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"It isn't just about money...
you need to focus on what
is going to deliver change"

                - Stelio Stefanou

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From crisis to charity

Stelio Stefanou had a potentially confusing start in life: "I was born to Greek Cypriot parents, with British nationality, in Egypt, in an American car on the way to a French hospital."

The family moved to the UK at the time of the Suez crisis, and the young chemistry student who took an academic option in business studies showed his clear vision by going on to build a facilities management firm that was sold in 2007 for £180 million.

After the sale, Stefanou said it was initially disorientating to shift from leading a business to running charities: "I had to learn new skills. It would be easy to think ‘I’ve run businesses so I can just run charities’, but you can’t do that; I needed to learn how charities work."

He is a trustee of Tomorrow's People, which helps get people back into employment, a patron of Hertfordshire Action on Disability and set up his own Stefanou Foundation in 2008. The foundation aims to empower vulnerable people to make positive changes in their lives, such as young people who have been in care training to become social workers, and to turn scientific ideas into viable businesses.

Under the umbrella of the UK's venerable Royal Society, Stefanou has joined others in kick starting a £20 million venture philanthropy "enterprise fund" that will support early stage technology enterprises.

Stefanou, who received the OBE for services to business, says his role model is his father, who opened a shop after arriving in the UK with almost nothing: "It taught me that you should never be afraid of failure because you can always start again."