The Benefits of Being a Deaf Entrepreneur with Charlie Swinbourne

A picture of Charlie Swinbourne, the founder of Limping Chickens. Photo Credit: BBC Writer's Room

(Photo Credit: BBC: Writersroom)

In this article we talk to Charlie Swinbourne, a partially d/Deaf entrepreneur, journalist, screenwriter, and founder of the world’s most popular deaf blog, The Limping Chicken.

Hatch Enterprise believes in an inclusive ecosystem where everyone has access to the power of entrepreneurship to create a fair economy, strong communities and a better world.

We believe that the power of representation is everything, which is why we have started talking to external experts and leaders in their fields, to learn more about what entrepreneurship means for them.

See below for our interview with Charlie Swinbourne, where we learn about his founding journey, the benefits of being a d/Deaf entrepreneur, and a few resources to consider when creating an inclusive space for d/Deaf people.

What spurred the start of The Limping Chicken?

It was a combination of factors that led to the creation of the site way back in 2012.

“I was writing for national newspapers which didn’t always allow me to write about what I felt was important. Meanwhile the deaf magazines out there tended to cover only one perspective on deafness.

“I believed there should be a platform bringing all deaf people together, covering all sides of deafness, open to many different contributors, so that’s what I decided to create. 

“In the last ten years, over 400 deaf people have written for the site, which is amazing really.

“I remember hesitating before I started it, because I didn’t know whether it might be a big failure, and I also wondered whether the opposite might happen – that it’d take over my life! Luckily it took off, and although it took over my life for a while, I found ways of managing it.

“I was very fortunate early on that a deaf company supported the site, and since then, that many other deaf companies have joined them. The site wouldn’t exist without their support.”

Do you think entrepreneurship can increase some control over d/Deaf people’s working life?

Yes it can, and being your own boss, growing your business and having that control has many benefits. And I really admire many deaf entrepreneurs. 

“But what I think is also important is that the growth in deaf entrepreneurs also reflects the negative, that the workplace has so many barriers that a lot of deaf people feel they’ve reached a glass ceiling and have to do it alone. 

“It’s a positive that is born from a negative, if that makes sense.”

What are the benefits to owning a business as a d/Deaf entrepreneur?

For me, starting Limping Chicken, it was a relief to be able to post the deaf stories that I felt were important, without needing someone else’s permission.

“I knew the culture, I knew what deaf people were thinking about or worried about and I wanted the site to reflect that. And I was able to shape it in the way I wanted to.

“Over the last ten years I’ve had to make many decisions about the direction of the site, and I was able to use my own creativity and judgement in order to make those decisions. I’ve also developed and guided other deaf writers who have contributed to the site, and become a more organised person! 

“As much as I hope I’ve served the site, and that in turn the site has served the deaf community, running the site has also given me a great deal, too.”

Are you a d/Deaf entrepreneur?

Check out our programmes to see what support we can offer you today!

What advice do you have for d/Deaf people thinking of starting their own business?

Drawing on my own experience, I’d firstly advise people to work out if there really is a gap in the market or a potential for the business you want to create. Perhaps start small and see what works before expanding.

“I’d ask Is it something you really want to do? Every day? For a long time?

“Starting something is easy, maintaining it, and dealing with the challenges that inevitably come is the hard bit.

“I think integrity is really important for my site. When posting regular articles, there’s a responsibility to ensure that what’s posted on the site is accurate and fair. That’s a big part of the hidden work that I do, along with our regular writers.

“Consistency is also a big thing for me. If I started something new on the site, could I maintain it, not just for a few weeks, but for months or years? I often had to ask myself some big questions before making a decision about what to do.

“Then there’s diplomacy. Dealing with numerous writers, readers, social media comments, companies, and doing so in such a responsible and hopefully reasonable way, without alienating anyone. 

“It’s funny, I hadn’t thought about all the elements involved with running the site in this kind of detail before! There are so many facets to it which I hadn’t considered.”

Have you found the entrepreneurial space to be an inclusive one?

I’ve probably done everything I’ve done in a bit of a bubble to be honest! Perhaps because there aren’t many sites doing what Limping Chicken does.

“The main support I’ve had is from other deaf leaders and key figures in the community, who’ve given me encouragement when I most needed it.

“Perhaps it’s time for me to broaden my circles!”

Which resources would you recommend to people trying to create a more inclusive space?

In terms of deafness, I’d recommend watching the programmes made in sign language on the BSL Zone website, which really give a massive insight into deaf culture. 

“It’s also worth looking at the websites of major deaf charities such as the British Deaf Association, Action on Hearing Loss, Signature and the National Deaf Children’s Society.

“There’s also a lot of informative videos and posts out there on Instagram and other sites, and some really talented deaf influencers and vloggers who have a lot to teach people out there.”

It seems like a really exciting time for The Limping Chicken, what major developments do you have on the horizon right now?'

I’m really excited that we’ve recently been able to add BSL interpretation to many of the articles on the site. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.

“Many deaf people use BSL as their first language, so to make the articles more accessible, it’s vital that they can take them in using sign language.

“I’m really pleased that we’ve been able to work with Signly on this, they’ve done an amazing job so far, and use deaf translators, which is amazing. 

“I’m not sure there’s another blog that produces the amount of written content that we do, that also translates it into sign language. It does feel like a first, which hopefully many other sites will follow. Major news sites should be doing this.”

Hatch supports underrepresented entrepreneurs to imagine, launch and grow sustainable and impactful businesses through tailored support, community and partnerships.

We are committed to making our space as inclusive as possible, which is why we are dedicated to improving our accessibility wherever possible.

Stay tuned to follow us on this journey.

Related posts:

Share this post

Ready to start your journey with Hatch?

Sign up for our newsletter today!