My business gives me a means of putting to use my experience as a therapist working with neurodivergent people as well as my own lived experience. It’s shown me that I am a creative person – I didn’t know this previously.
Founder, Wired Differently
Social entrepreneurship, therapy and coaching. Virtual Assistant (VA) to neurodivergent leaders.
Start It @ KBC Accelerator. Member of the Society of Virtual Assistants (SVA)
Member of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Inclusive Entrepreneurship
You are An Inclusive Entrepreneur, a member of our Inclusive Entrepreneurship Community. It would really help if you could set the scene as an entrepreneur, so that our visitors can understand not only the concept but the person behind your brand.
"I am diagnosed as having Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). I was diagnosed at the age of 38.
I went into entrepreneurship because I was struggling with the rigid working times, the unpredictability, as well as the physical and sensory discomfort of working in an office. I’m not good with hierarchy. I find this hard to navigate. I enjoy 100% focusing on the products and services I create, without having to waste time or energy on reading the interpersonal subtitles and social cues that are so important to succeeding in the workplace.
My business gives me a means of putting to use my experience as a therapist working with neurodivergent people, as well as my own lived experience. It’s shown me that I am a creative person – I didn’t know this previously."
What led you to Entrepreneurship?
"I had two particularly big and creative ideas that I didn’t have the skills to realise myself. I contacted people who do have the right skills and they both responded very positively and immediately. This surprised me and inspired me – it made me think I was on the right path!"
Did you feel that this was tougher for you than for people without disabilities?
"I am working in areas that have a lot of buzz around them anyway – neurodiversity and having an ‘app’ project. But being neurodivergent has meant that I have found a home in the inclusion and diversity world, one that I am not sure I would have found if I wasn’t diagnosed. Having a business based on personal experience is unique and can make you stand out for good and bad reasons.
I enjoy long hours by myself on the laptop – not everyone would. I cannot imagine having a business doing anything else but designing products and services for neurodivergent people. When I speak to neurodivergent people with businesses outside of neurodiversity, they have a very different take on things. Being around diversity and inclusion people can make the world seem a lot rosier than it actually is.
I have had to be very patient with working out the best times to work and how to communicate the reality of my condition. I’ve learned a lot about my condition, as areas have been highlighted in daily life that I wasn’t aware of before. I’ve taken on a coach and a yoga therapist to manage my highs and lows. I’ve had to learn a lot more about myself and very quickly. I have to place boundaries aorund what I say on podcasts and interviews – I’m not ‘just’ talking about my company, but revealing personal parts of me. I don’t think many Inclusive Entrepreneurs would have this particular issue.
Lockdown has suited me. When the world starts up again and I am out of start-up phase, it will certainly bring more challenges of a different nature."
So why did you embark on this particular type of business?
"Professional neurodivergent people aren’t catered for – whether it is emotionally, sensorially, in terms of executive functioning or helping them in their relationships and in the workplace. They are seen as ‘high functioning’ (an outdated concept) and without needs. Wired Differently is what my therapy practice was called before I went on my last sabbatical. As all of this has come about as a result of my being a therapist, I decided to call the whole company by the same name and have the therapy underpin how I do business. My customers are the same people, regardless of what I am working on, so this made sense."
What successes have you had along the way that you are particularly proud of?
"Meeting amazing and talented people! Meeting my Angel investor; being accepted onto Start It @ KBC - a really high-quality accelerator in Belgium; attracting great, consistent and enjoyable mentoring in Belgium and England. I have also had opportunities to lead webinars, to give training, to do public speaking and pro-bono projects. It’s been a total whirlwind."
Can you talk us through some of the obstacles you had to face and overcome to get to where you are today?
"I needed to face some fears, change some thinking (not easy when you’re autistic) and learn to see the wood for the trees amidst all the ‘buzz’ and excitement. I’ve had to manage new facets to my condition. I’ve had to see the ableism in the world and realise, painfully, how much of it I have internalised. I’ve had a lot to learn and thankfully, Start It @ KBC give me really high-quality training."
What are the economic benefits of being an entrepreneur?
"My busines costs very little to run so I feel safe, particularly at the moment with so much uncertainty in the world."
Have you had any assistance along the way? How has that helped you get where you are today?
"Wired Differently was launched on August 1, 2020. I am fortunate that I have access to Universal Credit if my income falls beneath a certain level during a month. My advisor even said she is proud of me! I am a member of the Autistic Entrepreneurs group and, I am delighted to say, the Inclusive Entrepreneurs network. I have made amazing contacts on LinkedIn and that feels like a family. People are putting me in contact with extraordinary people all over the world."
As an entrepreneur, what would you advise other people with protected characteristics who are also considering embarking on a similar journey?
"Find your tribe. Read widely. Absorb every single opportunity. Decide on what you are going to share about your protected characteristics and your feelings towards them; whether you are prepared to put yourself out there as a ‘lived experience expert’ in the same space where doctors, psychologists and experts by education might question what you’re saying. Do you want to go into thought leadership, or simply keep that in the background and sell your product or service? I think a discussion around this before starting helps keep things clear and safe."
You can get in touch with Sara-Lousie and find out more about Wired Differently through the details below. You can also follow her on social media:
mobile: 07720 387619