Etac Balder powerchair owner Dr. Huw Thomas jointly wins Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneur of the Year 2011
Etac Balder F280 powerchair owner Dr. Huw Thomas, 64 from Penrhyncoch near Aberystwyth in Wales, has jointly won the Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneur of the Year 2011 with another separate entrepreneur Rob Smith following a glamorous ceremony held at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel Kensington, London on 14 December.
Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou – the serial entrepreneur best known for founding EasyJet PLC at the age of 28, established the Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneur of the Year in 2007 and the Stelios Philanthropic Foundation in 2009. Now in its fifth year, this awards programme runs in association with the Leonard Cheshire Disability charity, which supports thousands of disabled people in the UK and throughout 50 other countries worldwide. As Sir Stelios explained at the launch of the award scheme: “I am very passionate about encouraging an enterprising spirit throughout British culture. Helping to remove the barriers that disabled people face in business is an important part of this. That is why I was keen to establish an award which gives disabled people an opportunity to showcase their ability rather than have them negatively judged by their disability.”
Dr. Huw Thomas who has Muscular Dystrophy (MD) and uses an Etac Balder F280 powerchair, established Promove UK in 2007 with his business partner Dana Thomas and this recent prestigious accolade reflects Huw’s hard work and dedication over the past several years. With a manufacturing facility based near Merthyr Tydfil in Wales, Promove supplies specialist slings used to rescue, evacuate and transfer injured and less able people as Huw explains: “After completing my PhD and working in plant genetics for over 40 years, I decided to take early retirement at 56. However I can honestly say I ‘failed’ at this change in lifestyle and decided that I needed a new challenge! As I have severely restricted movement in both arms, I have experienced first-hand the issues associated with transfers in and out of my Balder powerchair for many years and knew a better solution needed to be conceived. My sling concept was originated back in 2005 when flight attendants were having issues with moving me into an airline seat. From my initial sketches and designs through to CE testing and finally establishing a production line, I was determined to deliver the ProMove sling to market even though my condition for some would be seen as very limiting. Living with MD is so much easier with my Balder powerchair from Etac as the three models I have owned over the past 12 years have always delivered functionality and comfort way beyond any other powerchair available today. I was one of the first people to purchase a Balder powerchair in the UK and I would recommend them to everyone with a condition such as MD.”
Huw continues: “I do face challenges every day with running my business however living with a disability has its advantages for ProMove as it provides invaluable experience and insight. I am pleased to see that this perspective has been recognized by the award scheme and my joint £50,000 prize will now be re-invested into the business so we can expand. It was a wonderful occasion; in addition to the excitement of winning the award, meeting Stelios himself and all the glitterati at the reception was quite an experience. I was able to mingle among the 200 guests in my Balder wheelchair in the raised position which made such a huge difference, being able to speak to people at eye level. The wheelchair generated almost as much interest as I did as the award winner. In addition, I would like to thank Etac for providing me with several fantastic Balder powerchairs over the years as I’m sure without them, I would not have been able to achieve all that I have, culminating in this recent award.”
Sir Stelios concluded: “I would like to congratulate Rob and Huw on running successful businesses and displaying the drive, creativity and determination to reach the top and really fly.” The Etac UK Managing Director, Ian Carter, reiterated this sentiment: “We are thrilled for Huw as he fully deserves this recognition. As one of our first customers in the UK, it is also pleasing to see how his current Etac powerchair continues to assist him in achieving so much and we wish him well with his business expansion.”
1. Etac Balder powerchair owner Huw Thomas (right) jointly accepts the £50,000 prize for winning the Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneur of the Year 2011 with another separate businessman Rob Smith
2. Huw Thomas, Etac Balder powerchair and winner of the Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneur of the Year 2011, demonstrates his company’s ProMove transfer sling at the Colleage of Occupational Therapists.
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