Sir Stelios picks Glasgow business for finalist in national awards

27 October 2016

Stelios Award finalist Alex PapanikolaouEasyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou and leading international charity Leonard Cheshire Disability announced today Alex Papanikolaou, from Glasgow, has won £10,000 and a place as a finalist in the Stelios Award for disabled entrepreneurs 2016. 

Alex’s business, Freedom One Life, has developed a next generation power wheelchair — designed to offer a step change in reliability, performance and support in the power wheelchair market. 

Alex says:

‘I have cerebral palsy and have used power wheelchairs since school.

‘In that time I’ve visited over 175 cities in over 40 countries with my powerchair but I was continually let down by it due to never-ending breakdowns and lack of service.  

‘It was limiting my life rather than supporting my ambitions. This is what led to my vision of creating a more reliable, durable power wheelchair.

Alex says he now enjoys being an entrepreneur as it allows him to be in charge of his own growth, as well as creating opportunities to improve other’s lives.

‘I am thrilled to have won this place as a finalist as it is another form of recognition for what started as an idea three years ago and is now growing into something very real!

‘It is something that is going to change how many wheelchair users live their life.’

The judges said the competition was particularly tough this year, following a record number of applications with business ideas including documentary makers, phone and software application developers, night photographers, vintage ice-cream makers, fashion designers and an accessible playground designer.

Sir Stelios said:

‘The interest in this year’s award — on our tenth anniversary — highlights the role entrepreneurs can take in helping combat unemployment among our disabled people.

‘The sheer range of business ideas submitted this year will mean me and my team are going to have a challenging but immensely rewarding task ahead of us.’

Each finalist has won £10,000. The winner will win a further £20,000, making the overall top prize £30,000. 

Alex joins four other candidates: 

•    Dave Kelly, Daisy UK 
•    Andrew Graham, Pop-Up Gym
•    Matthew Wadsworth, Good Food Talks
•    Scott Smith, Invictus Active

A total of £70,000 in cash prizes will be won this year — making a grand total of £570,000 since 2006. 

The award, jointly run by the Stelios Philanthropic Foundation and the charity Leonard Cheshire Disability, recognises the achievements of disabled entrepreneurs in the UK.

Past winners have been drawn from the travel, building and IT sectors, as well as businesses specialising in disability or mobility aids and services. 

The winner will be announced on November 10 2016.

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For information or interviews with Sir Stelios please email Richard Shackleton or call 07905 779 799. You can also email Tracy Ghori or call 07900 606 557.

Leonard Cheshire Disability is the UK’s largest voluntary sector provider of services for disabled people. Our services include high-quality care and community support together with innovative projects supporting disabled people into education, employment and entrepreneurship. Worldwide, our global alliance of Cheshire partners supports disabled people into education and employment, and works in more than 50 countries. With over 7,500 staff, the charity supports over 7,000 disabled people in the UK.

The Stelios Philanthropic Foundation is a registered charity in both Monaco and the UK and backs a number of charitable initiatives supporting entrepreneurship, education and the environment in the UK, Greece and Cyprus. Its ‘Food from the Heart’ programme recently handed out its one millionth free lunchtime snack to beneficiaries in Greece and Cyprus worst hit by the financial crisis in southern Europe.