Sarah Kingston

Sarah Kingston tells us about her journey to identifying as disabled, how she’s tackling toxic narratives, and how even small gestures can make a huge difference to disability inclusion.

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

I have Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder, which belongs to a group of connective tissue disorders that cause joint hypermobility, instability, injury, and pain. I developed fibromyalgia as part of this. These chronic illnesses impact my life most days, presenting as pain, fatigue, and digestive and other issues. I have also recently been diagnosed with ADHD, which I have learned often comes hand in hand with hypermobility.

I’ve only recently come to terms with and started using the term disabled, not because I didn’t want to identify that way, but because I felt that I wasn’t ‘disabled enough’, and I didn’t want to minimise the experience of others. But the truth is that I live with pain and fatigue most of the time, and it does have a significant impact on my life. It’s a hidden illness, so it can be very difficult to explain to others, especially when I look fine and have good days where it can seem that nothing much is wrong with me.

Tell us a little about your business.

In Good Company is a female-led, tech-for-good company on a mission to power the growth of ‘bricks-and-mortar’ ethical, sustainable businesses in retail, hospitality and entertainment.

This growing sector can play a significant role in tackling environmental and societal challenges, but many of these businesses struggle to reach enough customers to scale and drive transformative impact.

Our unique platform helps people to discover these exemplary companies and understand their impact, a first and important step to increasing their custom. But we know these businesses need more support and we’re developing an arsenal of digital tools to ensure they can not only survive, but also thrive.

Founded in December 2021, we have spent the time since validating our business idea, raising funds, fostering relationships with partners and good businesses, and building our MVP platform. The platform is currently in Beta testing with our mailing list users and we’re launching publicly in September 2023.

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

I spent 13+ years in the not-for-profit sector as a high value fundraiser. Through this experience, I gained extensive insight into the social sector and its strengths and weaknesses and knowledge of the depth and scale of many pressing societal issues.

Whilst I still believe in the power and necessity of the charity sector to address many societal and environmental challenges, my time in the sector made me frustrated by its limitations. Diminishing pools of funding create unhelpful competition that drives charities to chase funding rather than focusing on collaboration, innovation and genuine impact. Certainly not all, and there is a LOT of positive action, but it’s a trend.

I became interested in the power of good business as a more sustainable force for positive social and environmental impact and, maybe, even a way to improve a system where profit has become king over all else. That led me to join Year Here, a postgraduate course in social innovation as a Fellow in 2020. I met my business partner Alex Birtles on the course and we both wanted to find a way to make impact businesses easier to find and support. In Good Company was born.

With In Good Company, we are working to understand how to encourage, support and grow good businesses so they can amplify their impact and, hopefully, change the world.


Product Mock Ups for In Good Company

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

Though we are a business with a social mission at heart, we need to operate as a sophisticated tech company that meets the consumer tech experience that today’s users have come to expect.

We know from research that people want to shop and spend their time more ethically and sustainably, but that we need to make it easy and convenient, or they won’t make the switch. Building a platform that meets these expectations takes time and significant funds.

Pushing forward the build of our site whilst developing key relationships with partners that will help us scale and with investors who will help us reach our goals, takes a lot of time, and we are a small team. It’s a balancing act.

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 key thing is not perpetuating the toxic founder narrative that you need to work 24/7 to succeed, and that if you don’t, you don’t care enough about your business and you’re going to fail. For me at least, working extremely long hours just isn’t possible due to pain and fatigue. Some days are just bad days where I’m only able to do the minimum. Having a Co-Founder and team that understands that is key for me in being able to be an entrepreneur.

One of the reasons I’ve become more vocal about being a disabled founder is to show others who might be considering it but are put off by that 24/7 narrative that it’s possible, but you need to set boundaries and look after yourself.

More financial support for founders – of all kinds, but especially those with disabilities – would help a lot as well. I’m lucky enough to be in a position where I can afford to work on In Good Company full time. I know many other amazing founders who are running their start-ups alongside other full or part-time work to stay afloat, I don’t know how they do it.


Sarah Kingston holding a newspaper with a story about her business

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

It’s difficult to pick a particular achievement or moment, especially now when I’m so focused on building something and frustrated that we’re not already saving the world. But I guess it’s making the leap to start a company where I truly believe in its mission and our potential to create a genuine positive impact. If I can be part of making it a success, that will be my greatest achievement.

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

Not all disabilities are immediately visible. You never know what someone is dealing with and so you shouldn’t make assumptions.

It was small, but one of the best things I saw with disability inclusion was at an old workplace. We had a lift installed, thanks to a grant, to help people get to the second-floor meetings rooms. I would regularly hear our Director’s PA greeting guests and directing them to the meeting rooms with the option to take the stairs or use the lift, even if they had just walked in the door. She didn’t make any assumptions based on what she could see, and, by giving everyone the same options, she wasn’t othering some or making them make the, sometimes awkward, request for help.

Who or what inspires you?

Purpose-driven business owners really inspire me. They have taken a big leap of faith starting any sort of businesses – and then adding on the extra pressure and work that comes with ensuring it’s having a positive impact as well is huge.

I really believe that changing the way we do businesses is the only way we’re going to even begin to fix things. So, those that are being brave and leading the way in doing good business are my heroes.

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

I feel like I should have an inspiring recommendation here, but honestly, a lot of what I read is fiction. Reading a good fiction book helps me de-stress from the day-to-day workload, the pain and other anxieties. I try to do this every night before bed to unwind.