the qualities required for success, planning performance, achieving your dream, resilience and adversity, teamwork, diversity and inclusion, disability awareness, coping with pressure, or any other topic that relates to your event, Danielle is able to deliver a heartfelt speech that is right for you.Topic: Disability, Confidence Building, Developing a Performance Mindset, Helping Women Break Through the Glass Ceiling, Overcome Adversity and Develop Resilience
Topic: Disability, Confidence Building, Developing a Performance Mindset, Helping Women Break Through the Glass Ceiling, Overcome Adversity and Develop Resilience
Disability: Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
Richard Shakespeare who suffers from cerebral palsy had been looking for a job for over a year and clocked up over two thousand rejection letters before he decided to become a consultant advising businesses on disability issues.
He said: “I applied for absolutely everything that I could physically do and didn’t know how to get out of the unemployment trap. After nearly a year without a job offer, I was starting to get depressed and the number of suitable jobs seemed to be going down. “It struck me that there must be hundreds of businesses that had no experience of dealing with disabled people and would benefit from speaking to someone with a real-life perspective on the matter.”
Richard attended a number of networking events to bounce his idea off of local business leaders and decided it could work, so he set up his modest office in Derby. And business has been booming so far – with clients already queuing up, one of his first was a local Novotel hotel. In October he visited as a mystery guest and later reported back to the manager and briefed employees on how to improve service.
“Now that I’m self-employed, the pressure is really on me to make ends meet but I’m determined to make it work and I’m confident that I can.”
When Mark Esho set up his internet company 10 years ago, it was one of only four of its kind in the UK.
But setting up the business was a big challenge. He claims the fact he was black and had a disability – he is unable to walk long distances because of childhood polio – made getting the venture off the ground much harder.
“I got zero support,” he said. “It was a new technology and people didn’t understand what I was trying to do.
“I started my business off on a credit card and I had to work for three months without pay while I built up my portfolio. It was pretty hard.
“If you are black and disabled you have two things going against you. What people tend to do is base their opinions on what they see. Even I do it.
“That’s why I’ve always been driven to prove myself.”
A decade on, and his company, Easy Internet Services, in Westleigh Road, Leicester, employs 17 people and boasts 50,000 customers.
“When we started up in 2000 there were only four of us in the UK doing search engine optimisation (SEO),” he said.
Esho’s taste for business came when he decided to do a MBA while drifting from job to job in London.
He came back to his home city in 1994 and enrolled at the University of Leicester. He then worked at city disabled charity Mosaic for a while before taking the plunge.
“The internet was a hobby for me,” he said. “I thought I’d go for it. It also gave me flexible hours.”
As a result of his polio Esho suffers from chronic fatigue. “I get it two or three times a month,” he said. “I get really, really tired. That’s why I’m better suited to running my own business.”
The business expanded quickly and before long had moved from his home in Thorpe Astley to premises in Ross Walk, Belgrave. It then moved to a larger office at the LCB depot in Rutland Street before ending up in Westleigh Road.
Eight of the company’s staff are in India and the Philippines because of lower labour costs and difficulty finding the right people in the UK.
“A really good server technician would cost you £30,000 a year,” he said. “A technician with similar skills in India would cost you a third of that. In the Philippines a junior optimiser will cost you a fifth of what it does in the UK.”
Esho said he had become frustrated after training staff only to see them move on.
The firm’s customers are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Of its 50,000 web-hosting customers, 25,000 of them are paying, while the company has around 200 SEO clients. The company previously worked with larger clients such as The Guardian newspaper and the Co-op.
“The problem was they accounted for 50 per cent of turnover and it caused all sorts of problems in terms of getting payments,” explained Esho. “So in 2004 we decided to concentrate on the SME market.”
The company has had a turnover around the £1 million mark over the past three years.
“We have increased profits by 10 to 15 per cent in the past three years despite the recession,” he said.
The company has lost around a quarter of its search engine optimisation work in the past two years as clients cut their marketing budgets. But it is seeing some of them return.
Esho helps other entrepreneurs as a panelist on Foxes’ Den, a Sunday evening version of BBC TV’s Dragons’ Den on BBC Radio Leicester.
He said that, despite a more crowded market and an uncertain economic future, there was still a lot of potential for growth.
However, the 48-year-old father-of-two is looking to take things easier.
“The market is starting to pick up again and hopefully we will be looking to increase our turnover,” he said. “But I’ve got to the stage where I’m not pushing as aggressively as I was before. I am going for steady growth. I think it’s important to have a work-life balance. I want to spend more time with my family.”
My name is Amanda Drake-Worth and I am the Founder of Happy Signers Baby Signing School in Plymouth teaching British Sign Language to babies whether hearing or less-abled from five months to four years using puppets, props and nursery rhymes in a fun and interactive way. Happy Signers evolved as my darling daughter Ami was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate in 1992.
At the age of two, I was told that she would not be able to talk very well and after spending a considerable amount of time with Ami really over emphasising key words which were so important to her and reading many books and talking to her consistently I am thrilled to say that Ami was top of her class for English at Primary School and was top of sales in Devon and Cornwall at Thomsons Travel Agents where she works, despite having endured 19 operations to-date.
Life for Ami and myself was not easy as unfortunately her father and I divorced when Ami was five years old and at the same time I was experiencing considerable pain in my right ankle following a Road Traffic Accident back in 1978. However I was determined that I was going to “help” my daughter as best as I could to enable her to achieve her full potential.
