Steph's story

Steph, aged 33, is an entrepreneur who runs two award-winning businesses.

Open Eyed is a disability equality consultancy which offers accessibility services, including disability awareness staff training for a wide range of organisations. Making Lemonade supports people, predominantly disabled people, to achieve their goals and potential in the fields of employment, enterprise and leadership.

After graduating with a fashion degree she became a successful fashion designer. Having worked for four years in the fashion industry she was diagnosed with leber's optic neuropathy, a genetic condition that causes central vision loss. Within three months of diagnosis her eye sight started to deteriorate rapidly.

Steph chose to become self-employed because she found it hard to find a job. She felt she had a brilliant idea in Open Eyed that would make a feasible business plan. Her inspiration came from her personal experience of the difficulties in accessing information and services after acquiring sight loss. Making Lemonade evolved when individuals and organisations increasingly contacted Steph for advice and support.

Steph is unable to see printed material so she relies on speech software when accessing her computer and phone. She has a part-time personal assistant to drive her to her appointments. Steph feels that without reasonable adjustments she couldn't run her businesses. Tasks such as proof reading, marketing and accessing paperwork would be almost impossible.

When talking about other people's reactions to her disability Steph says, "I have found that if you are positive other people tend to be positive too. Although I don't think a disability is a qualification, it is an advantage to me in my businesses as they are disability related and I can relate through my own experiences.

"Although I have been affected by significant sight loss I have a hidden disability. It is not obvious to others immediately because I have my peripheral vision, my mobility is good and I can approach people to talk to them. I find this can present barriers to accessing support.

"I really recommend starting your own business. When you work for someone else you have to fit in with the company and how it operates but if you have your own business you can run it how you wish. You are in control of your working methods and hours and you can create your own opportunities. Since setting up my businesses I have become a business advisor, coach, writer, trainer and speaker, and I love it all!"

If you too think self-employment might be for you, or would like to find out more, please visit our self-employment section.