Imali Chislett

This Girl Is On Fire

Imali Chislett tells us more about her new agency, Inkfire Design, which is run entirely by creatives with disabilities, and why she’s inspired by seeing other disabled business owners crush their goals.

How you identify as disabled, and what does it mean to you?

I have multiple chronic health conditions, including ME/chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, arthritis, hypermobility, and stomach issues, and have used a wheelchair full time since I was a small child. I’ve never wanted to be viewed as less capable or a lesser human because of my health issues, and in every aspect of what I do, I aim to show that people with disabilities can fit in whilst also being awesome in our own right.

Tell us a little about your business.

Inkfire Design is a graphic design, virtual assistance and copywriting agency founded in 2021. It is run entirely by disabled creatives based around the UK. We have a huge team of over 35 members, and service businesses of all sizes. We also work with influencers.

Why did you start the business? Share your story so far.

I worked in a corporate job for a while, and got to experience the joys and challenges that went with that. Although there are some provisions in place to allow disabled people to work, they’re few and far between, and often don’t provide the support that a person actually needs to function in a role. I experienced this issue first hand, and realised that I wasn’t the only one.

It became my goal to create a business that could work flexibly

It became my goal to create a business that could work flexibly and fit around whatever needs someone may have, and this is where the idea for Inkfire Design came in. We are an agency based on flexibility, and our way of working means that we can accommodate a huge variety of needs, even if it’s just working one hour a week from your bed.

It’s our mission to champion a more accessible workplace environment and prove that with the right surroundings and support, we can achieve anything!

What do you see as the main challenges facing your business and its continued operation or growth?

Unfortunately, thanks to the rise of freelancing websites like Fiverr, the industry that we work in tends to be very saturated, and it can be challenging to locate customers, even though we know that they’re out there.

Long term, it is increasingly hard to be seen, so we’ve really got to work at our marketing efforts and continue to keep up the word of mouth. Keep talking about small businesses, it really makes all the difference!

What can we do to encourage more disabled entrepreneurs to start businesses – what is holding them back and what can we all do to help change that?

I think a huge concern for disabled people is that they’re going to start something which they don’t have the energy to maintain. We’ve all been there, but the biggest thing I’ve learnt is to outsource what you can. I have amazing business buddies who are there to support me no matter what, and if things get rough I know I can ask them to pick up the slack for me and not worry. You can create the job that you want, just think laterally about how to make it work for you.

What do you consider your greatest achievement or the proudest moment in your life so far?

My most recent proud moment has definitely been launching the Inkfire agency. It was a huge day for me and something I had spent months building up to. Another would be getting married, which I did last year (mid-lockdown!). I’m loving being a wife!

If there was one thing you could change about peoples’ perception of disability what would it be and why?

That just because we might need some changes, adaptions or flexibility, it doesn’t mean we aren’t capable. We can do the majority of the things that anyone else can, we just need someone to be patient enough to help us find a way to get there. If there’s one message I could give to employers – it’s please, take your disabled employees to lunch and talk to them. Actually,sit down and listen to what would help them. You’ll get a great response.

Who or what inspires you?

The Disabled/Chronically Ill community on Instagram, such as the amazing people on @open__book. And seeing other disabled business owners crush their goals!