Disabled yachtsman Geoff Holts has won the prestigious Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneurs 2015 for his company WetWheels.
Geoff was chosen personally by easyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou.
WetWheels, a Community Interest Company (CIC) run out of Portsmouth, operates fully accessible boats to provide boating opportunities for people of all ages and abilities.
Run by Geoff, the company offers disabled clients educational and mentoring programmes, along with sporting and recreational trips on water.
Geoff was paralysed in a swimming accident in 1984 and uses a wheelchair. In 1995 he became the inaugural chairman of national sailing charity RYA Sailability, a role he held for six years. In 2007 he became the first paralysed person to sail single-handed around Great Britain. In 2009 he sailed across the Atlantic Ocean unassisted and in 2017 he plans to sail around the world.
The two runners up, Andrew Gilbert of Gilbey Films and Anna Wilkinson of More Rehab.com both receive £10,000 each.
The awards are run by easyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou and Leonard Cheshire Disability charity. This year’s ceremony was held in London yesterday.
Now in its ninth year, the award recognizes the unique achievements of disabled entrepreneurs.
Geoff said: ‘I am deeply honoured to have been chosen by Sir Stelios and the award will really give us the chance to expand our services for disabled people. Over the years I have witnessed thousands of disabled people of all ages enjoy our boats and services. It doesn’t matter if that is on a sail boat or a motor boat; it is being on the water that makes the difference.’
Sir Stelios said: ‘We have three worthy winners this year that will be great role models for others to start their own business in the future. From next year, I have decided to move to a system of more awards of a lower value but given to more people each year so we can reach more and more start-ups.’
Chief Executive of Leonard Cheshire Disability Clare Pelham said: ‘Today we celebrate the amazing achievements of disabled entrepreneurs. Each and every one a wonderful success story. And we thank Sir Stelios for his long-term generosity, who has yet again surprised us by awarding not only the winner, but the runners-up as well.’
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