Sir Stelios announces winners of the 16th year of the Disabled Entrepreneur Awards

Leading disability charity Leonard Cheshire and Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou have unveiled the winners of the Stelios Awards for Disabled Entrepreneurs 2024 in a ceremony hosted by the Stelios Philanthropic Foundation in central London.

The awards, now in their 16th year, offer a grand total of £200,000 in prizes to three disabled entrepreneurs in the UK who have established their own businesses and excelled in their chosen fields.

This year’s overall winner is Cedric Bloch, CEO of Brigit’s Bakery, renowned for its iconic afternoon tea London sightseeing bus tours and Covent Garden bakery. After sustaining a spinal injury in 2021 that left him paralysed from the chest down, Cedric’s resilience has driven him to continue growing his business. He has introduced the first wheelchair-friendly sightseeing bus to the fleet and plans to use the prize money to further enhance experiences for disabled people, including creating the first electric-powered 1960s Routemaster bus.

Cedric Bloch expressed his gratitude: “I feel truly blessed to win this award. Being disabled, we are used to dealing with challenges and difficulties. This prize will help me future-proof the business, solidifying the company’s position and guaranteeing jobs for the long term.”

Second place winner Amelia Peckham founded Cool Crutches after a quad bike accident in 2005 left her reliant on mobility aids due to a spinal injury. Frustrated by uncomfortable hospital-issued crutches, Amelia and her mother developed a line of comfortable, colourful, and customisable crutches and walking sticks. Amelia plans to use the £60,000 prize money to expand into new markets and make their products more accessible.

Amelia Peckham highlighted the importance of the award: “To win this award is a serious career highlight. These awards celebrate all the incredible value disabled people bring to business and challenge outdated stigmas in the best way.”

Third prize went to Debra Cartlidge, founder of the School of Sign Language & The White House Deaf Specialist. Despite being told she would never amount to anything, Debra worked multiple jobs, learned sign language, and pursued education while raising a family. Her School of Sign Language supports the deaf community, and she plans to use the £40,000 prize to develop a Deaf College for post-16 education.

Debra Cartlidge shared her mission: “Winning this award is not just a personal achievement, but also a testament to the incredible journey my amazing staff team have been on together! We will continue to inspire and empower others to believe in their dreams and strive for a more inclusive future.”

Since the awards began in 2006, a total of £1,500,000 (including this year’s sum) has been donated by Sir Stelios and his foundation to recognise the exceptional achievements of disabled entrepreneurs.

Sir Stelios, creator and owner of the easy family of brands, commented: “We’re proud to honour Cedric, Amelia, and Debra today. These are three stand-out examples of how disabled entrepreneurs are blazing the trail for others and inspiring more disabled people to start their own businesses.”

The Stelios Philanthropic Foundation is also donating £20,000 to Leonard Cheshire to support the running of this year’s awards.

Ruth Owen, Chief Executive of Leonard Cheshire, added: “We are committed to making sure that we not only recognise but celebrate the voices and achievements of disabled individuals. This year’s applicants have shown remarkable business skills and unwavering resilience, reflecting a thriving community of disabled entrepreneurs in the UK.”

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