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Neurodivergence meets entrepreneurship: Emily

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I recently had the pleasure of getting to know Emily who is a cat sitter in the Didsbury area. She very kindly agreed to share with me what it’s like to run your own business when you have a special educational need – a timely reminder that we all see the world in different ways. This is the first part in a series exploring what happens when neurodivergence meets entrepreneurship. 

Tell me a little about your business:

I’ve been a cat sitter for 7-8 years. I look after people’s cats in their own homes when they go away; this involves visiting the cat, making sure it has food and water and spending time with it so it isn’t lonely while the owners are gone. I have several regular clients whose cats I’ve looked after for years, which is really lovely. I live in Didsbury, so the majority of my clients are in this area.

What neurodivergence do you have?

I have ADHD, which I was only diagnosed with less than two years ago at the age of 41. It was such a validation to understand why I’d struggled my whole life with things that other people find so easy.

How does this impact you when running a business?

ADHD-ers can tend to be people pleasers and say yes without thinking, which I’ve definitely been guilty of. It can lead to taking on a lot of clients on the same day, so I can be running around from one house to another without much time to relax in-between.

I can also get a bit overwhelmed if I don’t have time to recharge, so I really have to keep an eye on how much work I take on to stop that from happening.

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What would you say to someone with ADHD who is thinking of starting their own business?

Make sure it’s something that you’re genuinely interested in, rather than just a hyperfocus that may pass. It’s very common with ADHD-ers that we’ll fall for a new hobby, go all in and think that this is our true passion, only to get bored after a while when the newness/novelty wears off. For me, I’ve always LOVED cats, so I know it’s not something that’s just a phase.

Write down all your bookings/clients/meetings etc, so that you have it all visually in front of you. For me, a paper-based system is the best as digital organisers don’t really work for my brain, but that can be different for everyone. As long as you keep track of everything so that you know what you have on and when, that can help prevent burnout.

How could neurotypical people be more accommodating for you?

I guess for neurotypical people to be more accommodating, I would have had to be diagnosed a lot earlier. I could possibly have got more support in my workplaces and during my degree.

Some of my friends know that my timekeeping is atrocious (very common with ADHD-ers), so they know that I’ll usually show up later than planned, and don’t hold it against me. Others also know that I can be really sensitive to background noise, so certain environments are quite uncomfortable for me – so, for example, we may go for a walk together instead of sitting in a coffee shop.

But I think the main thing is if I’d been diagnosed earlier in my life, I could have been more accepting towards myself. From what I’ve heard from other neurodivergent people it’s actually the pressures we put on ourselves to conform that’s the most detrimental to our wellbeing.