Louis Speight: from zero-hours frustration to super social entrepreneurship for record-breaking athlete

By Jamie Veitch

When Louis Speight was 15 he announced he wanted to become a wheelchair racer. Born with cerebral palsy and often told “you can’t do things” in his childhood, Louis had experienced bullying and an eating disorder."My own parents were sceptical, and rightly so," he says. "To look at me you'd have never said I would make an athlete." But Louis describes how his bloody-mindedness propelled him to become the men's European record holder in one of the most competitive of sports.Sport made a profound impact in his life. "I am healthy and I can't see how I could have been healthy without the role that sport played," he says.He understood how sport could help others, too, and after a sports science degree in which he specialised in clinical rehabilitation, started giving sports coaching on a zero-hours contract basis. Which proved frustrating: Louis "paid my dues" but felt undervalued and exploited.So he and a colleague quit their jobs to launch Omnis Circumvado, a specialist sports coaching company which gives inclusive opportunities to people with complex needs.The business works with children and young people in SEN (Special Educational Needs) schools and with elderly people in day centres. When launching a social enterprise "the house will set on fire," says Louis: it's not always plain sailing. But that determination along with careful planning paid off and Omnis is now thriving as Louis describes in this episode.What next? Would growth be good? Is expansion the right thing to do? How did Louis put those fires out? And what's the story behind the name of the firm? Listen to this episode of The Business Live radio show with Louis Speight.0 - 1:00 introduction.1:00 Louis co-founded Omnis Circumvado CIC after competing as a wheelchair racer in the T33 classification, predominantly as a sprinter.4:30 Wheelchair racing is highly competitive, great to watch and has its own mystique, for reasons Louis describes.5:37 The profound difference which sport made in Louis' life. 8:15 Louis started doing some sports coaching on a zero-hours contract basis.12:45 How a pilot project planted the seed for Louis and colleague Richard to launch their social enterprise.19:45 The story behind the name Omnis Circumvado.22:00 Some of the activities Louis gets participants involved in.25:03 "I have never been so insulted," says Louis, describing one funder's response to the social enterprise's name.27:00 "The house will set on fire. It just will." What does Louis mean?32:45 The business is at capacity now. What are their future plans? Does this involve growth and would growth be good?35:30 Succession planning and a fatalistic or realistic viewpoint about accidents.37:30 Culture, values and a story of how working with Louis helped a profoundly disabled child.42:45 Recap and Louis' training regime.45:24 Many PTs and physiotherapists are under-trained, says Louis.46:30 Branding around the Paralympics about "superheroes" and the idea of inspirational people isn't always helpful, says Louis, and describes why.48:30 Why Omnis worked with Key Fund, a responsible finance provider, and how this helped the organisation.50:30 Omnis' services are free at the point of use for children, young people, and adults with the most complex needs in school and community settings. How to get in touch.

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