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‘Lilac Review” launched to level up disabled entrepreneurship

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A major new independent review into addressing and overcoming the inequality faced by disabled-led businesses has been launched with backing from the UK Government.

Disabled entrepreneurs currently account for an estimated 25% of the nation’s 5.5million small businesses but represent only 8.6% of total small business turnover. Small Business Britain estimates suggest that levelling up opportunity could unlock an additional £230 billion in business turnover.

The Lilac Review aims to identify, and seeks 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.

Jointly chaired by the Minister for Small Business, Kevin Hollinrake, the Minister for Disabled People, Mims Davies and Victoria Jenkins, CEO and Founder of adaptive fashion brand Unhidden. The Lilac Review launched on 1 February 2024 and will take place over an initial two-year period.

Kevin Hollinrake MP, Minister for Small Business and Co-Chair of The Lilac Review said: “We are committed to ensuring the UK is the best place in the world for anyone who wants to start and scale up a business.

“That’s why I am delighted to co-chair The Lilac Review to support the UK’s disabled entrepreneurs so they can follow their passion and create their own success story, without restrictions or barriers.”

Following research and consultation with a wide variety of stakeholders – particularly disabled entrepreneurs – interim research findings will be shared later this year, with a final report and recommendations set for the end of 2025.

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. 

Consulting 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.

Access 2 Funding campaign also shows that 84 per cent of disabled founders don’t feel they have equal access to the same opportunities and resources as non-disabled founders. While further research also shows that disabled people on average face an additional £975 a month in costs due to the ‘Disability Price Tag’, before business costs. 

Victoria Jenkins, CEO and Founder of Unhidden and Co-Chair of The Lilac Review said: “The contribution of the disabled community to society is so much higher than people are made aware of. To be able to help remove some, or all of, the barriers that are impacting us is a lifelong mission of mine and so many others. We are also worth more than what we can, or can’t, contribute from a financial respect and I hope to highlight that as well over the next two years, alongside powerful and important voices in the community.”

Driven by insight from disabled entrepreneurs, a wide audience of stakeholders will be consulted as part of The Lilac Review’s research into the challenges and solutions in this area.

A number of disabled founders will sit on the Review’s Steering Board, as well as representatives from the wider business community and UK Government including: Small Business Britain, Lloyds Bank, eBay, BT, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), British Chamber of Commerce (BCC), The Entrepreneurs Network, Business Disability Forum, and academics from ARU Peterborough university.

Minister for Disabled People and Co-Chair of The Lilac Review Mims Davies MP said: “Disabled entrepreneurs currently make up a quarter of all small business owners – they are at the heart of our economy and its paramount they get every opportunity to succeed and thrive in their sectors.

“I’m delighted to be co-chairing the Lilac Review, which will help us make sure the UK is the best place to do business and to be a disabled entrepreneur – where your ideas and endeavours will be supported.”

Once published, The Lilac Review will share recommendations for supporting disabled entrepreneurs and a call-to-action for driving positive change across society – particularly around accessibility and inclusion in entrepreneurship.

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