Alice Hargreaves

Alice Hargreaves tells us why the pandemic was the first time she identified as disabled, why she’s inspired by her network, and how her face ended up on a building at the University of Warwick.



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

I was born with a range of respiratory conditions, which means I’ve spent my life in and out of hospital. Unfortunately, a lot of the drugs I take have side effects that are in themselves disabling too, especially after 30+ years of use, so now I also have hormone and orthopaedic issues.

In general, my conditions mean I take a lot of medications and have a weakened immune system. I was shielding during the pandemic which, if I’m honest, is the first time I really identified as disabled. Suddenly it was very clear that I was quite different to the majority.

I was also diagnosed in my 30s with ADHD and now own the identity of a disabled and neurodiverse entrepreneur. It’s one of those things that I think needs to be celebrated, it’s what makes me who I am.

Tell us a little about your business.

I was part of the original founding team of Sick in the City CIC (trading as SIC), a social enterprise that works to close the disability employment gap here in the UK. I’m now a solo entrepreneur, which is a whole new thing that I’m having to navigate.

In essence, there are two sides to SIC. One side supports disabled and neurodiverse people for free, throughout their careers by providing mentorship, training and e-learning.

The other part of what we do is to support businesses in their access and inclusion journeys by delivering training, consulting, and workshops. As a CIC, profits from these services go right back into supporting disabled people.

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

I definitely can’t take all the credit. My original co-founder, Rachael Mole, was the driving force during the initial months. She was tired and frustrated of the barriers in the workplace.

I realised very quickly that it was something I wanted to be a part of. I’d worked in communications for 10 years, focusing on DEI, particularly women in leadership and women in STEM, so to me it was a no-brainer that I should be working to support people just like me.

We’ve been through some iterations and now I’m leading the business into a range of really exciting partnerships with other organisations looking at solving the disability employment gap. As someone who thrives off other people, I love the direction that the business is going in. I get to work with some really cool people and collaborate with lots of different clients.

Alice Hargreaves

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

I’m realistic about my health: it’s not been great recently and being a founder down is tough. But I’m building an advisory board around me so that I can have a support system of people when I’m struggling.

Working with partners means that I’ve got supporters who can take things off my plate when I’m particularly unwell. I hope soon that I’ll be able to hire a more regular team, for some stability (I currently rely on freelancers).

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?

Entrepreneur life is scary, and it can feel like such an unknown. Sadly, it can be a lot harder for disabled people like me to get funding, which is vital when you’re just starting out.

Having great mentors is the most important thing. I wouldn’t have got to where I am today without mentors who have helped me navigate the unknown. If you’re a business leader with a bit of time to spare, please mentor a disabled founder!

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

Potentially a bit of a weird one but my face (and accompanying inspirational quote) is now on the outside of a building at the University of Warwick. Definitely a bucket list moment I didn’t know I needed.

My relationship with the university began in February 2022, and I’ve received so much support in terms of training and mentorship: they even allowed me to host my first in-person conference day at one of their venues in June 2023. So to be recognised as someone to watch feels like quite the honour!

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

There’s a lot of rhetoric around disabled people being scroungers. In addition, as someone with ADHD, seeing a lot in the media about over diagnosis and ADHD being caused by TikTok has been really hurtful. I feel like I’m being attacked for who I am.

In fact, disabled and neurodiverse people are so creative. We’re problem solvers from navigating an inaccessible world and are actually very employable.

Who or what inspires you?

Since starting out on this entrepreneur journey, I’ve met so many incredible founders and freelancers who are navigating life with a disability. Not only have I made some amazing friends but wow, they’re all fantastic people too who I greatly admire. I feel like if I listed them off, I’d be agonising about missing people off – but to the fellow disabled entrepreneurs in my network, you rock!

Do you have a recommendation for a book or a podcast which has helped you along your journey?

I only read fiction, and only listen to crime podcasts, so not really. However I love the Life of Pippa and Wellgood Wellbeing on Instagram. Two wonderful people who navigate the world with grace and humour, and who I’ve had the pleasure of making friends with!