Four Midland entrepreneurs who overcame personal adversity to make their business dreams a reality are now in with a chance of scooping £13,000 at a national award ceremony in London.
The founders of Willenhall-based mastectomy lingerie and swimwear company Lingerie Illusions - Fiona Wright, Bernice Fletcher and Cath Stone - were named as Central Regional Finalists in The Barclays Trading Places Awards at a gala lunch in Birmingham.
Nigel Vardy of Derbyshire-based motivational speaking company, Into Thin Air Productions, was also named Central Regional Finalist and will join Lingerie Illusions at the national finals in October.
The government-backed awards, now in their fourth year, recognise people who have battled against the odds to change their lives by setting up in business.
Barclays marketing director for local business John Davis, a judge on the panel, said: “The Trading Places Awards honour unsung heroes who, in spite of disadvantages or personal challenges, have taken steps to grow their own sustainable business and in doing so have transformed their prospects for the better.”
Both Bernice Fletcher and Fiona Wright are breast cancer survivors and know from personal experience how difficult it is to find attractive and practical bras that can securely hold prosthetic inserts.
Spotting a gap in the market, they exhibited at Clothes Show Live in December and opened their own retail outlet in Willenhall earlier this year.
All three women find it rewarding to provide a much-needed service to fellow breast cancer survivors.
Mountaineer Nigel Vardy was climbing in Alaska in 1999 when he suffered extreme frostbite after spending a night stranded at 20,000 ft.
He now specialises in motivational keynotes, speaking to audiences in the business world and schools about his experiences.
Lingerie Illusions and Into Thin Air Productions were up against eight other Midland businesses, each with their own moving stories of how their founders overcome unique personal challenges.
The judging panel includes Big Issue founder and editor-in-chief John Bird, The Sun business editor Ian King, Sophie Beesley of The Prince’s Trust, Eileen Thomson of Jobcentre Plus, Ann Carter-Gray of BERR, Julian Price of Microsoft, George Derbyshire of the NFEA and Jane Fletcher of Leonard Cheshire Disability.