TWO friends who were both left profoundly deaf after contracting meningitis as children have spoken of their success at setting up a cleaning company.
Sean Lucas and Todd Garner are among the 84 new businesses that have got off the ground with help from St Helens Chamber over the past year.
But their story is more remarkable then most.
Both businessmen, from Parr, lost their hearing after contracting the infection. Sean was just three months old when he was taken ill and suffered the life-changing side effect.
Todd, meanwhile, was aged two when a bout of meningitis resulted in him losing the use of his limbs, requiring him to learn to walk again.
The two later became friends and to their decision to create the cleaning company as a social enterprise was built on a desire to create jobs for other deaf and disabled people.
The entrepreneurs have already secured a clutch of commercial cleaning contracts as well as regular domestic customers.
Sean, 28, said: “We decided to go into business together as we are both deaf and are fully aware of the barriers deaf people face in their everyday lives and how they can struggle to find employment.
“We wanted to give people the opportunity of employment in our cleaning company and the communication problem is not proving a barrier as our services are already in considerable demand.
“We chose to set up our business as a social enterprise with the aim of reinvesting profits to create opportunities for deaf and disabled people. We take immense pride in our work and are finding that ‘word of mouth’ is really helping us to secure new customers.” Prior to launching their business, Todd, 26, worked as an employment adviser, supporting and working with deaf and disabled people, and Sean was a business promoter before being made redundant.
They had the idea to set up a cleaning company after learning about a community enterprise based in southern England employing deaf people within a cleaning business.
Both have praised the support on matters such as business plans, marketing and bookkeeping they received from the Salisbury Street based Chamber.
Part-funded by St Helens Council, the Chamber’s business start up support service offers free advice and guidance to people thinking of starting a business.
The Chamber says the fledgling businesses have created 86 full time roles and other part time positions have been created over past year.
For more information about the support available to start a business, call 0845 340 9980 or visit www.sthelenschamber.com/startup