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Lee Stanley - Sharp Futures

Lee and his wife set up Sharp Futures, a social enterprise that helps young people from a diverse background into the creative, tech and digital sector. He lives with Crohn's disease.

In this interview he tells us more about running a business when you have IBD...

What type of IBD do you have and when were you diagnosed?

I have recurring Crohn's disease at the ileum. I have had two resections, the first resection in 1992 and the second in 2001.

I was in remission for nine years until a severe flare in September 2010. Since that date I have been battling this disease, physically, mentally and emotionally.

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Tell us about your business

Sharp Futures is a social enterprise that helps young people from a diverse background into the creative, tech and digital sector.

When and why did you start your business?

We set up Sharp Futures almost eight years ago. Before Sharp Futures my wife and I worked in the music business. After touring the world and working with some of the largest acts, we both decided it was time to start a family and look to help young people into the creative sectors, as we did when we were younger.

How does your IBD affect your business?

I am lucky that my wife and I work together, in fact we have worked together for the last 30 years. She is incredibly supportive if I’m having a bad day with my IBD, which means rescheduling appointments and work diaries.

Are there benefits to running your own business when you have IBD?

There are definitely benefits to running your own business if you have IBD. A great example of this is that my PA knows to schedule all my appointments for the afternoon as I’m generally fatigued in the mornings.

There are also other benefits to running your own business with IBD. The endless appointments with consultants, GPs, monthly Vedolizumab infusions can all be scheduled without having to book in with the HR department.

How do you deal with the stress and workload of running your own business and do you think this has an impact on your IBD?

Having had Crohn’s disease for over 28 years I know when I’ve taken on too much in the working week so I can scale the workload back based on experience.

I don’t generally feel stress in the workplace has a direct impact on my Crohn’s disease, I think I get more stressed out with consultant appointments etc.

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What are your hopes for your business in the future?

My hopes for the future of the business are to scale up Sharp Futures' activities nationally.

What advice do you have for other people with IBD who are thinking of starting a business?

My advice for starting your own business whilst dealing with IBD would be to absolutely go for it. You are your own boss, you can set the times and parameters of the working day, you can schedule doctor appointments around your working day, and if you have days where you’re flaring appointments can easily be arranged.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Although I’ve had two major operations, I’ve managed to lead a fully successful life and career.

My career has taking me to places I never thought I’d see, I’ve met some fantastic people along the way, and although my IBD has been both a physical and mental challenge and I’ve had dark days, looking back I’m so grateful that in-between my operations and flare ups I’ve had such a fantastic time.

I know everyone says don’t let your disease define you, but it’s true it might not be the life you’ve imagined, but you can have a full life with IBD.

Support Lee

To find out more about Sharp Futures visit their website.

Lee also writes a monthly blog about his experiences

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