‘Lilac Review’ boosts board to level up disabled entrepreneurship

The new Government-backed Lilac Review, which aims to address and overcome the inequality faced by disabled entrepreneurs, has boosted its Steering Group with the appointment of two further disabled founders, as it tracks significant progress since launch.

Shezad Nawab MBE, Co-Founder of coaching business ICE Ventures, and Hayley Kellard, Founder of greeting card company Dotty About Braille, will join The Lilac Review’s board to provide key advice and insight, alongside five other leading disabled founders already in post.

The Lilac Review – which launched earlier this year in February – is a major Government-backed, independent review, with an aim to level up opportunity for the nation’s disabled founders, who account for an estimated 25% of the nation’s 5.5million small businesses.  

Despite their significant number, disabled entrepreneurs represent only 8.6% of total small business turnover. Small Business Britain, which spearheaded the Review, estimates that levelling up opportunity could unlock an additional £230 billion in business turnover.  

The Lilac Review, which will run for an initial two-year period, aims to identify, and break down challenges faced by disabled entrepreneurs. Since launch, it has made significant progress, undertaking eighteen focus groups with disabled entrepreneurs to understand challenges and opportunities in-depth – including one run exclusively in British sign language.

This forms part of a broader consultation phase and call for evidence, and The Lilac Review is now gearing up to share interim research this May, with a final report and recommendations set for the end of 2025. This will include a call-to-action for driving positive change across society – particularly around accessibility and inclusion in entrepreneurship.   

The two new board members, Shezad Nawab, and Hayley Kellard, will draw from personal and professional experience to further the aims of The Lilac Review. Shezad Nawab, who is profoundly Deaf from birth, runs a consultancy business which empowers and educates entrepreneurs in pitching to investors confidently to scale their businesses. Hayley Kellard, who has a rare eye condition, sells personalised braille greetings cards, as well as leaflets and labels, and supports fellow disabled entrepreneurs on her online social platforms.

Kellard said: "I was delighted to be invited to join the Steering Board for The Lilac Review. Having attended the launch and heard from other disabled entrepreneurs about the barriers they've faced, so much of it resonated with me, and I'm really looking forward to sharing my insight and experience as a disabled entrepreneur and helping make changes that will benefit the whole community."

Nawab MBE said: “The Lilac Review is a major step in supporting Deaf and Disabled entrepreneurs with their businesses, from startups to scaleups, and I am very pleased to be a part of its Steering Board. I look forward to sharing my expertise and vast experience to add realistic value to driving the changes needed in society.”

More broadly, The Lilac Review Steering Board is 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 also features a further number of prominent disabled founders on its Steering Board including:

  • Joseph Williams, Co-Founder and CEO of worker-tech company platform Clu
  • Dr Mark Esho MBE, Founder of Easy Internet Solutions and Disability and Health Policy Champion at Federation of Small Businesses (FSB)
  • Martyn Sibley, Founder of Purple Goat Agency, Accomable (sold to Airbnb) and Disability Horizons magazine
  • Sarah Berthon, Founder, Excel Against The Odds, which supports people with chronic illnesses in the workplace

And a number of representatives from the wider business community and UK Government also feature on the board, 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.