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The Rise and Support for Disabled and Neurodiverse Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders

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As a small charity working hard to improve the economic landscape of our local area, we facilitate many work experience opportunities for young people and have even recently been fortunate enough to recruit new staff members from our training courses who are local residents.

Ibrahim came to us looking for startup advice and was very open about his autism and learning difficulties. Like many people, I have personal experience within the neurodiverse world as my daughter has special education needs and requires extra levels of care due to her learning difficulties and autism. As she is getting older and is now at college, usual work experience opportunities have been difficult to land and knowing where to look for opportunities has become even more challenging.

Ibrahim came to us with a curious mindset and a can-do attitude. He has been working towards his own desire to become an education consultant but has been volunteering with us as a Projects Assistant, researching different elements of entrepreneurial training.

Below, Ibrahim gives his synopsis of the challenges neurodiverse people have to endure and the additional mountains they need to climb for financial freedom.

Saffron Saunders
CEO, StartUp Croydon

Despite the stigmas those with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) face on a daily basis, there has been a rise of entrepreneurs with various conditions such as MS, Autism, ADHD, and Crohn’s Disease who refuse to let any of their challenges that is affecting them through their Condition by starting up their own enterprises.

One famous example of an entrepreneur who does not have a ‘disability’ but is differently abled was Steve Jobs, who was known for being one of the co-pioneers/visionaries of Apple.

Many of today’s greatest minds, such as Mark Zuckerberg (Meta Platforms) and Greta Thunberg (Environmental Activist) who have Asperger’s Syndrome (high-functioning Autism), and Jamie Oliver (chef and cookbook author) and David Needleman (JetBlue) who are known to have ADHD, there has been speculation that Steve jobs had Autism and Dyslexia.

Ibrahim Animashawun

As a great Neurodiverse entrepreneur who succeeded in achieving great things, Mr Jobs said we must ‘Think different’ – a slogan he used to describe Apple and to make it stand out from its competitors in the 1990s – and you have neurodiversity explained simply. According to Civil Service World, “The strapline conveys the quality of a machine, but the trait is also true to our brains.”

Neurodiversity is essential for many companies to succeed and flourish. There are a great many people with different learning disabilities, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia, who may need additional support in terms of starting up their businesses. However, once given the tools, they are able to ‘whizz’ their way through their journey of entrepreneurship.

ADHD is typically associated with hyperactivity, and according to research conducted by the University of Leeds, people who had symptoms associated with ADHD in childhood were up to 6% more likely to go on to own their own business. Moreover, having many great and creative ideas that are strongly linked with ADHD, it is amazing to see countless business leaders making great strides in their careers.

The recruitment and HR news outlet, Onrec, has stated some statistics relating to disabled entrepreneurs, that around 84% of UK-based disabled entrepreneurs say they don’t have equal access to the same opportunities and resources as non-disabled entrepreneurs. There is a lot that needs to be improved to ensure that both aspiring and established entrepreneurs with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities have access to advice, support and funding opportunities to decrease this statistic. Having said that, there have been some positive strides that have taken place to help support new business leaders, such as the access-to-work scheme.

We must do everything to champion and advocate for those who have Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. We are committed as a business to being as inclusive as possible to help cater to those with disabilities and encourage others to do the same.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has a free hub which is centred on supporting disabled entrepreneurs called Business without Barriers (BWB). According to a report conducted by BWB hub, around 52% of business owners who have a health condition or learning disabilities have faced barriers.

Despite that, there are many issues that some youths would struggle with in their entrepreneurship journey, such as lacking education in life skills and entrepreneurship, and many students, especially those with SEND, would be able to expand on their creativity and explore their curiosity by being taught entrepreneurship and learning how to put their own passion into a business. It would be essential to learn skills like critical thinking, communication, diplomatic etiquette, great teamwork and problem-solving, and if they were all taught from an early age, it would help avoid many of the issues we now have. There would be far more organic learning, and many students would be learning skills they know they have a great passion for, and they would be able to show their competitive side and be better leaders. Perhaps it would also reduce the chances of bullying as students would be wanting to attract potential clients.

Below are the best tips I have learnt while learning about entrepreneurship and living with neurodiversity and disabilities:

  1. Learn how to be a great networker – as there is no guide to networking, the general rule is to show the person as a potential colleague or business partner what you can offer them, and vice versa, and have a genuine conversation and listen carefully and with intent.
  2. Please ask for help from those who genuinely want you to succeed and especially when help is offered.
  3. Be the best diplomat and learn to comprise and ensure both sides are happy. Delegate tasks and be organised.
  4. See starting a business as a great pathway in educating and advocating for those with their respective conditions or disabilities.
  5. Please have a lot of determination and DO NOT GIVE UP!!!!

 

Ibrahim Animashawun

Listen to Ibrahim being interviewed by Ella Brown at the StartUp Croydon media studio.

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