A new scheme will help disabled entrepreneurs expand their businesses, and challenge potential investors to see past negative stereotypes.
Enabled4Growth (E4G) hopes to offer free business support to 700 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across London, helping many of them to secure the funding they need from investors.
The programme, being run by Leonard Cheshire Disability (LCD) and part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, aims to help disabled entrepreneurs bring in more than £1.6 million in investment funding over the next three years.
Disabled-led businesses in the capital will be given the support they need to become ready for investment, and then brought together with investors at “brokerage” events to pitch for finance.
LCD will also use these brokerage events to provide disability awareness training for investors, with the long-term aim of trying to level the playing field for other disabled entrepreneurs seeking business finance from banks, private investors and grant-making bodies.
Disabled entrepreneur Amar Latif, who runs Traveleyes, which provides holidays for visually-impaired travellers, said: “It was a real hurdle to get people to take me seriously. I was this blind guy who runs a travel business asking for a loan to expand.
“It is very tough to secure potential investment and from listening to fellow entrepreneurs I hear the same story time and time again.”
Kevin Davey, E4G’s senior business advisor, said much of the investment sector finds it difficult to spot good opportunities when confronted with businesses led by disabled entrepreneurs.
He said he hoped the training for investors would help them to “spot a disabled winner”, and he added: “Over the last decade there are many examples of high growth SMEs led by disabled entrepreneurs.
“Many of them have been able to secure credit lines and various forms of financial support to assist them in their growth, but they have really had to work extremely hard to secure them.”
He said the recession had made the market even more difficult for disabled entrepreneurs. “It is very crowded at the moment and there is a huge queue for credit and we will have to work very hard.”
For more information, visit www.enabled4growth.com
11 January 2010