With this in mind I decided to quit my job working for Royal Mail and go about achieving my dream and that is to help the disabled community, especially children. I spent a considerable amount of time volunteering for the Hearing and Sight Centre in Plymouth repairing and re-tubing hearing aids and dealing with equipment whilst I also started to learn British Sign Language. Unfortunately I had to leave this position as my ankle was becoming increasingly worse and I was awaiting to go into hospital for an ankle fusion.
In July 2010, I had the operation on my ankle and I really wasn’t going to sit at home watching TV all day long – I wanted to make best use of my time so went about contacting a lovely lady who has now become my mentor Katja O’Neill who runs her own baby signing school Sign2Learn in Luton.
In December 2010, on crutches I was on the coach to Luton to attend a seminar run by Katja and decided that I was going to set up my own baby signing school. So despite being in immense pain as my ankle fusion was not successful I ploughed into a fantastic business course with Outset Plymouth which I thoroughly enjoyed and I completed my British Sign Language Level 1.
From October 2010 too, I had become a volunteer and committee member for Plymouth Deaf Children’s Society and again despite being on crutches never failed to miss one of their fantastic events or meetings – I just loved the “buzz” I would obtain from the childrens’ smiles. I simply loved working within the Deaf Community.
However in October 2011, my ankle was really “breaking” whilst I was at a disabled forum and I met a lovely lady called Adele Marshall who passed me her number and said if I needed any baby signing tutors to contact her. Adele is the second baby signing instructor in the UK and has an immense amount of knowledge and experience. She also has a Certifcate of Education and a diploma in child psychology. Adele has a son with high functioning autism and is also involved with Face to Face to help children in the autistic spectrum.
Happy Signers was launched in January 2012! I run the business as I love the PR and Marketing and Adele loves teaching so we commenced teaching baby signing courses in February 2012. In April, we realised that there was a niche market for parents to learn sign language to help their disabled children and so we launched our very first BSL Introductory/Family Sign Course taught by our lovely BSL Level 3 accredited tutor Alison Kevern which was a huge success.
In March 2012, I still felt I wanted to become more involved with children with cleft palates and associated syndromes having had the experience with my daughter and so I went to London to train as a Parent Contact for the Cleft Lip and Palate Association. I passed the training and am now elated to be a Parent Contact for the South West from Bristol down to Lands End and am shortly intending to launch a Happy Faces Group whereby parents with babies and children with clefts can come to for moral and emotional support. It is my dream to be able to help children with clefts as it is so close to my heart. I will also be donating on a regular basis to CLAPA once my business develops.
In September 2012, my colleague and I – Christina Hudson set up a free networking group too and the proceeds from the stands will be donated to CLAPA this month. These events will run once a month and each month we intend to donate all proceeds to various local childrens’ charities.
The business is going from strength to strength and we have many exciting opportunities to face. I really want to see happy contended smiles including children in the UK and abroad and my ultimate goal would be to assist children born with clefts throughout the world by supporting them in communication.
Clare Edwards of Loughborough started her business Equip-able Ltd in January 2009, making and selling the award winning Trabasack lap tray travel bag. Here she tells us a bit about her business and her inspiring journey.
A wheelchair user since a car accident in her teens, ( tetraplegic , spinal injury C5/6) is the founder of Trabasack Products. Clare’s aim is to create innovative products that are inclusive and useful to everyone whatever their age or ability. Her first design is the multi-award winning Trabasack, a laptray and travel bag.
My inspiration was created from a mothers’ desire to help her son. Joe has Dravet syndrome which is a catastrophic and devastating form of epilepsy. This life limiting condition means that Joe lost many skills that he learnt as a baby and is now unable to walk or communicate and is visually impaired. When he was 4yrs old we were provided with a heavy and ugly plastic tray to put on the front of his buggy. This was very difficult to get on and off, formed a social barrier and was dangerous during his frequent seizures. I realised that we had to make the most of his desire to relearn and our reluctance to carry or attach his tray was not helping him explore and play. I decided that I could make up a soft play tray on my sewing machine.
After watching too many ‘Dragons Den’s, I decided to apply for a Catalyst Grant, for which I was successful and awarded £2000. This enabled me to do some market research with a local nursery and decide on a prototype design. This design evolved into the Trabasack!
‘After spending months cutting up Jacobs Cracker boxes and sewing bag shapes on my Bernina sewing machine, I decided to take my homespun creation to a local factory. It was a nerve racking moment but they took me very seriously. They could see the potential in the idea and the factory made our first small batch production run.’
Joe’s Portage Teacher and Nursery school were very impressed with the Trabasack and the early prototypes and we gave them a few to trial some to Joe’s Nursery and some other parents to try out. When another local special needs school who had seen them asked to buy some from us we were thrilled and knew we had something that was unavailable elsewhere and but was really in demand We asked Unltd, the charity for Social Entrepreneurs if they would fund the launch of Trabasack at Naidex the UK’s largest healthcare trade show. They believed in the project and gave me £4000 to fund the launch.
