Deaf entrepreneur from Milton Keynes shows that self-employment is a route to success

Shaw Trust Louis Francis carves out a path to successUnemployment across the UK has fallen below 2 million. One of the reasons unemployment has dropped over recent years is the ingenuity of disabled entrepreneurs. A deaf man from Milton Keynes is one example of the dynamism and commitment needed to start a business. Having faced long-term unemployment, Louis Francis sought help and advice from national employment, learning and skills charity, Shaw Trust, who supported him on the Work Choice programme.

Guided by Shaw Trust, he was given help to complete a business plan and start trading under Francis Stone Design as a stone mason. Supported by staff at Shaw Trust’s Milton Keynes centre on South Fifth Street, Louis was assigned to the charity’s Work Choice Employment Advisor, Kevin Daniells, who helped him to set out an action plan that would enable him to become self-employed. As a result of his hard work and dedication, and the support of Shaw Trust staff, Louis runs a successful business. Louis carves by hand to produce high quality artwork and is the first deaf stone mason in the United Kingdom. By employing traditional craftsmanship methods, Louis provides his customers the chance to buy truly unique products. Francis Stone Design offers a bespoke range of hand-carved products from memorials to house signs and plaques. Products can be viewed at www.francisstonedesign.co.uk

Work Choice is a Government supported employment programme designed specifically for people who due to their disability, may find it difficult to find or keep a job. Work Choice enables people to find and retain work by identifying their needs and providing the necessary support to fit their requirements. It is often the stepping stone into full or self-employment for many people.

With additional support through interpreting services – paid for through the Access to Work scheme – Louis took advantage of the opportunity to not only generate his own income on his own terms but show other people with disabilities that starting a business is an avenue open to them.

Louis says: “Without the support of the Work Choice programme, I would not have had the confidence to set up my own business. The scheme equipped me with the skills and know-how to draft a business plan and understand codes of practice, laws and regulations. Thanks to the programme, setting up a business went from being a scary prospect to an achievable goal – all of my fears dissipated with the support of Lokman Consulting and Shaw Trust. Entrepreneurs are the backbone of the British economy and I would encourage more people from the disabled community to consider starting their own business as a career option.”

Training provider Lokman Consulting will be offering courses on how to start a home-based business to deaf communities – taught exclusively by interpreters – because of their positive engagement with individuals like Louis. For more information contact zak@lokmanconsulting.com

Work Choice is a government programme to support clients, on a voluntary basis, with learning, mental health and physical disability/barriers to employment.

About Shaw Trust

Shaw Trust is a national employment, learning and skills charity that helps people facing disadvantage into work, gain skills and take control of their futures. Over the past thirty years, the Trust has striven to combine its charitable heart with its commercial brain to provide the very best support to the people it was set up to serve. www.shaw-trust.org.uk

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