Meet Mandy Whalley, founder of the Empowerment Passport. For 34 years, Occupational Therapist Mandy has worked to support those with long-term health issues and disabilities. During this time, she has also raised three children, two of which have disabilities.

Mandy identified that communicating with education centres or workplaces about disability requirements was not always great, and this created barriers for many skilled people in terms of effective working or learning. This is how the Empowerment Passport concept was born. Empowerment Passport is a web application that can be passed between organisations to inform them of the owner’s needs. Supporting her son into employment in 2020 spurred Mandy to develop the passport. Here she tells us about her journey as a new business owner and her experience with Enterprise Hub.

Hi Mandy, tell us a bit more about your business. The Empowerment Passport enables individuals to have a voice. For example, if someone is dyslexic, very little is documented about what works well for them and what doesn’t in terms of their day-to-day work or studies that would be helpful for a new employer to follow.

What barriers have you faced when starting and growing your business? Money to get the web app developed, plus my time in creating opportunities to trial and test the product. Another big challenge is getting employers, businesses, and organisations to buy into the concept. The Empowerment Passport can challenge some of the outdated and prevailing cultures in the work and educational space, and this can make some employers and managers uncomfortable.

Do you have any disabilities/health issues and if so what impact, if any do you think this had on your journey to self-employment? I’ve got dyslexia and Hashimoto’s disease, which is an auto-immune chronic thyroiditis that can cause fatigue. While managing this I have learned to make sure I am kind to myself and allow myself to gain a good work-life balance with plenty of rest

What is the most rewarding part of having your own business? The greatest joy has been the privilege of meeting many inspirational people, who’ve given their time to help me with my business aspirations. In addition to this is the flexibility of running my own business as it fits nicely around my own needs and work-life balance. Also, my son helped me co-present the Empowerment Passport concept at a national OT conference which was something I could only dream of. His confidence has grown so much because of the Empowerment Passport.

How has The Women’s Organisation helped? The guidance I have received has been very reassuring, from the initial concept right through to when I was ready with an actual product.  Being able to tap into this support as and when I needed it has been really helpful.  Now that the business is growing exponentially, the continued support from Enterprise Hub will be invaluable moving forward.  I would advise anyone starting a business to make contact with organisations such as The Woman’s Organisation, along with any business networking opportunities in your local area. You need support, you need guidance and mentorship from people who have got the experience to show you the ropes and help you get started.

What are your hopes for the future? I intend to continue to work hard to change antiquated perceptions around the talented disabled population. We are missing out hugely by not employing or training enough diverse people in the workforce.

The Empowerment Passport is currently going through trials at Manchester College and the Southern NHS trust. Mandy has been shortlisted for a competition for innovation in supporting the older workforce to maintain their health & wellbeing and was nominated for the ‘inclusive project of the year’ category at the 2022 Celebrating Neuro-Diversity Awards.

You can reach her via the below links:
Twitter: @EmpowermentPas1