Sheffield-based public services provider A4e is backing a new scheme to encourage young people living with cystic fibrosis to set up their own businesses.
It has been established in memory of Helen Barrett, a young businesswoman who set up a gym in Beckenham, Kent, with her partner, Andy Fowler, before she died in 2010 after fighting a life-long and difficult battle.
Helen was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when she was three but grew up determined not to let her ambitions and dreams be limited by the condition, which causes excessive production of mucus making it difficult to breathe and digest food. Sadly, Helen died a week before her 32nd birthday.
Andy is still running the private gym they set up together, Define Fitness.
Helen’s father, Tony Barrett, said:
“It took years of tenacity and perseverance to get their gym established and eventually, thanks to a lot of help along the way, Helen and her partner created a successful and robust business.
“Thanks to Helen’s efforts the business continues to thrive and is a lasting memorial today.
“She would have been delighted that there is now a chance for other people with cystic fibrosis to experience the excitement of starting their own business”.
The scheme will hand out grants of £500 to £2,000 to winning entrants who will also gain invaluable access to A4e’s national team of business advisors and mentors to support them through the difficult early months of starting up and getting established.
A4e’s involvement is part of a wider package of support for young people with cystic fibrosis, offering access to its business start-up training and support services, whether or not they are awarded a grant.
There is no known cure for cystic fibrosis, which is caused by a faulty gene. Every week five babies are born with cystic fibrosis in the UK and two people die.
But developments in treatment mean half of people diagnosed with cystic fibrosis now survive into their forties and beyond.
“While daily treatment regimes for people with cystic fibrosis are time consuming and arduous, the fulfillment and flexibility of running a successful business can help people with the condition enjoy a rewarding sense of purpose and positive development.
“We are keen to support people facing extra barriers into self-employment and are delighted to be able to offer our expertise and knowledge to people with cystic fibrosis.
“The Cystic Fibrosis Trust, established in 1964, is dedicated to promoting excellence in research and clinical care, as well as providing practical support and advice to people with cystic fibrosis and their families.
“The Trust believes that everyone with cystic fibrosis deserves the best quality of life and real hope for the future, with access to high quality, specialist care.”
Kieran Cornwell, senior strategic partnership manager at the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, said:
“We are grateful for A4e’s support of the Helen Barrett Young Entrepreneurs Award.
“We believe that through working together and offering a combination of grants and mentoring support, many young people living with cystic fibrosis will have a great opportunity to further their goals of successfully running their own business.
“This is the first year of three for the award.
“In this time we hope we will see the next Rob Law – the inventor of the children’s ‘Trunki’ suitcases who happens to have cystic fibrosis.
“This exciting new award is supporting other would-be entrepreneurs who have the potential to take the business world by storm.”
Deadline for entries is September 8. For more information, please go to http://www.cysticfibrosis.org.uk/entrepreneurs