An enterprising De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) graduate has won £10,000 after being named as a finalist for the Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneurs.
Katherine Fortnum has been shortlisted for her ceramics business ‘Katherine Fortnum Ceramics’ which sells handmade ceramics and sculptures and holds ceramic making workshops.
The national awards are organised by EasyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou and international charity Leonard Cheshire Disability to recognise the achievements of disabled entrepreneurs across the UK.
After suffering a brain haemorrhage in 2007, Katherine was left with little feeling on her left side. She found that making ceramics helped her recovery, improved her mental condition and increased her confidence.
She studied Design Crafts at DMU and started her own business when she graduated in 2013.
Katherine said: “I started Katherine Fortnum Ceramics, because after a long time of being helped, I could finally give back by helping and teaching others. I have built a business that teaches people a new skill, a business that is suitable for all types of people, without discriminating on age, gender or disability. I want to help others, like others have helped me.”
This year’s competition was tougher than ever with a record number of 72 applications from all areas of business. Katherine was one of just five candidates who received the grant of £10,000.
After being chosen as a finalist, Katherine said: “I couldn’t believe it when I got the phone call giving me the fantastic news! I never even considered that I’d have a chance.
“I am so honoured and grateful, not only for the overall experience and help towards my business but ultimately because it proves I am actually worth something and that my whole life doesn’t have to be a continuous battle.”
Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, who is best-known for founding EasyJet in 1995, believes Katherine’s business will have a great future.
He said: “The interest in this year’s award – on our eleventh anniversary – highlights the role entrepreneurs can take in helping combat unemployment among disabled people. The sheer range of business ideas submitted this year meant my team have had a challenging but immensely rewarding task.
“Katherine’s entry was unique and inspiring for those who have suffered strokes and are dogged and determined not to let it get in the way of a fulfilling business career. I wish her every success and expect to see her work in Harrods and Harvey Nichols very soon.”
During her time at DMU, Katherine was supported by the Enterprise Team which helped her to start her ceramics business. She received cash funding, mentoring and business support sessions as part of DMU’s Enterprise Inc programme.
DMU’s Enterprise Co-ordinator Stacey Simpson believes this award is evidence of the great support provided for the university’s disabled students.
She said: “We are delighted for Katherine. She has worked incredibly hard to get her business off the ground and has already been amazingly successful.
“It was a pleasure for the Enterprise Team to assist Katherine in the early stages of her business and we are so pleased to see her receive this recognition.”
Posted on Tuesday 5th December 2017