Stelios Haji-Ioannou and the Stelios Philanthropic Foundation have announced the winner of the Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneurs in the UK – 2010, the prestigious, annual Award run in partnership with the charity Leonard Cheshire Disability. The Award, now in its fourth year, recognizes the achievements and unique challenges faced by entrepreneurs with disability.
Vanessa Heywood was presented with a cheque for £50,000 at the Growing Business Awards in London on the 25th November for her company – Tiny Mites Music – which offers live and recorded interactive music sessions aimed at young children.
When Vanessa was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1995, she had to give up her career as a professional actress, singer and dancer. The single mother-of-two, who once graced the stages of London’s West End decided to set up a business that took advantage of her musical talent, while allowing her to manage the symptoms of her disability.
Today, the business has grown and Vanessa has contracts with a number of large holiday parks, nursery chains and schools, and has brought out a Tiny Mites CD. Vanessa also provides Tiny Mites Birthday parties for under 5’s and is now working on preparing her nationwide franchise operation. Vanessa is very excited about premiering her interactive musical “Tiny Mites at the Seaside” at the Radlett Centre Theatre in August 2011.
Commenting on her achievement, Vanessa said: “I am absolutely thrilled to have won this Award, and would like to thank Sir Stelios, the Stelios Philanthropic Foundation and Leonard Cheshire Disability for making this possible. This is going to make such a difference to my business and my life.
“Music is a passion for me; it is the family business. My father, a professional trombonist who toured with Frank Sinatra, taught me never to give up and to strive for perfection. The idea of writing new, inspiring, interactive music for young children came to me in 2004. I wanted to connect with really young children with new, fun material that could cultivate a life -long love of music.”
Sir Stelios said: “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. The £50,000 prize will ensure Tiny Mites Music has an important boost for growth. Today, she joins our community of entrepreneurs who are making a difference.
Zuhura Plummer, Corporate Partnerships Officer at Leonard Cheshire Disability, said: “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.”