Paralysed entrepreneur wins business award for app to help disabled community

Paralysed former rugby player wins prestigious business award

A paralysed entrepreneur, who created one of the UK’s most popular apps for the disabled community after an embarrassing incident in a Spanish restaurant, has won a prestigious business award. Simon Sansome, aged 41, was left paralysed from the waist down, after a bungled chiropractic session resulted in three of his vertebrae being crushed.

But an evening out to celebrate his progress in rehabilitation turned into a disaster, when it became apparent that the first-floor toilets were not accessible to wheelchair users.

As a result, he couldn’t make it to the toilet on time – and the experience inspired him to set up a Facebook group, rating venues in his home city for accessibility.

The page grew quickly, with 1,000 joining in the first few weeks – and has now amassed more than 110,000 members.

Simon, from Leicester, then created the Snowball app, which allows the disabled community to review and log the accessibility credentials for amenities like shops, restaurants, and hotels.

And it has just been crowned the winner at the Santander X Awards, a converted accolade for early-stage start-up businesses, after it gained 40,000 submissions nationwide in the first year.

Since launching, Simon has also been able to enlist the support of Paralympians Hannah Cockroft OBE, and Aaron Phipps MBE, to help raise awareness of the platform.

He said: “After the accident, I thought, “there has to be a better way around this”, there must be more people out there like myself who are having trouble in places all over the city.

“It has been important for me to recognise that my disability doesn’t reflect anyone else’s – we are all very unique in that regard.

These entrepreneurs really have what it takes to wow investors, and get some proper momentum behind their ideas

Tinie Tempah, musician and judge of Santander X awards

“That’s why having the support of the communities and networks I have built up has been invaluable to feeding into the app, to ensure it is as accessible to everyone who needs it.”

Winning the top prize at the Santander X Awards means Simon and the Snowball Community app will receive £25,000 in funding to grow the business – which Simon wants to use to help with training for staff he hopes to onboard in the near future.

He is also exploring the possibility of taking the day-to-day operations of the app in-house, as it is currently outsourced.

And in the future, Simon sees a massive opportunity to work collaboratively with some of the biggest retailers in the country.

He explained: “The app is generating a huge amount of data, which means we can see patterns and trends developing.

“We know from it that 66 percent of submissions about one prominent high-street retailer, all say these stores are not very accessible.

“Having this insight will help us to reach out to these businesses and work with them, so they can optimise their sites to ensure they are as inclusive as possible.”

Another winner at the Santander X Awards is Hanan Tantush, aged 21, from Cheshire, who placed top of the university category for her business, Intotum, which creates stylish, adaptive clothing for the disabled community.

  • Support fearless journalism
  • Read The Daily Express online, advert free
  • Get super-fast page loading

The business idea came after her grandfather had surgery that resulted in his clothes feeling uncomfortable and irritating.

As an aspiring fashion designer and a talented seamstress, Hanan knew there was a simple solution – but was shocked that clothing like this wasn’t readily available.

She started researching adaptive fashion and creating prototypes, and her ideas came to life throughout her degree at the London College of Fashion.

During her final year, her output focused specifically on fashionable clothing for wheelchair users – and now, Hanan is taking custom orders on her first collection, all created in her Hackney studio. She’s also set to debut the items at London Fashion Week in February.

The Santander X Awards is in its 13th year, and offers innovative start-up and university enterprises the chance to secure equity-free funding.

One of the judges this year was musician, presenter, and investor, Tinie Tempah, who said: “I’ve been investing in exciting new companies for years now, and there’s nothing like the thrill of discovering the next big idea, and helping to give it the boost it needs.

“Judging the Santander X Awards was a great experience – the entrepreneurs delivered inspiring pitches, and I know they’re all going to make an impact. The winners are some truly amazing businesses that have a chance to make a real difference in the world.

“I’ve learnt the founder and team are probably the most important factor in making a business investable – and these entrepreneurs really have what it takes to wow investors, and get some proper momentum behind their ideas.”

Source: Read Full Article