Opinion

Is the entrepreneurial world the most accepting of diversity?

5 min read

26 February 2019

What makes a successful entrepreneur? The answer is not as complex as you might think. All you need to do is identify a problem, and solve it. This is exactly what budding entrepreneur Katie Redstar did when she started a successful company that offers sign-language services to businesses. Being deaf caused her to face discrimination in her past life, but entrepreneurialism opened new doors.

Some people are born with a natural entrepreneurial spirit while others are faced with a stark choice – give it a go or give up.

Anyone running their own business will readily admit that inspiration, determination and drive are the basic ingredients when creating successful SME.

Last week I took personal inspiration from the story of blossoming entrepreneur Katie Redstar, who became deaf after contracting meningitis at the age of three. If that wasn’t enough, she also suffers from a rare degenerative disease, which has left her visually impaired since birth. This condition will eventually claim her sight. However, what moved me isn’t the obvious tragedy of her situation, but the positivity and fighting spirit of someone who refuses to be beaten.

Katie Redstar: From unemployed to a soon-to-be millionaire entrepreneur

The 34-year-old from Leeds claimed that she was spurred into action after being told in 2017 by an adviser at her local Job Centre that her disabilities meant she was unable to work and that she would have to remain on benefits. A friend then asked her if she was prepared to accept the situation and she simply replied ‘no’.

Despite plenty of advice to the contrary, Katie then set about launching a business from home – Ignite Your Inner Light – which offers sign language training to companies around the world. Since then she has signed contracts with major companies, including a six-month deal with mobile network EE worth £250,000.

She is also determined to tear down the stereotypes, which surround the condition and identify and overcome the barriers which deaf people face surrounding employment. To that end, she has also signed a deal to write a book Sign for Profit to inspire others who find themselves in a similar situation. Katie is now on track to become a millionaire and is planning to buy a home in Portugal, as well as setting up a children’s home for differently-abled youngsters.

A stellar example of taking a problem – and solving it all the way to success

As many entrepreneurs do, Katie has taken a passion or a skill, in her case sign language and is monetising it. Best of all, by teaching individuals and companies this special form of communication, she is helping break down the very barriers to work that she herself faced.

“According to the latest Government figures, 7.5 million people reported they had a disability between July and September last year, 22% of the working age population. An estimated 3.9 million people of 16 to 64-year-old with disabilities were in work, a rate of 50.7%. The number of those in work with disabilities was 51.3% compared to 81.4% for those without a disability.”

She is not alone in offering this service in the UK and there are other organisations providing advice and support to companies in recruiting deaf people and supporting employees who experience hearing loss. However, this should not just about those who are hearing impaired as there remains a distinct disability gap in the UK when it comes to employment.

Entrepreneurialism is about knocking down doors, and entrepreneurs like Katie embody this

Now, I’m not advocating forcing someone with severe disabilities into work, but Katie’s own experience seems reflects a prevailing acceptance that those living with disabilities don’t deserve the necessary support and encouragement to help them achieve their ambitions – whether that’s getting a job or starting up their own business.

Katie was quoted in the Metro as saying: “Growing up I had doors closed in my face, people telling me I can’t do things because I’m deaf. It has just motivated me and now I’m showing people that just because I’m deaf doesn’t mean I can’t do things, that I can’t achieve things.”

As entrepreneurs we all face barriers, let’s knock them down together

Many an entrepreneur will sympathise, as they too will almost certainly have had to overcome the doom-mongers, those who said their vision was an impossibility. But for Katie to prove people wrong despite coping with deafness and visual impairment is in another league. Her strength and determination should be an inspiration to us all.