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I quit my job to start a business supporting neurodiverse people

Becky Lodge created Startup Disruptors to help and support people – particularly women and neurodiverse people – to become entrepreneurs.

Becky Lodge began her career like most women of her age and generation did, fighting her way up the corporate ladder alongside men, working twice as hard to be thought of as half as good.

She was born in Leicester and saw her parents divorce in her teens, so from very early in her life, Becky recognised the power of a woman’s strength – which would go on to shape the person she is today at 50.

She started working at the age of 15 to bring more money into the household and to be financially independent. While other students were on holiday in the summer break, Becky would stay on campus and work multiple jobs to make ends meet and put herself through university.

Navigating the corporate world

After finishing her degree in Creative Arts in 1992, she made her way through the corporate world working for such companies as Tesco and Alexandra Workwear, often managing multi-million-pound contracts and closing very high-ticket sales. For someone still in their early twenties, she was achieving a lot at a young age in pressurised environments.

Alongside success, she faced setback after setback in her chosen career of sales, with multiple redundancies thrown her way amongst other challenges, but she became back stronger every time, learning to persist and keep getting up from each emotional blow.

She said: “I have faced so many challenges, I couldn’t count them all, but what I can say is that every job I did and all of the challenges and failures that came with them, helped me build the resilience that I now have. Experiencing challenges and setbacks is sometimes essential to navigating the toughness.”

Hitting rock bottom

Eventually, after being made redundant in 2008 for the fourth and final time and then being rejected from over 100 job interviews for jobs she was vastly over-qualified for – she hit rock bottom. She experienced extreme anxiety and depression, panic attacks and agoraphobia, then took on the hardest job of them all– the job of rebuilding her mental health.

After a difficult two years of recovery, Becky decided to return to work and eventually landed a role at a family firm, that would end up being the job that brought her back to being herself again. While she was being praised and appreciated for the work she was doing, it was ultimately going towards someone else’s dreams and she felt she had never really had the chance to explore her own.

One day, she decided to explore them, and Becky quit her job that day. When she told her husband, he asked how they’d pay the bills, but she knew that it was the right decision for her. Her career as an entrepreneur was about to begin, but she had no clue where to begin.

Going it alone

From not being able to find the help and support that she needed to start-up and scale a business, Becky created her own online business support and entrepreneurship education network now known as Startup Disruptors.

It helps people of all walks of life – particularly women and neurodiverse people – navigate the world of business and find the confidence and support they need to become entrepreneurs. Through its online community and networking events, it offers financial, emotional and general support for entrepreneurs starting out.

Since launching in 2016, it has helped more than 4,500 people to start their own business, raised over £1.2m worth of grant and loan funding and is now the go-to one-stop-shop for anyone seeking support. It has received support from huge names, including the University of Portsmouth, Faster Capital, Uber and Mind – and is continuing to grow.

Creating an alternative

Becky said: “A lot of neurodiverse people struggle in the corporate world as it doesn’t understand them. Entrepreneurship is a real alternative for those people. At school those with ADD/ADHD, Asperger’s, dyspraxia and dyslexia are often labelled as gifted or otherwise written off, the education system doesn’t really cater for minds that think differently. I noticed in the world of business this was the same. I wanted to provide a place where gifted and talented people could come together but without judgement.”

Becky started the company as she felt it was something she needed early in her business journey and she has also realised that she may also be neurodiverse, as dyslexia and dyspraxia is something that runs in her family.

She said: “I had to navigate the corporate world that was not a right fit for me for many years, and it ended up being a 25-year experience of endurance, nobody should have to feel this way in their career. Neurodiverse people still have nothing they can use to help them navigate it themselves. I wanted to do something that would help them deal with the world on their own terms.”

Disrupting the status quo

“I called the business Startup Disruptors because I was seen to be disrupting the standard offering of business support and education, which, at the time, was mainly made up of men in suits, working 9-5s and dismissing anything outside of that. We have proven that things can be done in a new and exciting way,” Becky said.

“Disruption isn’t always about creating new technology or designing expensive new products, it’s about challenging – and eventually changing – the way things are done to improve them. I’d encourage anyone, neurodiverse or typical, female or otherwise, to consider entrepreneurship. No matter how small, just start. Everyone is capable of immense change in their lives, it’s just a case of having the confidence know-how and support to help you. If I can do it, you can.”

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