As a proud ADHDer and parent to wonderful neurodiverse children, Jessica Meredith is on a mission to create inclusive environments for those with a neurological difference such as ADHD, autism and dyslexia. She believes that to create truly inclusive societies we must all accept and embrace our neuro diversities.
She is the CEO of Differing Minds, a social enterprise that supports organisations to be neuro inclusive through training, consulting and more. She also delivers lessons to children about neurodiversity to firstly, improve the school environment for neurodivergent children, and secondly, to create the change needed in society by educating and empowering future generations.
What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your corporate journey/venture/initiative.
I had a happy childhood and was very lucky to have access to a wonderful education. That resulted in an easy transition into employment. However, it wasn’t fulfilling me. And I knew I needed something more.
Was there any turning point in your life that changed your journey? If so, what was it? Please tell us the backstory behind it.
My eldest child is autistic and having her completely altered the path of my life, and career. It led me to being diagnosed with ADHD myself, and therefore understanding myself better than I have ever done.
Before this I worked in a corporate job which I enjoyed but wasn’t entirely fulfilled by. Understanding myself and my children better meant I was so much happier. I realised that I wanted everyone to understand these differences, and I felt compelled to educate people. I knew I could help other people like me, and my daughter.
Without having had my daughter, I wouldn’t have understood myself. And I certainly wouldn’t have been able to define a new career path, and be fulfilled and driven by such a purpose.
Every industry that is now a large-scale, top-notch business once started as a small idea in the minds of entrepreneurs. What was that idea or motivation that made you start your business /initiative? What motivated you within to say “YES, go for it!”
I have always wanted to start my own business but lacked a compelling idea that motivated me. Neurodiversity became such a passion for me that I just knew I had to turn this passion into a career. I was driven by the need to help other people like me. There was such a need and I heard so many stories about people having such challenges in employment that I just knew I had to do it.
Everyone has their own set of challenges when starting an entrepreneurial journey. Still, the most essential part for others to learn is how you deal with those. Would you like to share with us your challenges and your coping mechanisms?
One of my biggest challenges (which is one of my ADHD traits) is my many, many ideas and difficulty in focusing on just one! I’m very good at mobilising initiatives but less good at scaling them once they are up and running. I deal with this in a few ways. Firstly, I have built a great support network of people with complementary skills – both personally and professionally. I work with people who are able to recognise when my ideas are wildly out of control and reign me in. I also re-plan frequently to ensure I am always reminded of the most important thing to be doing in order to hit my overall goals, as opposed to my latest idea!
While the global pandemic of COVID-19 is associated primarily with adversities, it has also brought about a true boom in startups, with successful entrepreneurship in many countries. The pandemic has impacted all of us in one way or another. Would you like to share your experience on a personal and professional level?
I was on maternity leave when COVID-19 hit. I found it exceptionally difficult to be at home with 2 small children. However, it also allowed me to refocus on what I felt was important. My business was born in 2021, the year after we were hit by COVID in the UK.
Your journey and your vision are very inspiring, but are there any achievements or accomplishments you would like to mention?
I am particularly proud of our social mission. If more people with entrepreneurial mindsets focused on social issues I believe our world would be a much healthier and happier place for more people. Unfortunately the way our world is, and our societies are, means lots of people view success through a purely financial lens. I wish more people were driven by social purpose.
More specifically I’m really proud of our lesson for neurodivergent children about neurodiversity. I truly believe these types of initiatives have the potential to change the world.
Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity?
I would love for our world to be more accepting and inclusive of people with different types of brains. We are all different and equally valid as human beings.
Women are a growing force in the workplaces worldwide, standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. There are cracks in glass ceilings everywhere, with many women breaking through to carve out a space right at the top of the pyramid. What are your thoughts about women’s leadership today?
Our world desperately needs more women and those who are gender non-conforming in leadership. We need men to be allies and to remove the glass ceiling. Without this, we spend so much energy trying to break it when we should be focusing that energy on societal issues. We need equity in our world, and gender equity is one of the core pillars.
With your grit and determination, you are making a considerable impact, breaking through, and serving as role models for many budding entrepreneurs. What would you want to say to our young women leaders/audience reading this?
Find your passion, and turn that into something you are proud of. Keep learning every day, and to do that you need to keep making mistakes. Learn from what doesn’t work, more than what does. Take time to reflect on how far you have come, and be proud of yourself.