The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland & the Northern Ireland Union for Supported Employment have produced a new booklet highlighting the experiences of disabled people in employment 'Making it Work'.

Ben is living his dream as a self-employed business owner, he established ‘R Supplements Ltd, a sports supplements business at the end of 2019. His journey to become a business owner has been interesting.

Ben suffered serious injuries including bleeding on the brain after an accident in which he was knocked off his bicycle in 2012. He joined the Cedar Foundation’s ‘Inclusion Works Programme’ in the summer of 2019 following a referral from the Community Brain Injury Team in the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust.

Speaking about his experience Ben said: “I set a goal for myself to start up my own business. I already had the idea for the business and secured the capital needed but I needed some support and guidance from Cedar to get me on the right path. “The support I have received from Cedar has been exceptional, I met regularly with my Case Officer who offered advice and guidance and helped me to link into other funding bodies like Invest NI’s ‘GO for IT’ programme which was delivered by Work West in Belfast. “My Case Officer accompanied me to meetings with a business advisor and helped me to conduct market research and to formulate a business plan, to help get my business started. “I negotiated a deal with a reputable supplier enabling me to sell high quality products at reasonable prices and leased a unit to operate from. I opened for business in November 2019.

“Business started off positively but due to Covid-19 I had to close during lockdown. Thankfully my Cedar Case Officer has been with me every step of the way, helping me to access financial support and maintain my business. “I’ve recently moved to larger premises, with better footfall, visibility and public access. I’ve opened a gym at the back, where I now deliver personal training sessions. “I’m determined to see my business grow and succeed. 

I’m grateful for the help Cedar have provided but I have to give myself credit too, I’ve worked hard to get this far. Who knows what the future holds? But I do know that my brain injury and a global pandemic certainly haven’t stopped me from chasing and achieving my dreams.”

Roisin Barrett, Service Manager, Inclusion Works, Cedar Foundation said: “Our Inclusion Works programme is designed to support adults with disabilities and is tailored to suit each individual and their needs. Ben is an excellent example of someone who has worked well with our programme and we are incredibly proud of all that he has achieved. He hasn’t allowed his past to distract from his future success. His story is an inspiration and he has shown great resilience, determination and dedication to his new business – and he has managed all this during a global pandemic and economic downturn!”

The Cedar Foundation’s ‘Inclusion Works’ programme is part funded through the Northern Ireland European Social Fund Programme 2014 – 2020 and the Department for the Economy. Funding is also provided by the Department for Communities and all five local HSCTs in Northern Ireland.