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Disabled entrepreneurs enter dragons’ den

The Disability Confident campaign has extended its reach by holding a Dragons’ Den-style event for disabled entrepreneurs.

The event, called No Barriers to Business, was held with disabled business investment fund Kaleidoscope Investments.

It saw 4 disabled business people pitch their business ideas to a panel including the Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson, John Stapleton, co-founder of the New Covent Garden Soup Co and Richard Shackleton, from Stelios Philanthropic Foundation.

The other panelists were Seema Flower, managing director of hair salon ColourNation and Jared Jesner, founder of online currency exchange WeSwap.

Pitches included ‘designer crutches’ customised for people with mobility issues, an app which makes menus accessible for people who are blind and visually impaired and a travel company for disabled people

Wonderful experience

John Stapleton said the event was a “wonderful experience”. He added: “I think it’s a fantastic opportunity, not just from a disability point of view, but just hearing the great ideas from the entrepreneurs.”

Justin Tomlinson said: “All the entrepreneurs we heard from had business ideas drawn from real-life experiences. They have identified a problem and their business provides the solution.”

The event, on 24 February, highlighted entrepreneurship as an option for disabled people seeking work and looking to realise their ambitions, and emphasised the support to help them get up and running. While some entrepreneurs pitched new start-ups, others sought advice about their next-stage growth, offering a solid cross-section of businesses.

Entrepreneur Matt Wadsworth, who founded Good Food Talks and pitched his idea for ‘talking menus’, said: “If you have a disability, you’re quite well geared up for running a business, as you probably have a deeper understanding of that market.”

To support the event, a new joint publication was launched by DWP and Kaleidoscope Investments called Starting your business – a guide for disabled entrepreneurs, which offers tips and practical advice on setting up a business with case studies of disabled entrepreneurs.

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