I decided to adapt the design to give four variants which would suit different needs. The idea was to produce a product that would follow “design for all” principles, that would be a mainstream product but that would be easily used by people of all abilities. I am a keen traveller and handbag enthusiast(!), and I knew there was a gap in the market for a stylish portable lap tray. Being a wheelchair user I often find that I cannot get my legs under a table at a cafe, pub or restaurant. Bending over is uncomfortable and the prospect of dropping or spilling a drink inhibited me from eating and drinking in public on occasion. I began to use a Trabasack every day and knew that many other people would find it useful.
My second son Victor who is a healthy and active little boy loves using his Trabasack in his buggy, car seat and as a booster seat in cafes when out and about.
“My biggest challenge has been to ensure that the volume, consistency and quality of work needed to create a successful business is achievable despite living with a disability. I have a strong internal drive and desire to be successful, I am goal focussed and strict on time management.
I have had to learn about marketing, sales, website design, manufacturing and logistics in a short space of time. Applying these new skills, whilst maintaining a professional standard throughout, is, at times, very tough.
We also have a child with severe epilepsy (Dravet Syndrome) who requires specialist care. it was my desire to help my disabled son access toys and switches that helped lead to the design of Trabasack.
I have focussed on my strengths such as design and creative work. Living with a disability means that you are always striving to adapt your environment to make life easier. It means you become a natural designer and inventor through your own needs.
My disability has been an advantage in that I have been able to create a “Design for all” product before knowing what that meant! That is, a product that has been ergonomically created to be easy to use by people with a range of abilities, young, old, disabled and non-disabled.
I have also been supported by the ‘disabled’ community online who have championed our product and become the ‘early adopters’ of Trabasack. Our peers have helped us raise awareness by writing about Trabasack on blogs, forums, through web links and by disseminating press releases to help us and because they know that Trabasacks are so incredibly useful.
Clare has been mentored and taught by some leading professionals to help grow her business. She was became an UnLtd Level 2 Award Winner in Autumn 2009. UnLtd, the charity for social entrepreneurs has provided practical help and business development support enabling Clare to access experienced mentors for advice and guidance.
Through support from UnLtd, she recently attended the MADE festival for Entrepreneurs in Sheffield and met Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, the Black Farmer. She also attended ex-Dragons Den investor, Doug Richard’s School 4 Start Ups 48hr Boot Camp receiving expert and pithy advice from the Californian serial entrepreneur and his team of specialists. http://www.schoolforstartups.co.uk/
Clare has recently been shortlisted for the Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneur of the UK 2010 and waits to hear from the judges whether she will go on to meet Stelios at a special judging lunch in London in October. In the meantime, she is continues grow her business and to develop new products. Prototypes of two new designs have been made and will be launched next year.
If you work hard and believe in yourself, people will take you seriously. Talk to people and connect on the web, there is a community of people with disabilities out there who will help and support you.
Hi. My name is Guy Harris and I started www.DisabledGear.com in 2009. It is a great business that is evolving. I started it because I felt that there was no decent alternative to the expense of always buying new. I wanted to create a Free-Ads website allowing people to buy & sell second hand disability equipment easily. I knew it had to be a free service and one that was clear and easy to use, with good functionality – i.e. searching for items by price, distance, or keyword – that kind of thing.
Planning was everything and from concept to launch was actually a long period, a year. The old saying “there’s no second chance for a first impression” is really true.
Starting your own business is hard work. Sometimes it seems that no matter what your business will do for others, it’s difficult to persuade them to take a few minutes to look at what you’ve got to show them. But what I know is that every contact with a customer is a golden opportunity to give them a reason to come back and tell all their friends. Customer service really counts. For me, this is easy because I really believe in what I am doing.
I had an RTA in 2003, as a result of which I am paralysed at L1. Predictably, a whole world that I knew nothing about has opened up in front of me, and the first piece of advice I would give to anyone setting out is: Do what you know. It shines through in your business and in your product. And flexibility is also crucial. I started selling new products because I wanted to pay for the free service I was offering. By choosing solutions to my problems, I have hit on some really popular products.
If it weren’t for my disability I wouldn’t have this business. My disability is my strength. I understand my product and I understand my customers. For example, I sell wheelchair jeans. When I found this manufacturer and saw the quality of the product, I was thrilled: finally I found the answer to a six year riddle. And I see the same reaction in my customers – except some of them have waited even longer!
To others thinking of starting a business I would always say: Go for it! It won’t be the easiest thing you’ve done. And there will be failures and lessons learned along the way. That’s all part of it. It’s not the falling down but the staying down that marks failure. If you’re the type to get up and dust yourself down and start again, it’ll add extra dimensions to your life, and provide immense satisfaction.
What is interesting is who supports you along the way and who won’t help at all. It’s never how you think it will be. Some organisations or people have really disappointed me. And others just make me smile, as they’re such a pleasure to deal with. Integrity and perseverance are everything. I have started small, because it was on limited funds and I wanted to get things right. And being small means I have to do everything! This means I learn all the different jobs, so that if I grow to employing people, I’ll never be asking anyone to do anything I haven’t done – except get stuff off a high shelf!
Me? I wouldn’t have it any other way.
A tonsillectomy that went wrong left me, at the age of four, with a life of hearing and speech problems and way too many hospital visits!
Whilst that certainly affected my confidence and limited me in some ways, it was actually undiagnosed dyspraxia that caused me more problems – I’m not great at blindly following rules, especially if I find them illogical and I can’t count the number of times I have been criticised for my handwriting! Like many people of my age my dyspraxia was only diagnosed by accident when my daughter was diagnosed and I saw that we had the same issues.
