Ben Wolfenden won the prestigious Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneurs 2014 run by EasyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou and the charity Leonard Cheshire Disability.
Ben suffers from cystic fibrosis and diabetes. He started his 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 1,000% in the year from 2012 to 2013, with 2014 exceeding expectations.
“My disability has meant I’ve never been able to have a ‘conventional’ job,” said Ben, from Leeds. “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.”
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% 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.”
Minister 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 We’re banishing outdated ideas about what disabled people are capable of in society and showing that they are some of this country’s most innovative and business-minded people.”