Lancashire entrepreneur Lee Chambers is part of a significant new independent review into addressing and overcoming the inequality faced by disabled-led businesses, which has been launched with backing from the UK government.
The founder of Essentialise and Male Allies UK is autistic and lives with a chronic autoimmune condition, and has previously spoken about how this has helped him to be adaptable, resilient and resourceful.
Disabled entrepreneurs currently account for an estimated a 25 per cent of the nation’s 5.5m small businesses but represent only 8.6 per cent of total small business turnover. Small Business Britain estimates suggest that levelling up opportunity could unlock an additional £230bn in business turnover.
The Lilac Review aims to identify, and seek to break down, challenges faced by disabled entrepreneurs. Issuing an action plan to drive greater change across entrepreneurship, it will call for organisations across the UK to commit to a series of goals.
The need for The Lilac Review was highlighted by the Disability and Entrepreneurship report, launched by Small Business Britain in March 2023 in partnership with Lloyds Bank. Chambers was a major part of the report, bringing the team to Lancashire to record and discuss many of the challenges he’d faced in his 15 years running multiple businesses.
The research consulted over 500 disabled founders across the country – in one of the largest studies of its kind in the UK – the report found disabled entrepreneurs face significant barriers to start and grow businesses, such as higher start-up costs, challenges accessing funding and support, as well as a lack of credit by wider society.
While 35 per cent of founders said their disability has positively impacted them as an entrepreneur, over half said they had no external support when starting up, 72 per cent lacked appropriate role models to guide them and 55 per cent received no financial support.
On being involved in the research and review, Lee Chambers said: “As a disabled entrepreneur who has had a diverse business journey, it feels natural to be a part of making sure that future disabled entrepreneurs face fewer barriers than I have.
"While the barriers can be scaled, and I’ve learned from the difficulties, few people appreciate just how this impacts you and reduces opportunity, belief, energy, and optimism. As someone who is an ambassador for the North, I’m excited to be a part of this much-needed change while continuing to ensure the North is heard through every stage of the review.”
Operating over a two-year period, the Lilac Review will undertake extensive research and analysis to identify, and remove, challenges faced by disabled entrepreneurs.
Interim findings will be published in Summer 2024, with a final report shared at the end of 2025, which will include recommendations and a call to action for driving positive change across society.