A 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.
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.”