But after 20+ years in the NFP sector it was actually an arm injury at work, that left me unable to drive, that made me take stock and in October of 2010 I finally decided make the leap and go self-employed and after a period of training I launched Jane’s Social Media in March of 2012.
Social media is an amazing tool for giving people a voice and my community work background means that I really “get” how important this is. My work now is mostly delivering training for individuals and organisations on how to use social media really strategically and authentically. I am an ethical trader and also deliver training to entrepreneurs and organisations on how to sell ethically.
I love being self-employed. I am naturally entrepreneurial, solution-focussed and systematic. It allows me to be creative, make mistakes and follow my own style. But also of course it means if I am tired I just have a lie down; not always an option in a public office!
My training style means that I increasingly work with people with dyslexia and on the autistic spectrum and I am opening up those discussions. In 2013 I am going to work with a local film maker, to produce a short informative film on Dyspraxia, which is still largely misunderstood and un-funded.
As a trainer I have really had to face my discomfort head-on and have grown into myself big time. In fact 2012, my second year in business, has seen me win Sole Trader of the Year award (North West) and produce and sell my first ebook Super Women of Lancashire, It’s a book that shares the wonderful stories of 26 ordinary women that chose entrepreneurship. That feels good!
For more information visit Jane’s website.
I’m autistic. Life was never easy, especially at school – I knew I was different and found it hard to make friends.
When I was 14, I started taking my video camera to film various family gatherings and holidays. My very first film was my uncle getting ready for my Cousin’s wedding – a long process, as it was full Scottish regalia! I reversed the film, added music, credits and I had produced my first short film. I found it easy to make and especially enjoyed the editing – something I still enjoy today. I made over 30 short films after that; the one I’m most proud of is ‘Autism & Me’ which has won many awards and is released worldwide on DVD through Jessica Kingsley Publishers (www.jkp.com) .
I get really heart-warming e-mails and messages from families all over the world who have been affected by autism and I go into schools and organisations where they show my film and do Q&A sessions and talk about my autism.
Then the music took over!
I started making music (electronic stuff using samples and also live instrumentation) when I was 18, influenced by DJs like Fatboy Slim,and Freddy Fresh from USA. I’m lucky as my mum and dad are musicians, so music has always been a big part of our lives. I put some tracks on MySpace to see what the reaction would be and within two weeks I’d had amazing feedback, and the offer of a record contract with non-other than one of my heroes, Freddy Fresh, who runs Howlin’ Records in America. Now I’m on my fourth album, I’ve had vinyl EPs released through BigM Productions (Germany), various remixes and collaborations on various labels worldwide, including the legendary SKINT Records label, and lots of forthcoming releases in the pipeline. I’ve also since had e-mails from Fatboy Slim himself praising my work! Other people who have sent me messages of praise include Mr Scruff, DJ Cam, Ali Shaheed Muhamed from A Tribe Called Quest, Fake Blood/DJ Touche and many others. How cool is that?!
Here’s some of the other stuff “in a nutshell” I’ve been doing.
My music has been played regularly on BBC Radio Craig Charles Funk & Soul Show.
I have a monthly Radio Show on RAMP FM (Based in Berlin) called ‘Funktion Junction’. I also have a weekly show on ID Radio called ‘Sounds Like Big Beat’.
I have also produced some minimixes for Disneyland Paris, which are being played on the street and in the shops and café’s in the Disney Village.
I’ve featured many times on British and American TV including the NBC ‘Today’ Show in USA, ITV, BBC and Sky. I’ve also featured many times on UK Radio Stations and Worldwide Press and Magazines.
‘Autism & Me’ won a Royal Television Society nomination, UNICEF award, 6 National Awards, including one from Film Director Guy Ritchie and is widely used in schools and by professionals worldwide to promote understanding of autism.
One of my tracks ‘Right On Funk Jam’ was on the PRS Dance Podcast and I also featured in the PRS ‘M’ magazine.
I won an international remix competition for Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip (Sunday Best Records run by BBC Radio 1 DJ Rob Da Bank).
I’m Youth Patron of the London based charity Resources for Autism and was invited to a special reception at the House of Lords to mark their 10 year anniversary.
I am a Centenary Ambassador for the large charity ‘UK Youth’ 2010 and feature in many promotions including Film, TV, Radio, Press and Festivals. I continue to be an Ambassador for UK Youth.
I am the founder and owner of Access All Areas, one of the UK‘s premier access auditing companies. I also own the disability information resource Ableize and run a mind, body and soul internet directory and I am the editor of disability directory called the Best of the Web.
I am (cough) 52 years of age and a tetraplegic wheelchair user after a motorcycle accident in 1976.
I am a self-confessed workaholic, my access auditing takes me to all areas of the UK and I have a client list ranging from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the DWP to Capital One.
I help businesses comply with the Equality Act 2010 to ensure they meet the needs of people with disabilities. I take great pride in my work in finding the right solution at the right cost.
Meanwhile, my Ableize directory, blog and forum is now the UK’s largest and most comprehensive disability, health and mobility resource.
Living and travelling in a wheelchair continues to be a struggle and gets that bit tougher as the years tick by, but rather than slow down, I seem to be taking on greater challenges to prove to myself and the world that there is always the opportunity to better yourself and make a difference.
