Category Archives: disabled entrepreneur

Hannah Ensor on receiving a National Diversity Awards nomination

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Thank you, Hannah, for letting us repost this.  (reposted from Stickman Communications) We think more disabled women should be encouraged to be positive role models! Good luck to Hannah!

hannah ensorThe other day I received a message from one of my customers, they wanted to nominate me for the National Diversity Awards.

I was surprised and really pleased – it is nice to know that my stickmen are doing their job – communicating in a positive way about disability.

I have been nominated for the ‘Positive Role Model’ (Disability) category.

And I have had confirmation that I/Stickman Communications has been nominated in the Entrepreneur of Excellence (Disability) category at the UK’s largest Diversity Awards.

People will be shortlisted based on quantity of nominations, quality of nominations, how strongly their work relates to the category they’ve been nominated in, and evidence provided by the nominee themselves.

According to the blurb from the charity I should now start a huge publicity campaign to shout about how awesome I am and how my stickmen are making the world a better place so I get more nominations. This strikes me as a bit excessive. So this blog is all you get: If you’d like to nominate me under any category you think fits me, please do so. If not – don’t! 😀

Below is the official press release info:

Hannah Ensor, a cartoonist from Oxfordshire has been nominated for the Entrepreneur of Excellence (disability) award at The National Diversity Awards.

The ceremony celebrates some of the excellent and inspiring achievements of positive role models and community organisations from across the UK. The awards aim to recognise nominees in their respective fields of diversity including age, disability, gender, race, faith, religion and sexual orientation.

 Hannah Ensor lives with HMS/EDS (being far too bendy and falling apart) and PoTS (tap-dancing heart and appearing drunk without alcohol). For her, life with an uncooperative body is normal and the freedom of having a great set of wheels is simply marvellous.

Although initially trained as an Environmental Health Officer, her conditions deteriorated significantly in her mid 20’s and she was medically retired a few years later in 2010. Around this time, Hannah Ensor’s stickmen based approach to disability started as a way to communicate while unable to put a sentence together. It naturally grew into a business – communicating about disability with charm, humour, and unerring accuracy.

Her online shop www.stickmancommunications.co.uk stocks a whole range of her products, from stickers with her ‘Positive Disability Symbol’ design, to ‘differently normal’ wristbands, and Keyring Cards which help the user explain about their disability/how they are feeling/what they need effectively and with humour. From children’s books full of life and laughter – which just happen to include disability as normal, to cartoon gift books suitable for all ages which communicate about various aspects of life with disabilities, with humour and unerring accuracy.
Alongside the shop, Hannah’s blog, peppered with stickmen, works to raise understanding and acceptance of disability, not because she campaigns, but because she writes with openness and humour about her life in a way that is easy to relate to, and her enjoyment of life shines through.

Hannah also works closely with the Hypermobility Syndrome Association (for which she was appointed Patron for kids and teens in 2012) supporting others with her conditions and helping them make positive choices in managing it.

Some comments from her customers:

“Utterly inspiring and hilarious, she’s changing perspectives on disability in a fabulous way”
“I would never have put a universal disability logo on the car because of embarrassment but now I have this positive logo and I love it – I even have it on my kayak and I’m proud to show the world I’m positively different.”
“You have given me hope, thank you very much. I only saw dark days ahead of me but I think I should look at it differently. If I lose the use of my legs then there will be other experiences that I may never have tried. Thank you for being an inspiration with your attitude to life.”

The National Diversity Awards 2013 in association with Microsoft will be held at The Queens Hotel, Leeds on September 20th.  Britain’s most inspirational people will come together to honour the rich tapestry of our nation, recognising individuals and groups from grass roots communities who have contributed to creating a more diverse and inclusive society.

Big Brother host Brian Dowling and CBeebies presenter Cerrie Burnell will be hosting this year’s event. The awards have also gained support from a number of celebrities including Stephen Fry, Beverley Knight and Ade Adepitan – and the Likes of Paralympic champion Jody Cundy, and Journalist Amal Fashanu were amongst last year’s attendees.

The largest diversity awards ceremony of its kind has generated great sponsors such as the co-operative Group, Sky, The Open University and Price Waterhouse Coopers.

Theresa McHenry, of Microsoft UK, said ‘The National Diversity Awards are a wonderful way to recognise the extraordinary contribution of real people to our communities.  It’s a delight to be able to support this fantastic celebration of local heroes.’

Amongst last year’s winners was gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who scooped up The Lifetime Achiever Award; Trade Union activist Zita Holbourne who was awarded the positive role Model for Race and The Anthony Walker foundation, a charity established following the tragic murder of its namesake in a racially motivated attack.

The National Diversity Awards received an astonishing amount of nominations for last year’s event.

Paul Sesay, Chief Executive of The National Diversity Awards said, ‘if ever there was a time to celebrate and elevate the truly staggering diversity of talent the UK has to offer – it is now’

‘I know another fantastic spectacle of role models will be delivered and recognised this year’.

Nominations are now open and close July 19th 2013 – so don’t miss out on your chance to get involved!

Shortlisted nominees will be announced shortly after this date.

