Published in IN:MK, December 2013
Blind Milton Keynes Builder Wins £50,000 from Stelios in Entrepreneur of the Year Award
A partially-sighted businessman from Milton Keynes has won the prestigious Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneurs.
Disabled entrepreneur wins award from SteliosJames King, who runs a home extension firm called Oliver James Garden Rooms, was crowned the 2013 winner by easyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou and the charity Leonard Cheshire Disability.
James, 47, suffers from Retinitis Pigmentosa which severely limits his field of vision and means he is officially registered blind. James says of his disability, “When people think of the tallest column in Trafalgar Square, they don’t think of a man with one arm and one eye, they see Admiral Nelson. Disabled people don’t want to be thought of in terms of what they can’t do, but what they can.”
James and his team design and build garden room extensions, which have tiled roofs. Unlike a traditional conservatory, the rooms are warm in winter, cool in summer and useable all-year-round.
In his early twenties James began his career as a bricklayer in the construction industry. It wasn’t until later that he was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a degenerative eye condition which affects the retina. It was during this difficult time that the idea to set up a company making ‘garden rooms’ came to him.
Now with a workforce of eight and a turnover of £300,000, James works with homeowners across Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire and Hertfordshire.
Winning the Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneurs means that he will be able to go ahead with plans to expand his client base to new areas of the country.
James says “The good practises I have engineered are all because of my vision – creating a business that is outperforming industry standards. For example, we have superb systems in place to ensure each project is super clean and tidy. This all arose from necessity, because if even a hammer were ever left out on site, my build team know I’d trip over it!”
Sir Stelios commented, “I have been really impressed not only by the growth of James’ business and the way he is meeting a genuine need in the market, but also by his drive and his positive attitude.”
Now in its seventh year, The Stelios Award recognises the unique achievements of disabled entrepreneurs and offers a £50,000 cash prize to the winner – the largest cash sum of its kind.
James scored points for providing an end-to-end service that designs, builds and finishes his creations – right from dealing with planning permission and drawing up the designs, through to decoration and even installing cat flaps for beloved pets! James employs a team of eight who work on the planning and construction side, while he deals with the overall running of the business.
Clare Pelham, Chief Executive of Leonard Cheshire Disability says: “I would like to congratulate James on winning this award. We are delighted to work with Sir Stelios on an award that celebrates the remarkable achievements of disabled entrepreneurs. Our finalists are all stars and it just goes to show that there are no limits to what they can achieve.”
Winner, James King, says, “I hope that I inspire a good team by not allowing a small detail like my eye condition to get in the way of our business and life goals.”