Talented Leeds businessman wins Sir Stelios prize for UK’s top disabled entrepreneur

  • Winner of the £50,000 Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneurs 2014 announced
  • Entrepreneur has cystic fibrosis and diabetes, and defies the odds to live beyond his life expectancy

LCDisability Stelios Ben WolfendenA 31-year-old Leeds-based entrepreneur who was told he wouldn’t live past 30, has won the prestigious Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneurs 2014 run by EasyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou and the charity Leonard Cheshire Disability.

Ben Wolfenden received a £50,000 cash prize to help grow his business, Visibilis, at a special awards ceremony in London this evening.

Ben, who has 50 per cent lung function, suffers from cystic fibrosis and diabetes. He started digital marketing agency Visibilis in 2010 to help businesses grow online. Despite undergoing a gruelling regime of medication and five hours of physiotherapy every day, Ben and his team have grown Visibilis by over 1000% in the year from 2012 to 2013, with 2014 exceeding expectations.

Ben strives to get everything out of life after sadly losing his elder sister to cystic fibrosis. Ben also has a five month old son Max, an IVF baby, who gives him every reason to continue to work hard and fight his disability.

Award winner Ben Wolfenden said:

“My disability has meant I’ve never been able to have a ‘conventional’ job.  I’m unable to work in a carpeted, air-conditioned or dusty environment. So instead of feeling sorry for myself I became determined to create a successful business that worked for me.

“Winning the Stelios Award is great recognition of what Visibilis has achieved over the last few years. I look forward to investing the money in developing the business, employing some key staff and purchasing an air filtration system for the office to ensure the environment is optimal for my deteriorating lungs. This will allow me to continue to do what I love and grow a thriving business.

“I want to say a big thank you to the Stelios Philanthropic Foundation and Leonard Cheshire Disability for running these awards.”

Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou said:

“I have been really impressed by the growth of Ben’s business and the way he is meeting a genuine need in the market, which is why he won the 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 the Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneurs goes some way to highlighting their achievements.”

Leonard Cheshire Disability Chief Executive, Clare Pelham, said:

“For many of us, whether we are disabled people or non-disabled people, work is what gives us financial independence, companionship beyond our family and an important way of making a contribution to our community.

“Whether we make things people want to buy or provide services that people need, we rely on a very special breed of person – entrepreneurs – to provide that work. They take risks, they are brave, they are imaginative and we should cherish them.

“It is typical of Sir Stelios to champion the cause of entrepreneurs.  And especially wonderful that he has shown consistent commitment over the years to celebrating and supporting disabled entrepreneurs. This is a prize unashamedly about excellence. Every finalist is a winner. And Ben deserves both our special congratulations and our thanks.”

Minister of State for Disabled People, Mark Harper, said:

“As these awards show, disabled people have tremendous talents and skills. We’re banishing outdated ideas about what disabled people are capable of in society and showing that they are some of this country’s most innovative and business-minded people.”

Leonard Cheshire Disability is the UK’s largest voluntary sector provider of services for disabled people. . Its services include high-quality care and community support together with innovative projects supporting disabled people into education, employment and entrepreneurship. Visit: www.leonardcheshire.org, follow us on Twitter: @LeonardCheshire and Facebook: www.facebook.com/LeonardCheshireDisability

The Stelios Philanthropic Foundation is committed to dynamic philanthropy: making a positive, exponential difference through funding, inspiring and advising educational, entrepreneurial and environmental initiatives. To find out more visit; www.stelios.com

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