To nominate Hannah Ensor please visit: www.nationaldiversityawards.co.uk
Or for a nomination form please email: emma@thediversitygroup.co.uk

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Congratulations Sarah Rennie!

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A bit late but we would like to congratulate Sarah on her new role!

Sarah Rennie

Sarah Rennie, from the West Midlands, is the new President of the Access Association.

Having been a qualified property litigation solicitor, she founded a disability and access consultancy company, which provides access advice, training and disabled consumer feedback programmes for nationwide companies. At the moment she is pursuing an MSc in Accessibility and Inclusive Design.

We are in for an exciting year as in her statement of intention Sarah stated ‘ Now is the time to be bold. We have nothing to lose, much to claw back and an awful lot to gain.’

Sarah Rennie – entrepreneur

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I read this interview with Sarah by Liz at Libro and thought I must share it here. I got to know Sarah from the Access Association and before long I was in awe.  She’s dynamite and is also extremely practical – just the right combination as a disabled business woman. Read on –

(reposted with kind permission from libroediting.com)

Welcome to Saturday Business chat. Today we meet Sarah Rennie from Rennie Consulting. I first met Sarah at the Birmingham Entrepreneurs meetup, when she was just setting up her business, and we both turn up at a number of other events in Birmingham. We’ve had some excellent chats and exchanged experiences as we’ve gone along our different paths – some things about running small businesses are surprisingly similar, whatever it is you actually do!

And what Sarah does is really important. After 3 years practising as a property litigation solicitor, Sarah left to set up her own disability and access consultancy company. She supports businesses and organisations who have a certain reputation to protect. By reviewing physical access, running workshops and implementing mystery shopping programmes, she checks her clients are offering services to disabled people in a dignified and commercial manner.

What’s your business called? When did you set it up?

Oh I was imaginative with that one … Rennie Consulting! I couldn’t think of a name that wasn’t either really naff (like ‘Access4U’) or broad enough to let me diversify. I set up in December 2010.

What made you decide to set up your own business?

I had confidence in myself, skills and business offering. Having no dependants and knowing that my initial overheads would be minimal, there was no sensible reason not to. Then I just dared myself into it!

What made you decide to go into this particular business area?

I was born with my particular disability and have been a wheelchair user all my life. At Uni and work, I was notorious for writing letters to customer services departments of big companies to tell them where they were either breaking the law, wasting money or offering inadequate levels of customer service to me and other disabled people. Being a qualified lawyer, I knew the law and being a discerning consumer, I knew what standards of service to expect! It seemed natural to go behind the scenes of these organisations and support them to offer the right services to disabled people in the right way.

Had you run your own business before?

Nope. One day I was at the bottom of the pecking order in an international law firm and the next day I made myself the boss!

How did you do it? Did you launch full-time, start off with a part-time or full-time job to keep you going … ?
Handed in my notice and then had a think. I wrote one of my ‘special letters’ to the managing director of a huge company telling him about my experience of their services as a disabled consumer. He called me in for a coffee and gave me a whopper of a contract! Best Christmas present ever. We became good mates, actually.

What do you wish someone had told you before you started?

From a freelance consultant’s perspective: don’t expect too much loyalty from people you know beforehand. However positive they seem about you, they may not actually have the decision-making power to give you work! Imagine starting out knowing ’0 people’ and ask yourself if you think you can get complete strangers to believe in you.

What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?

“Sarah, don’t waste your money on ‘nice to haves’ (fancy websites and social media pages, etc.) too soon! Keep it lean and concentrate on strengthening your reputation.”

What do you wish you’d done differently?

Being so keen to network and prove my capabilities, I gave too much away for free. Several big companies were a bit naughty asking for my help, implementing my advice and then didn’t return the favour later on!

What are you glad you did?

It was right for me to concentrate on larger businesses rather than chasing lots of smaller contracts. Not only is this more efficient for me as a ‘one man band’, but it means that when clients implement my advice it has the potential to make a bigger difference to more disabled people like me. That pleases me greatly!

What’s your top business tip?

Get on Twitter. It’s free, keeps you connected to the world when you work alone and it may just win you work!

How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?

Grown and diversified. I started off concentrating on access audits (i.e., reviewing clients’ physical buildings for disabled access requirements). I then ran a disability ‘language and etiquette’ workshop for a client to help their staff feel more confident that they were saying and doing ‘the right thing’ around disabled people. These sessions have proved very popular since then. My current focus is really getting the mystery shopping side of the business off the ground – I’ve got a great bunch of talented and perceptive disabled people ready to offer my clients a great service.

Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time?

Still here and still happy. I wouldn’t mind being known as the wheelchair-user version of Mary Portas by that point!

The work Sarah does is so important. I grimly remember looking for venues for various events and finding companies that either didn’t seem to care about accessibility or tried to look like they cared but failed on the basic details. It’s not just relevant to disabled people themselves; anyone who organises any kind of event needs to take account of all sorts of accessibility needs, and I for one won’t look at a business that doesn’t take this seriously. Sarah’s actively improving life for hundreds of thousands of people who use the companies she works with, and I look forward to seeing her business grow and prosper. Although hopefully she won’t be as scary as Mary Portas!

You can find Sarah online at www.rennieconsulting.co.uk, email her or phone her on 0121 12234 606