I recently entered a story writing competition with the Entrepreneur’s Circle about why I founded my business. I am delighted to say that I won the competition – my submission follows:
I was suited and booted and ready to impress. It was my second year of my Business Management degree at Oxford Brookes University and my third year would be spent on a paid work placement. I’d managed to bag an interview with a small marketing company near Oxford and the job sounded perfect for me.
The interview went really well and I came out feeling fairly confident – this could be the one, I thought to myself. A few days later my confidence was in tatters as I read an email from the MD of the company. He stated quite bluntly that he couldn’t possibly employ me as his clients wouldn’t be able to communicate with me. Why? Because I have cerebral palsy and subsequently, a speech impairment.
He hadn’t faulted my skills or my abilities compared to other candidates. That was his one and only reason for rejecting me. I was fuming! I know my speech isn’t that difficult to understand as I successfully communicate with people on a daily basis. I knew I couldn’t just let this go so I sat down and composed a polite reply. I told him it was a shame he felt the way he did as he’d dismissed a huge asset to his team. I continued that there were many ways of communicating with clients and that if every employer were to have his views, I would sadly remain unemployed. My aim wasn’t to get him to change his mind but to educate him.
The experience made me realise the extent of discrimination that disabled people face and I knew I wanted to do something about it. I eventually secured a placement working for a charity which supported disabled and disadvantaged people into work and training opportunities. It was a rewarding role and upon graduating, I returned to the charity and became a senior manager.
But still the discrimination was apparent. One day I took a phone call from an unemployed client looking for some help. He had the cheek to ask me why someone like me with cerebral palsy could secure a job whilst he remained unemployed!
As my role developed, I undertook a qualification to become a trainer and I started delivering sessions to both clients and employers. I realised that far from being unable to understand me, people responded really well to me and I had a talent for teaching. I was able to share my personal experiences and inspire others. I felt comfortable and confident in the classroom.
Being a small charity, I eventually felt there were no more opportunities for me to develop and I was bored in my role. I always embrace a challenge but I was no longer being pushed to my potential. So I took a leap of faith, handed in my resignation and Flyinglady Training was born.
I now specialise in Equality and Diversity Training, as well as employment preparation training and although I only started up in January, I’m passionate about making a difference for other disabled people who may have had similar experiences and also helping employers to realise the benefits of a diverse workforce.