“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” — Maya Angelou
Wow. I set up the Twitter page on 15th October 2016, but two years ago today (22nd October) I officially founded, ThisAbility — Inclusively, daringly forwards, my business after feeling frustrated and alone in the creative industries. How beautiful, and it means something special to me to have founded my organisation during Black History Month here in the UK!
I couldn’t have pushed forward to today without my family and a few extraordinary friends. You know who you are.
It hasn’t been easy.
My health that has been bad this year, a daily severely deteriorating body living because of a rare neuromuscular condition that has 657 muscles progessively dying on me, and running this business entirely myself without a co-founder or anyone.
There has been so much that has happened in the past two years, and I wanted to achieve more, but I’m still here and still going. I am happy where I am now I am learning to trust myself, to be kind to myself, and to love myself wholeheartedly no matter what. I am stepping out of normality and growing through discomfort every day, primarily through my business ThisAbility. I am happy with what I am striving toward.
Initially, I was a “network supporting and celebrating creative disabled talent” but over the past year or so I have felt this wasn’t me and felt the pressure to be the version of my business others wanted.
I have decided to be the change on my own terms.
As Kyan sings: “I got a river in me…”
I have decided not to go with the flow and never be afraid of change or evolving failure nor growth.
I have decided never to be scared to evoke nor create, agitate, educate.
I am going to be who I needed when I was younger.
I am going to build my business into my legacy that sustainably, effectively, productively, and positively outlives (and is more significant than) myself to leave the world in a better place.
Enriching, educating, transformational.
I am going to be part of the “New Definition Of Billionaire” as defined by Jason Silva: Someone who positively affects the lives of a billion people; and for me, the billion people I am going to positively affect the lives of are disabled people that’s currently at 1.3 billion people, an emerging market the size of China.
And I am going to, as my shero, Cindy Gallop, eloquently says: “… make an absolute goddamn fucking shit-ton of money.”
In light of this, on 29 February (rare disease day) I registered my business into an official limited company, and I can fully now announce that three months ago I decided to evolve my business into an equity consultancy rather than a “network.”
Nope, not an equality consultancy. Yes, an equity consultancy. The definition of equity as in equitability characterised by equity or fairness; just and right; fair; reasonable: equitable treatment of all citizens.
This best defined who I wanted my business ThisAbility to be, although there are still immense, daily struggles as a disabled entrepreneur.
For example, THIS is a fascinating read from The Independent from last week states that “there is a record number of disabled entrepreneurs in the UK…” but out of necessity, not progress.
As a South Asian, feminist, creative, disabled entrepreneur of my business ThisAbility, I can really relate to this article, and I find it extremely challenging every single day to get the support I need anywhere to build (and grow and sustain) my business. Not only am I trying to develop, to grow, and to sustain a BUSINESS (NOT a charity nor a recruiter) entirely myself but I also have to put up with what people expect me and my business to be to fit into their narratives daily. Also, I have to deal with everyday ableism and society’s desire to do things “for” me instead of “with” me. This thread on Twitter from today highlights what I mean so emotively.
However, those of you who know me well will know that nothing or no one will stop me from getting to my goals and continue working tirelessly to destabilise the accepted narratives of creativity and disability, as well as support creative disabled talent to change the culture to make equity the default. “Creativity is putting your imagination to work, and it’s produced the most extraordinary results in human culture.” — Ken Robinson
Despite getting numerous accolades this year (including Campaign’s Top 10 Trailblazers for Change in 2017, BIMA 100 “Champion for Good” Class of 2018, 2018 WINNER: DIMA 50 Male Advocate for Equality in Marketing & Media, and The Dots and Squarespace’s 100 Creative Leaders With Social Heart), it is never about awards to me. Yes, they help for recognition, but I’m more interested in effectiveness (rather than useless noise) and genuine emphatic (tangible) action.
June Sarpong best writes in her book #Diversify: “Create a new normal that is equitable, diverse, and prosperous…”
I am learning more and more that I can only do this if I look after myself wholeheartedly. I am learning to respect myself and ensure others do the same, as I know my (financial and social) value/worth in the world.
The image below via @TheGoodQuote on Instagram I recent saw illustrates how I’ve been thinking and want to reset myself to excellently:
“Be generous with your love but careful with your heart.”
I love this. So much I want to write about this and my life right now, but I’m just pushing forward, positively. Quietly. Growing through discomfort. Being bold, being wild, being fearless. Working hard. Being patient. Being kind and nice. Being generous with my love. Always.
Because greatness and good things are coming my way.
WE GOT THIS! ✊🏿✊🏾✊🏽✊🏼✊🏻
And I’m blessed to be surrounded by so many incredible entrepreneurs including Arlan Hamilton, Pip Jamieson, Tolu Farinto, and Mark van der Heijden who inspire me every day to keep going and celebrate my authentic self.
This quote sums up how I’m currently feeling, as my friend Marie Reig best says: “My true potential is unknown.”
Also, I’d like to finally officially announce the relaunch of our new website: Check it out. It’s now all live!
From here, as part of what the United Nations calls the “world’s largest minority,” the world is ours. Here’s to ThisAbility thriving for the next 18 years and beyond.
Let’s go! 🔥
Watch this space.
Listening to “Lonely River” by Kyan