DIASBLED businessman Alex Papanikolaou has won £10,000 and a place as a finalist in the Stelios Award for disabled entrepreneurs.
EasyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou and leading international charity Leonard Cheshire Disability today made the announcement that Alex was one of five finalists in a strong field of contenders.
Alex’s business, Freedom One Life, has developed a next-generation power wheelchair, designed to offer a step change in reliability, performance and support in the power wheelchair market.
He said: “I have cerebral palsy and have used power wheelchairs since school.
“In that time, I’ve visited over 175 cities in over 40 countries with my powerchair, but I was continually let down by it due to never-ending breakdowns and lack of service.
“It was limiting my life, rather than supporting my ambitions. This is what led to my vision of creating a more reliable, durable power wheelchair.”
Alex said he now enjoys being an entrepreneur as it allows him to be in charge of his own growth, as well as creating opportunities to improve other’s lives.
He added: “I am thrilled to have won this place as a finalist as it is another form of recognition for what started as an idea three years ago and is now growing into something very real.
“And it is something that is going to change how many wheelchair users live their life.”
The judges said the competition was particularly tough this year, following a record number of applications with business ideas including documentary makers, phone and software application developers, night photographers, vintage ice-cream makers, fashion designers and an accessible playground designer.
Sir Stelios said: “The interest in this year’s award – on our tenth anniversary – highlights the role entrepreneurs can take in helping combat unemployment among our disabled people.
“The sheer range of business ideas submitted this year will mean me and my team are going to have a challenging but immensely rewarding task ahead of us.”
The overall winner will win £30,000 and an additional four shortlisted applicants will each get £10,000.
Alex joins four other candidates: Dave Kelly, DaisyUk; Andrew Graham, PopUpGym; Matthew Wadsworth, Good Food Talks; Scott Smith, Invictus Active
A total of £70,000 in cash prizes will be won this year – making a grand total of £570,000 since 2006.
The award, jointly run by the Stelios Philanthropic Foundation and the charity Leonard Cheshire Disability, recognises the achievements of disabled entrepreneurs in the UK.
Past winners have been drawn from the travel agency, building and IT sectors as well as businesses specialising in disability/mobility aids and services.
The winner will be announced on November 10th 2016.
Leonard Cheshire Disability is the UK’s largest voluntary sector provider of services for disabled people.
With over 7,500 staff, the charity supports over 7,000 disabled people in the UK.
The Stelios Philanthropic Foundation backs a number of charitable initiatives supporting entrepreneurship, education and the environment in the UK, Greece and Cyprus.