19 Aug 2019

Meet the Founder: Ally

By Will Spurr

Ally is a friend-finding app with a mission to end loneliness for the one in three adults worldwide who live with long-term health conditions. Meet Ally’s founder – Nichola McAvoy.



Chronic conditions can impact people’s lives well beyond their immediate effects on physical health. Regardless of how visible, widespread, or directly harmful the condition is, living with a long-term ailment can profoundly harm a person’s wellbeing. They can feel misunderstood, left-out and, ultimately, deeply lonely. It doesn’t have to be this way. Ally’s founder, Nichola McAvoy, has lived with Alopecia – a hair loss condition – for the past 16 years. She warmly recalls how transformative it was for her to develop a close friendship with a girl who was going through the same difficult changes as her. Yet finding a friend with a shared condition is not easy, especially when the ailment is either invisible or willfully concealed. Hence Nichola’s mission became clear; to empower people to build friendships based on a mutual lived-experience of long-term health conditions.


‘[Ally] will be able to connect, empower, and transform the lives of all people living with long-term health conditions.’ 


Throughout her career, Nichola was continually motivated by the ambition to set up a social impact business. Whilst working as a consultant, she spent a year developing her plan before starting to work full-time on Ally in February 2019. Her focus started out with building an online community for other people with Alopecia. To varying degrees, Alopecia affects around 147 million people worldwide. This worked by providing a matchmaking function to pair people based on their location, interests, and type of Alopecia. It also offers a space for the promotion of values-aligned businesses and projects. As Ally gained traction, Nichola set her sights well beyond the Alopecia community. She is currently re-shaping the app so that it will soon be able to connect, empower, and transform the lives of all people living with long-term health conditions. 

Nichola with Ally Members

Nichola (second from left) at an Ally photoshoot.


Since launching in November 2018, Ally has picked up over 1,500 users from the Alopecia community. These include what Nichola refers to as the  ‘die-hard fans’ – who regularly update her on the sparkling friendships they have formed. In several cases, Ally has facilitated their first-ever friendship with someone who shares the condition. Her message is clear: Ally exists to empower, not pity, people with long term health conditions. This feeds into Ally’s emphasis on promoting positive body image and self-acceptance. To this end, they’ve carried out photoshoots and co-promotions with brands such as Boohoo and Birdsong.


Ally has the potential to enable millions of people both own their condition and experience the transformative power of friendship. 


You can keep up with Ally’s Progress by following them on @Ally_Alopecia