Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, easyJet founder and philanthropist, and disability charity Leonard Cheshire have launched the largest ever financial prize for disabled entrepreneurs in the UK.
Prize money totalling £100,000 will be available from this year onwards, which will mean that in addition to the top prize of £30,000, and a finalist prize of £10,000 per person currently awarded to the winning disabled entrepreneurs chosen by Sir Stelios, smaller prizes of £5,000 will also be available.
All applicants will also be considered for ‘The Judge’s Prize’, a discretionary prize with a maximum of £10,000 chosen by independent judges that will recognise start-up or running businesses that show exceptional promise, but do not fit the standard award criteria.
Sir Stelios said: “I’ve never ceased to be amazed and impressed by the sheer range and ingenuity of the business ideas we get to see every year. Whether it’s a travel agency for the blind, an app to help people with mental health conditions manage them, or a travel seat to assist the disabled when boarding aircraft, the horizons now often appear limitless.
“And that’s how it should be. For too long we have pigeon-holed disabled people as a burden to be carried rather than a human resource to be developed and encouraged as we would any other. Here in the twenty-first century – far too many companies still turn their back on this fact. I think this award shows just what they’re missing.”
Neil Heslop, Chief Executive of Leonard Cheshire, said: “We are thrilled that Sir Stelios has continued his support for this Award, which presents a golden opportunity for disabled entrepreneurs hoping to launch and build their businesses.
“Entrepreneurship is a key route to prosperity for many disabled people, particularly given the challenge of the employment landscape.”
Jointly run by the Stelios Philanthropic Foundation and disability charity Leonard Cheshire since 2006, the Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneurs UK recognises the exceptional achievements of disabled entrepreneurs who have set up their own company and excel in their chosen business field.
All forms of entrepreneurship will be eligible to apply, including start-ups, social enterprise or up and running businesses, which are at least 50% owned by disabled people.
Applications are open from 6 June to16 September.