Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneurs: winner announced

Stelios announced Vanessa Heywood as the 2010 winner of the Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneurs in the UK at the Growing Business Awards, held at a gala ceremony last night in London.

Stelios presented Vanessa Heywood, the entrepreneur who founded and runs Tiny Mites Music, with a cheque for £50,000 at the awards. Tiny Mites Music offers life and recorded interactive music sessions aimed at young children.

Vanessa Heywood was praised by Stelios for her business acumen, performance, originality and entrepreneurial passion.

“I would like to congratulate Vanessa on running a successful business and displaying the drive, creativity and determination to reach the top and really fly,” commented Stelios. “The £50,000 will ensure Tiny Mites Music has an important boost for growth. Today, she joins our community of entrepreneurs who are making a difference.”

The Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneurs in the UK recognises the achievements and unique challenges faced by entrepreneurs with a disability. As well as the £50,000 cash prize, Vanessa Heywood will also benefit from specialist support via the Stelios Scholar Reach-out Programme.

“This is going to make such a difference to my business and my life,” said Vanessa Heywood. “I’m absolutely thrilled to have won this award, and would like to thank Stelios, the Stelios Philanthropic Foundation and Leonard Cheshire Disability for making this possible.”

Vanessa Heywood, 41, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1995, and had to give up her career as a professional actress, singer and dancer. But she didn’t let the disease stop her from continuing to be creative, and instead set up a business that took advantage of her musical talents while allowing her to manage the symptoms of her disability.

Today, Tiny Mites Music has contracts with a number of large holiday parks, nursery chains and schools. As well as bringing out Tiny Mites CDs, Vanessa Heywood provides Tiny Mites birthday parties for under-fives, and is now working on franchising her business nationwide.

Zuhura Plummer, corporate partnerships officer at Leonard Cheshire Disability, the organisation that the Stelios Foundation is partnered with for the award, added: “Disabled people in business experience disadvantage and discrimination every day largely through ignorance – this must change. To win this award, Vanessa has had to prove that she is dynamic, driven and that her business is destined to be a success.”

This is the fourth year that Stelios has awarded disabled entrepreneurs for their passion and hard work. He added: “I’m passionate about encouraging entrepreneurship through the Stelios Philanthropic Foundation. With around 50 per cent of disabled adults out of work, removing the barriers disabled people face in business is essential.”

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