In the spring issue of the Great British Entrepreneurs Magazine, Stephen White explored the inspiring tales of two entrepreneurs who refuse to be restricted by physical or mental conditions, offering a unique service to others with disabilities. In Part 1, he spoke to Angus Drummond, founder of Limitless Travel.
While you might think that suffering mental or physical health issues would make owning a business unfeasible, the number of self-employed people with a disability in Britain has risen by 13% over the last four years. So what’s going right?
Could it be the unique and unpredictable nature of disability, which, when mixed with business acumen, sheds light on groups, problems and solutions that otherwise go unnoticed by society at large?
Or is it the inherent flexibility of being your own boss that’s key – having the freedom to organise the logistics of work around specific wants and needs? Or is the trend a testament to growing inclusivity in Britain today, as evidenced by the increasing number of platforms and initiatives that provide crucial financial support and business mentoring to those who need it most?
We discover how entrepreneurs deal with their personal difficulties to build unique businesses which allow others to live a life without limits.
We look at Angus Drummond, whose passion for travel is breaking down barriers for himself and others facing similar difficulties.
The Birmingham-born entrepreneur was set for a life in finance as he joined Royal Bank of Scotland in their London investment bank in his early 20s, but a medical diagnosis turned his career and immediate outlook upside down.
“I was diagnosed with limb girdle muscular dystrophy. The prognosis at the time was that within the following ten to fifteen years I would lose my mobility, eventuality need a wheelchair and have to depend on other people for help and support and to get about.”
Having played rugby and cricket as part of a very active youth, the news was understandably incredibly hard to take, and presented Angus with a unique set of new challenges. His response was to seek clarity in his love for travel; he quit his job and set off to see the world with partner, Lucy.
A new journey
Besides sweeping vistas and stunning cityscapes, Angus’s eyes were opened to the realities of declining health, and subsequent mobility issues, both for himself and others with disabilities.
“While away I began to feel anxious about future destinations and their accessibility. I would research for hours to find any information available. One particular incident was at the Galapagos Islands. I had always wanted to visit but nerves overtook excitement and meant that I spent most of the trip looking forward to being back on the mainland.
“That became quite a problem because visiting new places made me feel anxious. I just always felt that travel should never be like that; travel should be an enlightening experience.
“While I faced these challenges, I still had an incredible time away; meeting new people and seeing new places really gave me a lot of perspective. It helped me come to terms with my condition and it was a real healing experience in terms of appreciating what was important to me and the things that I did have.
“I came back a very different person in the sense that I was able to come to terms with what I had and being able to discuss it with other people, whereas beforehand, I hadn’t really spoken to anyone about it.”
Reinvigorated by his experiences, Angus was determined to create a company that would remove the pain points from travelling for individuals with disabilities, so that more people could take back control and enjoy travel to its life-affirming fullest.
Pathways into business
His next aim was to source financial support and guidance through business accelerators, and start acting on his grand ideas. In these environments, Angus would be around other entrepreneurs, sharing ideas and connecting with mentors who could coach the mindset he needed.
What began as a blog where people could exchange travel experiences and advice, soon became an accommodation booking platform based on individual access requirements. By 2016, this offering had expanded to premium accessible coach trips and escorted tours.
Today, Limitless Travel is disrupting the tourism industry by offering a handrail to disabled individuals who want to step out and explore the world, confident that their requirements will be understood and that support will be there when it’s needed.
“We take care to support people as much as possible while they’re away. We do this logistically in terms of finding and researching destinations, organising the transport, the hotel, and organising support care if required.
“For me, the real reason we enable people is through our branding and through our company, our ideals and our aspirations. We try to inspire people as much as possible; our mission is to revolutionise travel for people with disabilities and we engender that in the way we talk to our customers.”
Enabling individuals to reconnect with a life they may have felt isolated from, is central to spirit of Limitless Travel and what really matters to the 29-year-old entrepreneur and his team.
“On some of our first trips, we had customers on board who felt that they’d lost their lives since they had become disabled, and who’d not been able to engage with society. They then said that booking a holiday with Limitless Travel and travelling with us gave them their confidence back and made them feel normal for the first time since they’d been disabled.
“I set up the business to use travel to give people their life back and to enable them to overcome their problems. That’s really why you do it, and it makes you forget about the smaller problems and you realise that there’s a much bigger picture out there,” he reflects.
Last year, the company ran five trips, a tally that Angus hopes will rise to 25 in 2018, which should see 500 people travel with Limitless Travel over the next 12 months.
The company and its overwhelmingly positive story were thrust into the limelight recently, as Angus claimed the Entrepreneur for Good award at the NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards, Birmingham 2017.
Life as an entrepreneur
The achievements of Limitless Travel are all the more impressive for Angus, post-diagnosis, whose assessment of business challenges comes from an outlook that has not only come to terms with, but is transcendental of concerns with any physical impairment.
“I think the biggest challenge was developing the right mindset, to be able to make the right decisions and in the right way. There’s this idea that to be an entrepreneur you have to work every hour of every day and sacrifice everything in your life, but I think that’s completely the wrong way to go about it.
“The most effective entrepreneurs are those that look after all aspects of their life so that they can work productively and focus on the business, but in a way that enables them to have a decent life outside of the business. Having that dynamic allows you to work harder and more effectively.”
This view enlightens a broader mindset which shows the character required to run a successful business.
“I also think the challenge arises out of dealing with that constant worry and pressure every day – there’s something new to worry about every day or causes you to lose sleep. If you can’t deal with those issues and you can’t find a way to process those concerns, then you’re never going to be able to function effectively, because it always plays on your mind. For me it’s a case of being able to process things when something bad is happening in a way that doesn’t inhibit me.”
The ingredients for business success
Given Angus’ vision and clear ability to effect change for the better in society, it is unsurprising to learn that his acumen stretches back to his school days; he’d sell his lunch in the playground and use the earnings to buy an upgraded snack.
This instinct matured at university, where he ran a clubbing business and organised trips around the UK to see various DJs and other artists. New Year’s Eve events in London were also put together before his business spirit finally blossomed through Limitless Travel.
Quite apart from the barriers, real or perceived, Angus is characteristically clear- sighted on the real difference between success and failure in business.
“I hear from so many people who say they’ve been wanting to set up their business for so many years, and they’ve been reading all these books about it; how to go about doing it. The fact is that no-one knows what to do, no entrepreneur – no matter how successful they are now, knew precisely what they were doing at the start. It’s just a case of just going and doing.
“Throughout setting up the business, you have to make that decision to do things. Every day, you have to make that active decision to do something. Often it won’t work, or things will fail or go wrong, but you learn from those mistakes and then you improve and try something different or new.
“Be prepared to go and do, and secondly be prepared to let things fail. People talk about this fear of failure, but to me, failure’s not about letting your big ideas fail, it’s about all your little ideas and having a go, and it’s about failing and then trying something new until you find something that works, enabling you to achieve your overall goal and what you want to do.”
You can take a look at a full, digital version of the spring issue of the Great British Entrepreneurs Magazine here.