15 inspiring entrepreneurs with a learning disability

Barry Walsh looks at 15 inspiring entrepreneurs who didn’t let their learning disability get in the way of the careers in business.

Eddie McGuiness – head of Pride Festival

In just a generation, our annual parade and festival has grown from a handful of people to become one of the biggest and most popular events in Ireland, and Eddie has been vital to that growth. Along the way, he has helped change the laws and constitution of Ireland as well as the hearts and minds of many of our citizens.

Adam Harris – AsIAm

Founded by Adam Harris, AsIAM aims to provide a one-stop-shop for the autism community in Ireland. From providing the public and those with the condition a portal of information about autism, to providing a platform for people affected by autism to share their stories and views, to providing a strong voice for the concerns of the community – AsIAm.ie has it all.

Ross O’Dwyer – co-founder of Pundit Arena

In a recent LinkedIn post, Ross said; “Thankfully, today I am a very proud dyslexic and I strongly believe that dyslexia is a gift that allows me to approach things more creatively and innovatively, a gift that helps me every day in my career. However, I acknowledge that this very gift brings with it challenges such as struggling with spelling and grammar, a challenge which has continued into my adult working life. For example, I will have to have someone edit this article before I press the publish button at the top right-hand corner of my screen. As you can see, I did eventually press that button as I want to outline my experience as a dyslexic individual going through our education system and into my adult life. I feel very strongly about raising awareness for dyslexia and wish to contribute, even in a small manner, to ensuring that the next generation experiences a more progressive and supportive system in relation to this learning disability.”

Sean Fay – co-founder or The Context Factory

Co-founded by Sean Fay and Peter Guthrie, The Context Factor is a recruitment tool that uses AI to reduce unconscious bias in the workplace. You can read our feature with Sean here.

Joe Hogan – Openet

Joe is the founder of Openet, a software vendor based in Dublin and has served as the company’s chief technology officer since it was founded in 1999. Joe is the principal architect of Openet’s product portfolio and has over 25 years of software engineering experience.

Greg Turley – Car Trawler

Brothers Greg (57) and Niall Turley (50) made their fortune growing online car hire firm Car Trawler out of Argus Car Hire, their family’s business in south Dublin. The firm has been sold twice, initially in 2011 for €110m and then again in 2014 for €450m. Along the way they’ve taken some cash off the table, but have managed to hold on to about 25 per cent. The company employs 600 people around the world and had revenues of €201.7m in 2017.

Gearoid Kearney – My Access Hub

Co-founded by Gearoid and Miriam O’Sullivan, My Access Hub advocate for people with autism in the workplace through the use of virtual reality. You can read our feature with Gearoid here.

Caroline Keeling – Keeling Fruits

An Entrepreneur of The Year Finalist in 2013, also revealed how her dyslexia ultimately helped her get ahead in business. “I think the one thing I learned about dyslexia was, yes, there’s some challenges to it in the way your brain works and in the way your brain sees things,” she says. “But there’s also some great benefits to it, I think everyone that has it are impact slightly differently. With mine, there’s a level of creativity and seeing things differently that I think is part of dyslexia that has helped me.”

Dennis Kennedy – Empowering Disability Performance

Dennis Kennedy is the founder of Empowering Disability Performance, an organisation is committed to delivering effective disability management, consultancy packages in disability and personal development coaching.

Donal McClean – Access Earth

Founded by Donal McClean and Matt McCann, Access Earth is a free platform that allows you to find and rate places by your accessibility needs. You can read our feature with Donal here.

Rosaleen Blair – Alexander Mann Solutions

Rosaleen Blair founded Alexander Mann Solutions in 1996, with a mission to revolutionise and professionalise the way companies hire people. This drive continues today with the company’s latest acquisition set to incorporate cutting edge Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions. The firm’s current focus is to continue its ambitious growth trajectory in the United States.

Ronan O’Brien – Zatori Results

Zatori Results Ltd is an online retail specialist company, founded by Irish serial entrepreneur Ronan O’Brien. Zatori is best known for its hugely successful fancy dress business – TheCostumeShop.ie; which is Ireland’s biggest online fancy dress store. Zatori is also responsible for clothing.ie, The Mobility Shop, The Bikini Shop, and many more.

Brendan Morrissey – Serial entrepreneur

Brendan is a serial entrepreneur who manages the development and growth of several tech ventures while circumnavigating the globe.

James Northbridge – Urability

According to his website, James’ mission is “to empower families and students with disabilities to achieve more”, and says he is passionate about helping young people overcome their challenges throughout education.

Brendan O’Carroll – BOX-PIX and Mrs Browns Boys Ltd

According to a recent Irish Times article, “New accounts filed by BOC-PIX Ltd show Brendan O’Carroll and his wife, Jennifer Gibney, have garnered almost €2 million in dividends from the company over the past two years. Last year, the two shared dividends of €616,006 and this followed a dividend pay-out of €1.314 million in 2017. It brings to €5 million their shared dividends from their two companies Mrs Browns Boys Ltd and BOC-PIX Ltd since 2015.”

By Barry Walsh

Published: December, 2019