Caroline Turner, CEO and Founder of Creased Puddle is former police sergeant and Equality and Inclusion specialist, Caroline’s passion for working alongside organisations to afford understanding over the past 4 years has built Creased Puddle into one of the most well respected Neurodiversity training and consultancies in the UK. Alongside her fellow Puddlers, Caroline is an experienced speaker, assessor and qualified Trainer but its widely known in the office she’s not too good at washing her pots.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
I was diagnosed at 47 with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and I am the Founder and Managing Director of Creased Puddle Ltd a UK based Neurodiversity training and consultancy company. I spent 21 years as a Police Officer qualifying to Inspector before retiring in 2017, however prior to leaving I was supported by my Chief Officer team to create the first Neurodiversity support group in British Policing.
I launched Creased Puddle in early 2018 and has since grown to become a globally recognised centre of expertise for Neurodiversity.
We have a nationwide Psychologist and Coaching network providing assessments, diagnostics, specialist coaching and workplace assessments and day to day myself and my team can be found delivering evidence based, online and face to face training and consultancy for a large number of clients including NHS Blood and Transplant, National Crime Agency, National Cybercrime Programme, RWE, ROKE, College of Policing and many UK Police Forces.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
Before leaving the police I had already identified that organisations did not always understand their customer base when it came to neurological differences. However, I knew that with often small changes, accessibility and inclusivity was achievable. I knew that there existed an inequality when it came to not only providing services and products to those who thought differently, but that those who worked for organisations, despite often well-intentioned initiatives, were still masking their neuro-differences.
I started Creased Puddle in 2018 and didn’t get my first cheque (£100) for 10 months. I provided free speaking events, travelling the country and getting very used to shut doors as ‘Neurodiversity’ was not on anyone’s agenda. This ‘baptism of fire’ and continued rejection made me even more determined to be heard.
How did you achieve awareness?
In the winter of 2019 I was awarded the contract to deliver national police Cyber Crime Training by the NPCC National Cyber Crime Programme. This was a turning point which saw me move into my first offices, paying £50 per week. Still not drawing a wage, I had to provide evidence of capital of 10’s of £1000’s as surety. I took a huge loan and an overdraft and was able to deliver the project on time and on budget within 4 months.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
Bench marking our prices has been one of the hardest things to achieve as it is not an established market. There are only a few industry leaders in Neurodiversity and finding the right pricing structure has been an interesting process. We are a very flat organisation and I wanted to grow organically. I wanted to ensure that as I offered people permanent employment opportunities that this was based on solid assets and I carefully matched growth with demand. We have recruited every year and our attrition rate is extremely low.
What are the key successes?
Our workforce has gender, racial, disability, marital, parental, age, sexual and religious diversity. We pride ourselves on being able to bring the intersectionality of protected characteristics to our everyday work and help to educate each other with our perspectives.
We predominantly provide employment opportunities for professionals who are neurodivergent or who are the parents / carers of those who are. We are 1 of only 2 organisations given the opportunity to provide Neurodiversity services to the global V500 initiative and we have been awarded some of the largest Neurodiversity tenders in the UK.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
The key challenge for me has been learning how to create, develop and run a business. I came from the public sector with no knowledge of how to do this. My disabilities mean that I have challenges with processing new information but once I have it, it’s there for life! My dyslexia meant that I would have to read and re-read information so I could make sense of it. My ADHD meant that those less stimulating tasks, for example account management or employment contracts, were very hard work. I’m a good ‘big picture thinker’ but fine detail can be excruciatingly difficult.
I process verbal information well so talking through concepts, strategies, logistics etc was hugely helpful. I found a mentor, who I used as a sounding board for decisions, and then used this as a model for communication within the company. Now we have a well-established ‘verbal processing’ system where we can book in each others diaries time to talk things through with each other. This has been incredibly valuable and it has created a culture of Team and a feeling of not only belonging but also feeling part of something bigger than ourselves.
What are your plans now/for the future?
This year is all about growth and further investment in the Team. I am funding some formal advanced training for our trainers and also bringing accreditation to our consultancy services. We don’t need to focus on ‘inspiring change and different thinking’ anymore, that ship has sailed. Now it’s the nuts and bolts of how organisations can do it.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
If you are lucky enough to find something that fills you up, day in day out, with a purpose and a passion – go for it. However acknowledge that it is a marathon not a race. Never get cocky, and if you start to feel like you have ‘nailed it’ see this as an indication that you’re getting sloppy, be constantly open to learning.
Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?
Put everything in your diary – including those things that ensure your wellbeing. Don’t spread yourself too thinly by agreeing to networking conversations with those who ‘just fancy a chat’ be strong about who you let into your precious time. Do not be embarrassed about charging (a fair amount of) money for your services, your time is valuable and if you value you, so will your customers. Don’t get lost in running the business unless that is THE thing you really love to do – your passion was the thing that started it and its what you love, keep it close. Don’t take your business too seriously. Easier said than done, but it is a way to enable the life you want to live. It is not your life.
Know that a million business women feel guilty everyday, for everything and always will. Its who we are but it doesn’t make it right. Support other women, just like someone supported you – ITS AN AMAZING FEELING
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?
Emma Whiting at Torque Law who heard the initial idea and then took me to my first networking meeting – I still cringe at the pitch I delivered…
My husband Simon Turner who showed me that you don’t always need proof that something is going to work – you just need to give it to the universe and believe it will
My lead coach Cheryl Winter who manages to stay unwaveringly supportive and kind even when I’m a messy overworked puddle of stress – I attempt to channel her view of the world
My daughter who despite having unseen disabilities is relentlessly committed to achieving everything she sets her sights on
Ryan Reynolds for lots of obvious reasons but also because he has had a significant impact on the economy and wellbeing of the people of Wrexham and the surrounding area. I’d like him to present my prize if I win please…
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
Alan Turning – “Sometimes it is the people that no one imagines anything of who do the things that no-one can imagine”
It is widely acknowledged that Professor Turing was himself neurodivergent, he (and his team) are attributed to have reduced the 2nd World War by 4 years and saved over 17million lives.
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