I have had 18 rounds of surgery – losing most of my insides along the way including my bowel and bladder. I have been left with two stoma bags and nerve damage as a result of the surgery and problems after having MRSA through surgery. I now walk with two sticks and suffer with severe back problems.
Despite my disability, subsequent rehousing and having to bring up my two teenage daughters alone, I decided to go to university. I graduated with a 2:1 honours in Healing Arts and Applied Study from Derby University and stayed on to work as an officer mature and disabled students for a year.
From there, I went on to take the role of Disability Discrimination Act Advisor for Disability Direct in Derby but I felt quite frustrated by the limitations of the job, and took steps to start up as a consultant in my own right. Sadly, a setback saw me having major surgery which led to further complications and I was more or less back to square one.
But that was then. I’ve since founded my own charity – www.meanddee.co.uk where I create around 20 special moment treats a month for terminally ill people as well as running a fast-track nomination process for local hospices and hospitals around Birmingham. In addition, I have set up the “me&dee comfort pack scheme”, where I provide support and a listening ear to parents who are too worried about their ill child to look after themselves. The comfort packs for parents contain everything two adults would need for two days from cups with hot drinks and soup sachets to towels and toiletries and pens etc. Children and teenagers have toiletries and age-appropriate toys.
It may have been a struggle to get where I have but I know that if it wasn’t for my experiences, I would never have been able to set up me&dee charity and help others.
When I was 23, my life changed overnight. I came home from one of many sporting activities I used to enjoy, with horrendous pain in my feet.I couldn’t walk the following day, nor the day after that. Weeks turned into months which very quickly turned into years. Finally, after ten years of numerous consultations with specialists who just couldn’t understand my condition, I was diagnosed with erythromelalgia, a rare nervous system disorder which causes burning pain in the hands or feet.
No one was able to tell my husband and I know if my condition was genetic and if it would affect any children we had, so we decided to take the risk. Pregnancy made my condition deteriorate and I became bedridden for about four months. I started making jewelry (in bed!) to try to keep myself occupied.
And later, when I started being able to socialize again, people would ask me where I got my jewelry from, and where they could buy something like it. So I made a small investment, set up the website and registered myself as a business. And that is how Inner Fyre Bespoke Jewellery was born.
I’ve learnt how to set up and run a small business, and do all my own accounts and tax returns. I’ve learnt about marketing and advertising and I’m enjoying the thrill of not reporting to a line manager and making my own decisions, knowing that this business will return as much as I’m willing to put into it. And best of all, I can work it around caring for our little angel. I’m convinced that Inner Fyre would not have happened if it weren’t for the physical problems I’ve experienced.
I am a wheelchair user due to cerebral palsy. I am originally from Germany but I have been living in the UK since 1999.
When I left Staffordshire University in 2007, I found it extremely hard to find a job. I then started thinking I should really begin to write down my business idea – until then I had not really considered that running my own business would be a viable option for me. How wrong was I? In 2009 Habermann Translation was born…
We specialise in translations from English into German and from German to English. The business is currently run this under the permitted work scheme. Our aim is to provide an excellent service to our customers. We achieve this by tailoring our service to customer’s individual needs. We will not take on more than we can confidently handle, in other words if we get a job then we will not take other jobs on until we have completed and delivered it to the customer.
As painters’ careers go, Marcus Krackowizer has certainly not followed a traditional path on the way to carving out a reputation as a highly successful modern impressionist artist.
Born in Vienna and raised in Essex, a freak diving accident at 18 left Marcus confined to a wheelchair with little control over the movements of his hands. With typical tenacity he didn’t let it change his life ambitions, graduating with an MSc in Aeronautical Engineering from Imperial College London before a brilliant 20 year global engineering career working for companies including Marshall Aerospace and BAE Systems.
Several years ago he made another life-changing decision – to follow a childhood passion for painting. Leaving behind the huge pay cheques, travel and corporate life, Marcus is now an in-demand artist with collectors around the world.
With over 50% of the population reportedly feeling unsatisfied and unchallenged by their jobs Marcus proves that there is life and happiness beyond the security of the 9-5 routine. To see some of Marcus’s work go to: http://www.modern-impressionist.com/
I run the UK’s only not-for-profit specialist job board, Evenbreak. Run by disabled people for disabled people, I started the site after becoming disabled in my 40s following unsuccessful surgery to treat a spinal condition.
Forced to lie flat for at least 22 hours a day, unable to sit at a desk, the only way I can work is by lying flat with a laptop suspended above me.
Having employed disabled people, and now experiencing life as a disabled person myself I wanted to bring inclusive employers (who understand the benefits of employing disabled people) and talented disabled job seekers together. Although Evenbreak is still quite new, we have attracted a number of large employers, a large number of candidates and most importantly we have already helped disabled people find work – some of whom thought they might never work again.
With a background in social work, I used to work with disabled people and I was always amazed that such talented people tended to be clustered in the low paid, low status jobs (if they were lucky enough to have jobs at all). I would urge employers to look past people’s disabilities and value what they have to offer.
My name is Alexandra Innes, I’m a 37 year old retail business owner “Dee-Vine Living”, specializing in Vintage & Antique furniture, collectibles & clothing How did I end up in business? This can be answered by telling you my history.
