Green-fingered Michael grows his own business after job knockbacks

“I feel happy and proud to run my own business,” says Michael, unemployed for four years and on the receiving end of numerous rejections from employers who would not go the extra mile to make reasonable adjustments for his learning disability.

When Michael from Coventry met Suzie Crowter, a journey guide on the Accelerate programme at Grapevine, he wanted to find a job he enjoyed where he could use his skills, meet new people and feel respected.

He had a substantial amount of work experience as a park ranger but found that most gardening jobs required a driving licence and his own vehicle, which he did not have.

In spite of this, two organisations moved Michael through the interview stage only to withdraw the opportunity when they discovered he had difficulties reading and writing.

Neither job specified reading as a requirement of the job but Michael was still denied on health and safety grounds. If he couldn’t read the guidance, he couldn’t work there.

Michael stands with a spade in hand on a large area of grass in a park. He is wearing a park ranger's uniform.
Accelerate participant Michael in a previous role as a park ranger.

The law states employers must make reasonable adjustments to ensure disabled people can undertake a role like anyone else – adapting the job description, putting the right support in place, even finding a way for health and safety guidance to be shared and understood in a different way to having to read it!

These challenges and rejections were tough to take but eventually spurred Michael on to take his passion for gardening and launch his own business. If others wouldn’t hire him, he would do it himself!

With help from self-employment advisor John Kilcoyne at Coventry and Warwickshire Co-operative Development Agency (CDA, which manages Accelerate), Michael wrote a business plan detailing his target audiences, advertising methods and pricing schedule.

Suzie helped create a visual version of the business plan so Michael could see his business vision and steps he must take to achieve it.

Michael wears a red t-shirt and holds a wooden brrom to sweep the backyard of a house in Allesley village, Coventry. Brick walls and outbuildings can be seen.
Michael is enjoying getting out to work and running his own business.

He now has flyers he distributes around the area local to him to advertise his services, thereby overcoming the need to drive in order to work.

Six months on, Dewey Gardening Services has transformed green spaces for over 20 customers in and around Allesley Village and Michael is enjoying making his customers’ gardens “nicer places so they can feel happy to be there.”

Journey guide Suzie says: “It only takes a few small adjustments for an autistic person or person with a learning disability to become a valued member of any workplace.

“These adjustments don’t have to be big or expensive, but make a huge difference in ensuring the team is diverse, inclusive and welcomes different perspectives.”

Accelerate is a Building Better Opportunities employment support service offered by a network of organisations across the city and county, managed by Coventry and Warwickshire CDA and funded by the European Social Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund.

It forms part of Grapevine’s #StrengtheningPeople strand of action, alongside Sparking Community and Shifting Power.

Accelerate sets out to find disadvantaged people – in the case of Grapevine, disabled people – meaningful, sustainable employment with inclusive employers. Find out more here:

Watch this video to see how Accelerate also helped Libby.