We're disabled and are bossing it in business – our top tips for success & how to earn six figure salaries | The Sun

SETTING up and running a successful business or working your way up the career ladder is no easy feat.

However, absolutely anything is possible if you set your mind to it, and are provided the right tools and advice.

Here, we speak to four women who all have different disabilities and have all set up their own profitable businesses, to share their secrets to success…

'My disability has pushed me to achieve more'

Kelly Gordon, from the West Midlands, is creative director of sex toy company Hot Octopuss and co-founder of With Not For, an inclusive recruitment company.

They work with clients to ensure they are inclusive when it comes to their campaigns, the talent they recruit and their in-house policies.

Kelly also has a genetic condition called spinal muscular atrophy, which weakens muscles and causes problems with movement.


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Kelly says: "When I was younger my disability effected me more, as there was little representation in mainstream media and there was a belief that disabled people perhaps wouldn’t work or have “normal” jobs and lives.

"This was something that I fought against from a young age and it worked in my favour to make me the outspoken, successful person that I am today. 

"I am lucky that I now only work with people that understand and respect my needs as a disabled person in the workplace."

It's been a long road to get there, however. Kelly says: "I had to work so much harder to not only change the belief of potential employers, but then colleagues and potential clients too.

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"It felt exhausting to have to prove myself at every turn.

"I honestly believe that it has pushed me to achieve more and work harder, and it has also given me an identity within business and helped me with some really important decisions.

"Being disabled makes me a problem solver so I think the way I view business and business decisions has definitely been influenced by my disability."

What's the key to success? Kelly says: "Be you! Be confident in yourself and your ability and network.

"Don’t let anyone tell you no. Be prepared with an answer as to why you can do what they say you can’t. 

"Don’t listen to society, and prove people wrong by achieving, and help and advocate for your disabled peers."

'I earn six figures a year while battling illness'

Mum-of-one Catherine Gladwyn, 45 from Swindon, Wiltshire, runs her own virtual assistant business.

She was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2011 and also Addison's Disease – a rare disorder of the adrenal glands-in 2015, which was actually what led her to quit the nine to five and set up her own business.

She says: "As well as being a virtual assistant, I now help other women lead a happier, healthier, wealthier life and become virtual assistants too, as a mentor with my guides and courses.

"There's no freedom being an employee (and) the money is diabolical, so I started my mission to help women create a better working life and I (now) earn six figures a year."

It hasn't been easy. Catherine – who has also written a business book – has endured multiple brain surgeries since being diagnosed with brain tumours, and her Addison's disease diagnosis has meant numerous debilitating health issues.

She says: "Some days I can't even get out of bed. My symptoms are fatigue mainly.

"I need peace and quiet and because of my Addison's I can't deal with any stress – it can literally kill me.

"My body also can't cope with infections so being in an air-conditioned office is a big no no."

Despite all this, Catherine says: "My illnesses have empowered me to achieve everything I want to achieve and more.

"By working for myself I can even work from my bed if I choose and can nap when I need to and plan my days perfectly."

Her advice for others is simple. She says: "Have a goal and remind yourself what the alternative is if you don't reach it.

"For example, my alternative was to have to go back to a 9-5 and there was no way I wanted to do that. That kept me motivated.

"Do not charge less than others because 'you're new to business'. No one is paying you for the length of time you've been in business, they're paying you for the service."

For anyone with a disability, Catherine recommends not being afraid to ask for help, and learn how to prioritise.

She says: "Some days my energy is so low I will work from my bed and do what needs doing in my business then do nothing else all day.

"If I try and push myself I will struggle for days afterwards.

"Quit feeling guilty, we're different, we can't do everything, so you shouldn't try. Just use your time wisely."

'The only thing I can't do is hear'

Accountant Rachel Harris, 29 from Buckinghamshire, is the founder of @accountant_she, an online community of over 18,000 accountants, and co-founder of StriveX accountants – a paperless accountancy and tax advisory firm that turns over six figures a year.

Rachel is also profoundly deaf.

She says: "Deafness touches every part of my life… It impacts my confidence and ability communicating with my own employees.

"I’m very lucky that my team embrace it as part of who I am, but I can only take video calls on platforms which support captioning, and am not confident to attend in-person events alone."

There have also been times Rachel admits she has felt she has had to work harder to prove her ability.

She says: "As an accountant with over 500 clients, I have never seen another deaf or hard of hearing person running a business.

"I’m a very positive person, I like to embrace things rather than let them become who I am. Challenge accepted sort of vibe!

"The whole mission behind what I do with @accountant_she is to be the person I couldn’t see – representation can change everything."

For anyone thinking of setting up their own business, Rachel says: "Seek financial guidance before you think you need it – you’ll always need it!

"Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. As women we are pretty afraid it’s weakness, (but) it’s actually a superpower."

Advice for anyone with a disability specifically? Rachel says: "Over-communicate. I’m always so surprised at how quickly people forget that you have a disability.

"Especially when many are invisible, like deafness. It can feel hard and sometimes exhausting, but we are the only ones who experience what we experience and even the most willing people in the world will forget.

"Also, be an advocate.

"Think about everything you struggled with as a young adult or during your journey and try and make the path easier for the people that come after you.

"Don’t forget, the only thing I can’t do is hear!"

'Disability is a superpower'

Victoria Massey, 38, from Cardiff, is a virtual assistant and copywriter known as 'Virtual Victoria', and she's been self employed since 2020.

She was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at 18 months old.

She says: "As I have got older my energy, mobility and fatigue levels got worse meaning part time roles with less hours were necessary.

"I didn't even think of self-employment as an option then but it was a game changer.

"Now, I am able to bring home what I was earning as a part time receptionist for working less hours per month, but more importantly I feel I have a purpose and I love being able to help my clients."

Victoria adds: "Our disability is our superpower, own it and embrace it. 

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"Don't hide behind it, we have faced so much discrimination and judgement in life, it's time for us to shine.  

"I am happy and successful and showing society that having a disability is a superpower and yes I may have a wonky leg, but I can be an asset to any business."

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