Having been diagnosed with arthritis and fibromyalgia in my mid-teens I led a reasonably normal life, being able just to limit things without making a big issue of it. Now going into my twenties sadly after a bad fall during pregnancy with my second child I set off a snowball of events.
As someone who enjoys nothing more than using her brain I managed to carry on with suitable jobs and on the side gained three diplomas from studying at home. It wasn’t until approximately seven years ago my health started to spiral downwards, ending with me having to give up the job I loved within the family business, and becoming bedbound due to immobility and my body shutting down. I was in and out of hospital (and still am) with a number of different health issues, whilst all the time tackling with my brain. During the time I was bed bound I started to find this love of buying and selling mainly jewellery and vintage wedding gowns, even waiting to go into the operating theatre I would be on my mobile securing a sale, this is something that has stayed constant in my life. Once I felt I could return to work, I tried, tried and tried again, but sadly I could no longer fulfil the needs of the role, due to mobility problems along with other heath disabilities, it was just too much, and I found myself time and time again trying and failing very quickly.
My brain was willing to work full throttle, but my body was left in the dust. So, here is where I find myself questioning will I ever get back to work?? Of cause the blows along with now 20yrs of struggling health wise was pulling me down, the only thing I could do was use all my skills I have gathered in the retail industry, everything I have learnt from being stuck in bed attached to the computer, to my advantage, if I can’t fulfil the role criteria for someone else, how about I cut out the someone else!! My path was clear, I needed to do what I do best, and do it for myself. Dee-Vine Living,
Antique & Vintage Store was launched last June to such a fantastic response, and the support I have received has been more than I could ever have wished for. Running my own Boutique shop means that the business can work around me when I need to attend hospital/physio appointments or just need a rest. The business also keeps me going when I’m having a bad day, I look at what I have achieved and feel very proud that I didn’t let my disabilities rule my future. I now hope to inspire other people similar to me to do the same, all it takes is a love or a dream and you will find the inner strength to reach for your goal.
Before the accident that left him disabled, Max Burt was a successful advertising executive who was about to start his own business. On 2nd November 1999, having resigned from work, Max had gone into the office to clear his desk, and on the way home his car collided with a fire engine attending an emergency that had passed through a red light.
After spending 10 months in hospital with life-threatening injuries, Max came home having healed broken bones and internal injuries, but was left with a head injury. This injury left him with paralysis down his left side, speech issues and permanently in a wheel chair; meaning he required 24-hour care. Having his life changed out of recognition and dealing with a constant lack of independence, Max sought to put his life back together.
Ten years after his accident Max moved to Australia, just outside of Sydney, and found himself resuming many activities that he had left behind in the UK. Running two charities – one in the UK and one in Australia – Max has become an advocate for disabled people and has started building a new rewarding life; one which he argues could be better than the one he left behind before the accident.
Since his accident, Max has completed bike rides within his trike to raise awareness and money for various disability causes, and has worked tirelessly to raise awareness. While in the UK he was part of ‘Images of Disability’ – an initiative backed by the government, as well as being an associate member of the Broadcasting and Creative Industries Disability Network and the Employers Forum on Disability. He also campaigned for improved toilet facilities for disabled people in London through ‘Changing Places’ and became a committee member of the National Association of Disabled Football Supporters.
He now runs Max Burt Consulting, which provides advice for businesses on marketing disability-related products and advice on how to make brands more welcoming and inclusive to disabled consumer.
Amar established his business in 2005 with the aim of helping blind people experience world travel. Sighted travellers join the visually impaired on trips to destinations including Cuba, Canada, Italy and Spain, acting as their ‘eyes’ by describing their surroundings.
Since the injection of the £50,000 prize from Stelios, Traveleyes has expanded into new markets across the world. Using the prize money to expand the business into new markets, the company now has a customer base in America, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Amar has also been able to employ extra staff in the UK and has launched a PR awareness campaign for Traveleyes which has helped to make people aware of the concept of travel for the visually impaired.
Holidays in Iceland and South Africa were added to the portfolio for 2008, which both became fully booked within a few weeks of going up on the website. Revenue figures for May 2008 to April 2009 increased by 130%.
An action-packed actor turned entrepreneur from Newbury won theStelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneurs 2009.
John Pickup, 40 an amputee, began Amputees in Action, a company that specialises in supplying amputee extras and stuntmen for Hollywood films, television and for armed forces casualty training in 2004. The firm’s artistes have featured in a number of big-screen blockbusters including Gladiator, 28 Weeks Later, Band of Brothersand Saving Private Ryan and popular TV shows like Doctor Who.
John was presented with a cheque for £50,000 by Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou. Sir Stelios said: ‘I am passionate about encouraging the enterprising spirit and working with Leonard Cheshire Disability to set up the Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneurs.
‘I would like to warmly congratulate John. He runs a successful business and displays the drive, creativity and determination to reach the top and really fly. The £50,000 prize will help to ensure that Amputees in Action has a great platform for growth.
‘With around 50 per cent of disabled adults out of work, removing the barriers disabled people face in business is essential. Self-employment is a more viable option for many disabled people as it offers flexibility and helps bypass much of the prejudice that unfortunately still exists amongst employers.’
John Pickup said: ‘It’s a great honour to have won this fantastic award and to have Amputees in Action recognised in this way.
‘£50,000 will mean we can invest in a project to work with the Stunt Register and Actors Equity to develop a competency award system, similar to NVQs that would enable amputees to perform stunts.
