November 15 2023
Chair: Jacqueline Winstanley (Universal Inclusion). Speakers: Dr Jonathan Potter, OECD; Rachel Parker, The Frangipane Bakery; Sassy Wyatt, Blind Girl Ventures; Sara McKee, Life Full Colour and Dr Shani Dhanda, Entrepreneur & Disability specialist (pre-recorded)
As academic research in the field of inclusive entrepreneurship grows, the debate is no longer focused on barriers but on real and sustainable global solutions for increasing inclusive entrepreneurship. Jacqueline Winstanley highlighted how this CIMR debate in Public Policy falls nicely in the middle of Global Entrepreneurship Week ( GEW – GEN UK) a time to celebrate the endless possibilities that inclusive entrepreneurship brings to innovation ecosystems, particularly when those who face barriers are taking leading roles. We wanted to look closely at what was actually driving those within our Network and sector to choose creation of enterprise rather than employment.
In the debate we had people speaking about their own experience of entrepreneurship, and Dr Jonathan Potter who leads a lot of work within the OECD on entrepreneurship, diversity and inclusion. We wanted to know from our panellists where they started, where they are now and in particular what they think needs to change.
Rachel Parker is CEO and Founder of The Frangipane Bakery, a gluten free bakery based in the Scottish Borders. Rachel has a vision to create a blueprint which would help to close the disability employment gap, with a particular focus on neurodivergence. Her lived experience of being autistic was that most workplaces are not set up to be neuro-inclusive, leading to high rates of unemployment. She was advised to explore self-employment as a way of avoiding the barriers created by working for someone else.
Some of the initial business support that she tried to access wasn’t very understanding with comments such as “well, if you can’t manage to work for anyone else, what on earth makes you think you’ll be able to work for yourself?”. This is ironically exactly why she needed to work for herself in ways that allow her to balance starting and growing a business with her day- to-day experience of being autistic. All of this has changed through accessible and tailored business support from South of Scotland. They have provided a dedicated business coach who has helped by understanding and providing accessible business support that is tailored to her. With this, combined with peer support through a neurodivergent entrepreneurs Facebook group and her Support Workers funded by the Access to Work programme, Rachel now feels that she has the support she needs, and somewhere to go for almost any question related to setting up and running a business. Rachel shared her plans for growth going forward.
Sassy Wyatt is a global leader in Disability Advocacy and full-time consultant. She helps brands and businesses across the globe, primarily in the travel and tourism sector, to be more digitally inclusive as well as helping to make their policies and infrastructure as accessible as possible. Sassy has arthritis which is an autoimmune condition that attacks the body. Born non-disabled, an accident breaking her arm at the age of seven became the catalyst for arthritis. One of the main issues surrounding arthritis is that it attacks your organs as well. At the age of 16, she was diagnosed and registered blind because arthritis had started attacking her eyes. Losing her vision completely in 2013, experiencing a difficult time at university where she did not receive proper support, she decided to pivot.
She began volunteering in her local area to help people with sight loss, alongside creating a blog: she shared her lived-experience as a blind person and her travel adventures, realising that there was a gap in the market for up-to-date and accurate information for disabled travellers, in particular blind people who want to travel. This turned into an entrepreneurship journey. Sassy shared her thoughts on the expansion of accessible tourism and brands or businesses who do not make their products accessible are missing out on a loyal Market and high return on investment.
Sara McKee has a 35-year life span as an alpha female in commercial industries travelling all over the world, doing all sorts of different things in transport, consumer technology and elsewhere. She supported her academic partner who had serious mental health challenges and no external support whatsoever. She is aware of the challenges faced when people with health issues are not supported.
After her husband’s death she re-invented herself as an entrepreneur helping artists and other entrepreneurs in their ambitions. Now Sara is unofficially the “Queen of Caernarfon” where she lives. She first opened a tiny micro business with a little art gallery at the heart of the pandemic. The business is still there and has expanded this year with a new Atelier and Arts bar. Her philosophy is to do your best every day; giving people the autonomy to run their businesses effectively and making sure that everybody feels fulfilled. As Jacqueline observed, what Sara demonstrates is the need to do that, initially within a very safe space.
Shani Dhanda (pre-recorded) is a disability inclusion and accessibility specialist, a broadcaster on daytime TV and a social entrepreneur. She has consulted for more than 300 businesses and brands across the world, collectively reaching and educating at least a million and a half employees.
She has not only contributed to the growth and success of these organisations but is also creating opportunities for others by networking, making introductions etc. As an entrepreneur, she is able to scale solutions that she knows will not only meet the needs of the community that she is trying to serve – but also when trying to solve problems for disabled people highlighting that the solution should be extended to benefit everybody.
Next up was Jonathan Potter answering the question, ‘what do you think is critical to increasing innovation and enterprise created by disabled people globally? And how will the OECD support this?’
While governments have introduced a range of entrepreneurship programmes to support people with disabilities, a problem is that they often remain small-scale, fragmented and lack continuity over time. The OECD’s overall message is therefore that the policy effort has to be scaled up and better resourced. The OECD Council Recommendation on SME and Entrepreneurship Policy commits OECD governments to encourage and support under-represented or disadvantaged groups to participate in entrepreneurship.
People with disabilities are covered in the OECD inclusive entrepreneurship work but do not get such a high profile as groups such as women and youth even though nearly one in five people in OECD countries live with some form of disability. There are probably two reasons. First, it is more difficult to get statistical data for disabled entrepreneurs and the barriers they face, than for other groups. Second, there are not such strong policies for disabled entrepreneurs in OECD countries when compared to the other target groups. The OECD shares the vision of the Road to Wonder report in seeing people with disabilities as potential leaders in entrepreneurship with facilitative policies co-designed with sector stakeholders.
In summing up, Jacqueline thanked the panel for painting the picture not only of what led them into their roles, but also the intent and the impact that they have. She said, “As we strive globally to encourage parliamentarians and others to invest in this sector, this is what we need to see and this is what we need to remember.” It is important that our actions are not in isolation but through ethical, collaboration. Again, echoing Jonathan’s comments about it being completely in collaboration, “there really is nothing about us without us.”
To learn more about these amazing speakers please visit:
Shani Dhanda, https://www.shanidhanda.com/
Sara McKee, Life Full Colour, https://www.lifefullcolour.com/
Rachel Parker, The Frangipane Bakery www.TheFrangipaneBakery.co.uk
Jonathan Potter, OECD, (40) Jonathan Potter | LinkedIn
Jacqueline Winstanley, Universal Inclusion https://universalinclusion.co.uk/
Sassy Wyatt, Blind Girl Adventures Https://www.blindgirladventures.com/
Lawton Smith, Winstanley et al. (2023) The ‘Road to Wonder’ project: Summary briefing now published – Centre for Innovation Management Research (bbk.ac.uk)
OECD. (2023). Policy brief on supporting persons with disabilities in entrepreneurship – Ensuring inclusion in a post-covid economy https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/economics/supporting-persons-with-disabilities-in-entrepreneurship_1ea0d982-en
The recording of this event is available here.