‘We have held many workshops for amputees in acting and basic stunt skills. They give our artists more confidence but these are not yet recognised qualifications – we would like to change that.
‘For the business to grow, it is all about the backing not only of our clients but the trust and support of professional organisations who represent them. I believe that a positive approach is the way to overcome the fear, prejudice and misconception that often stand in the way of disabled people.’
Stelios Haji-Ioannou and the Stelios Philanthropic Foundation have announced the winner of the Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneurs in the UK 2010, the prestigious, annual award run in partnership with the charity Leonard Cheshire Disability. The award, now in its fourth year, recognises the achievements and unique challenges faced by entrepreneurs with disability.
Vanessa Heywood, a 41-year-old Radlett resident, was presented with a cheque for £50,000 at the Growing Business Awards in London on Thursday night (25 November) for her company – Tiny Mites Music – which offers live and recorded interactive music sessions aimed at young children.
Vanessa was selected from an impressive range of applicants for her business acumen, performance, originality and entrepreneurial passion. Beyond the £50,000, she and her company will also benefit from specialist support courtesy of the Stelios Scholar Reach-out Programme.
When Vanessa was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1995, she had to give up her career as a professional actress, singer and dancer. Never one to quit in the face of adversity, the single mother-of-two, who once graced the stages of London’s West End decided to set up a business that took advantage of her musical talent, while allowing her to manage the symptoms of her disability.
Today, the business has grown and Vanessa has contracts with a number of large holiday parks, nursery chains and schools, and has brought out a Tiny Mites CD. Vanessa also provides Tiny Mites Birthday parties for under 5’s and is now working on preparing her nationwide franchise operation. Vanessa is very excited about premiering her interactive musical “Tiny Mites at the Seaside” at the Radlett Centre Theatre in August 2011.
Commenting on her achievement, Vanessa said: “I am absolutely thrilled to have won this Award, and would like to thank Sir Stelios, the Stelios Philanthropic Foundation and Leonard Cheshire Disability for making this possible. This is going to make such a difference to my business and my life.
“Music is a passion for me; it is the family business. I used to perform in musicals and plays as diverse as West Side Story, Twelfth Night and Elvis. My father, a professional trombonist who toured with Frank Sinatra, taught me never to give up and to strive for perfection.
“The idea of writing new, inspiring, interactive music for young children came to me in 2004. I wanted to connect with really young children with new, fun material that could cultivate a life -long love of music.”
Looking after her two young sons by day and working by night, Vanessa wrote in her lounge, often sleeping on the sofa when she was unable to make it up the stairs. Over an eight month period, Vanessa wrote 36 songs and created a group of characters, the Tiny Mites, which sprung from stories she told her children.
Sir Stelios said: “I would like to congratulate Vanessa on running a successful business and displaying the drive, creativity and determination to reach the top and really fly. The £50,000 prize will ensure Tiny Mites Music has an important boost for growth. Today, she joins our community of entrepreneurs who are making a difference.
This year, Stelios couldn’t decide between two of the finalists, so both won joint first prize!
Rob Smith, 36, who has a spinal injury, and Huw Thomas, 64, who has muscular dystrophy, both saw off tough competition to win the prestigious award. The winners will benefit from £50,000 each to grow their business.
Sir Stelios said: ‘I would like to congratulate Rob and Huw on running successful businesses and displaying the drive, creativity and determination to reach the top and really fly. The £50,000 prize they have both received will ensure their businesses have an important boost for growth. Today, Rob and Huw join our community of entrepreneurs who are making a difference.
‘I am passionate about encouraging entrepreneurship through the Stelios Philanthropic Foundation, working in partnership with Leonard Cheshire Disability on this award. With around 50 per cent of disabled adults out of work, removing the barriers disabled people face in business is essential.’
The director of strategic partnerships and innovative projects at Leonard Cheshire Disability said: ‘Disabled people in business experience disadvantage and discrimination everyday largely through ignorance – this must change.
‘To win this award Rob and Huw had to prove that they are dynamic, driven and their businesses, which are meeting a need in the market, are destined to be a huge success.
‘Leonard Cheshire Disability leads the way in enabling disabled people to succeed in business and in employment, and campaigns to challenge people to change the way they see disability. Our partnership with Sir Stelios is helping the charity highlight the barriers disabled people face in the workplace and recognise the outstanding achievements of disabled entrepreneurs.’
The two winners will also benefit from specialist support courtesy of the Stelios Scholar Reach-out Programme.
Rob’s business, The Active Hands Company, designs, manufactures and sells gripping aids which allow disabled people with limited hand function to grip a wide variety of items.
When he sustained a spinal injury after falling 40 feet down a cliff in 1996, he realised there was a gap in the market for specialist equipment that would allow disabled people to live more independently. With the help of his mother, Marion, he began to design his products and they set up the company in 2007.
Rob said: ‘I am absolutely thrilled to have won this Award, and would like to thank Sir Stelios, the Stelios Philanthropic Foundation and Leonard Cheshire Disability for making this possible. This news is a terrific boost to my business and will inspire our whole team for the future.’
Rob was supported to make his application by Kevin Davey, Senior Business Advisor with Leonard Cheshire Disability’s Enabled4Growth team. Kevin also helped last year’s winner, Tiny Mites to make a successful application.
Rob’s products allow disabled people to live more independently and are fast becoming popular because they enable people to get a firm hold on almost anything, from gym equipment and snooker cues to Nintendo Wii controllers.
The products have proved particularly successful in the sports world; he has produced orders for GB Paralympic rowers and wheelchair rugby players. The gripping aids have also been filmed in use on Channel 4’s Incredible Athletes, a documentary about Paralympic athletes and BBC1’s Harry’s Arctic Heroes, following injured service personnel conquer the North pole.
Huw’s business, Promove UK, designs, manufactures and supplies specialist slings used to rescue, evacuate and transfer sick, injured, disabled or incapacitated people.
Huw said: ‘With this fantastic prize I will be able to expand my business much quicker. Thank you Sir Stelios and Leonard Cheshire Disability. After designing a sling for my own personal use, I realised there was a gap in the market for this kind of specialist equipment.
‘In running my business I face challenges every day. When I am away from home I need wheelchair accessible accommodation, which can limit my choices. When I travel on business I have to take a driver with me. And because I have limited use of my hands I find typing increasingly difficult and use voice recognition software.
‘But being disabled has its advantages, providing unique experiences and insights. According to a Chinese proverb “the gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials” and that is the philosophy I go by!’
Huw founded Promove UK with his business partner, Dana Thomas, in 2007. New designs by Huw were added to the line and the company quickly grew.
Today his customers include fire, ambulance and police services, schools and colleges, airport ground handlers, holiday organisations, care homes, social services, charities and disabled individuals. Promove also supply slings for humanitarian aid operations, and Huw’s products have been used recently in Haiti and India.
Dave Hawkins, 56, who is paraplegic following a road accident in 1980, faced stiff competition to win the Award in 2012 with Cyclone Technologies – a company which supplies wheelchairs and fitness equipment to disabled people in the UK, USA and Europe.
Products include bespoke, lightweight wheelchairs, accessible gym equipment, functional electrical stimulation equipment (designed for people with spinal injuries) and mobility devices for people with severe walking impairments.
David says: ‘I used to work in building and joinery, but after becoming paraplegic I had to move away from my original career path and retrain myself completely. I had to develop skills and knowledge of an industry which I had no previous experience.
‘One advantage of running a business aimed at other disabled people is that I have found I can empathise with my customers. I am at an advantage when I am choosing products and demonstrating their benefits to potential customers because we have faced similar hurdles.
‘I’m thrilled to have won this award. It means so much to me and will make the world of difference in our plans to grow the business. We were up against some tough competition from two well-respected, successful businessmen, and I’d like to offer them my best wishes.
‘Technology is the new frontier in the disabled market and there is a whole range of new products for different needs, from systems that can mechanically make a paralysed person walk, to innovations that can electronically trigger muscles.
‘The team and I are looking forward to continuing to take the business forward, and this prize will be a major part of that development.’
James King, who runs home extension firm Oliver James Garden Rooms, won the seventh annual Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneurs in the UK.
James, 47, is registered blind and also has dyslexia. He saw off tough competition to win, having made it to the final three in 2012 and narrowly missing out on the top spot.
James and his team design and build garden room extensions, which have tiled roofs, so unlike a traditional conservatory, the rooms are warm in winter and cool in summer.
But the journey to a growing, healthy business has not been a walk in the park for James. In his early 20s he began his career in the construction industry. It wasn’t until later that he was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a hereditary eye condition which affects the retina. James had to give up bricklaying and work around his disability, so he moved into contracting. However, as his vision deteriorated James decided he had to change direction. It was during this difficult time that the idea to set up a company making ‘garden rooms’ came to him.
James began trading in 2011 and now has a workforce of seven with a turnover of almost £300,000. He currently works with homeowners across Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire and Hertfordshire, but winning the award means he will be able to go ahead with plans to expand his client base to new areas of the country.
James says: ‘I’ve always had my own company and built the business around my disability. The inspiration has come from my vision problem. There are obstacles but you just have to accept them. Everyone has them, whether you’ve got a disability or not.
‘Because of my vision we have to overcome certain situations, but because of this we end up with a better standard. All of the good practises that we’ve put in have pretty much come as a result of my disability. For example, the build team and specialist contractors go above and beyond to make sure each project is safe, clean and tidy – if even a hammer was ever left out on site, they know I’d trip over it.’
Sir Stelios says: ‘I have been really impressed by the growth of James’ business and the way he is meeting a genuine need in the market. That is why he has won this award.
‘I am passionate about encouraging entrepreneurship, and the previous winners of this award offer proof that there are many highly talented disabled entrepreneurs out there.
‘With around 50 per cent of disabled adults out of work it is clear that there still is a long way to go. Removing the barriers disabled people face in business is essential, and I hope that this award goes some way to highlighting their achievements.’
The 2014 winner of the Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneurs was Ben Wolfenden.
Ben is the founder and client services director of Visibilis, offering digital marketing expertise to help businesses improve their online visibility. Ben has cystic fibrosis and insulin-dependent diabetes, and undergoes a gruelling regime of medication and physiotherapy every day.
Growing up, he was given a life expectancy of 30. Refusing to accept this, he is now 31 and looking to expand his business further. The Stelios Award provided funding to develop a new business plan, hire new staff and buy medical equipment to allow Ben to work more comfortably.