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Inspirational Female Founder Spotlight: Leanne Maskell

Leanne Maskell is an ADHD Coach, Author, and Activist, having presented to the World Health Organization on improving global access to ADHD support. With a background in mental health and disability law, Leanne’s trained companies including Google and Disney, alongside 150 ADHD coaches around the world. Since being diagnosed with ADHD at 25, Leanne’s published 4 books, including ‘ADHD Works at Work‘ & ‘ADHD: an A to Z’, as featured on Sky News.

Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?

Discovering I had ADHD age 25 changed my life, as it enabled me to ‘name it to tame it’. As I thought ADHD was something that could only impact little boys, I learned everything I could, writing a book, ‘ADHD: an A to Z’, alongside working in mental health and disability law for 2.5 years.

Having ADHD coaching helped me to self-publish this book, which resulted in me doing ADHD training for Microsoft, and training to become an ADHD coach myself. I set up ADHD Works to empower as many people as possible, providing access to education, courses, coaching, and resources.

Since quitting my law job to do this full time in 2021, we’ve trained over 150 ADHD coaches, created organisations like Disney their own ADHD Champions programme, coached hundreds of people, and spearheaded political campaigns calling for improved access to support. There’s never a boring day!

How did the idea come to you for the company?

I decided to set up ADHD Works after my doctor told me their waiting list for assessments was 7 years long – I couldn’t believe it. Accidentally stumbling across ADHD coaching and Access to Work, the UK Government grant to help fund support for people with health conditions like ADHD impacting them at work, showed me how much support was out there, but nobody knows about it.

My legal work in mental health and disability law also showed me the challenges employers were facing in navigating issues such as reasonable adjustments and neurodiversity at work, so I decided to create the solution. 

How did you achieve awareness?

I previously wrote a book, ‘the Model Manifesto’, which was how the person who read ‘ADHD: an A to Z’ from Microsoft found out about me. When I quit my job, I told everybody I knew what I was doing, and asked for informational chats from my existing network to understand their experiences of neurodiversity at work and how I could help. 

As I was one of the first ADHD coaches to share so much of my experiences on a ‘professional’ platform like LinkedIn, this has also built up a following of over 50,000 people. I have always tried to make the information I share as relatable, accessible, and useful as possible. For example, I created free reasonable adjustment policy templates for people to share with their employers if they didn’t have any already in place.

I also worked with a brilliant PR agency, the Book Publicist, for the books I’ve published, and have been featured by global press such as Sky News, BBC News, Forbes, Reader’s Digest, Stylist Magazine, and Metro.

How have you been able to gain funding and grow?

I haven’t had any funding for the business – I paid for my own ADHD coach training with my savings. When I started out, I did a lot of work on the side, including legal marketing and modelling, to survive financially.

However, I have been very fortunate to receive support from the Government’s Access to Work scheme funding a support worker, enabling me to actually do my work! Without her, I’d be drowning in administration and trying to set up zoom calls, which are significant challenges I experience because of having ADHD.

This also funded ADHD coaching, which was absolutely critical for me to implement ADHD friendly strategies to run a business and avoid burnout. 

What are the key successes?

It was incredible to create Disney UK their own ADHD Champions programme, training 250 mental health first aiders on ADHD coaching skills to provide peer support at work. Other highlights have been receiving the ‘Most Diverse & Inclusive Brand’ Soho Works Future 100 award, presenting to Directors of the World Health Organization on ADHD, and training 130 ADHD coaches within a year. We also ran the world’s first ever ADHD retreat – all within 2 years!

However, most of all, the key successes for me are the extraordinary people I’ve been able to meet along the way. For example, Lisette Schipper, Neurodiversity Advocacy Lead at Google wrote a very inspirational foreword for my new book, ‘ADHD Works at Work’, and some of the people I’ve met through training have ended up working as ADHD Coaches with my company! Every day that I get to work with my team I’d call a success – it’s an honour to do this work, and especially with them.

What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?

It’s impossible to fully describe the unbelievable pressure and stress that comes with running a business, especially when you have ADHD. I’ve spent months self-isolating, working 16 hours a day, not leaving the house for days on end, struggling to exercise or eat properly, and existing as a ‘human doing’. I even went to Workaholics Anonymous, but found most people there had ADHD too – it’s inescapable!

Ultimately, these ‘successes’ have come at the price of my wellbeing, and I’ve had to learn how to adjust along the way, primarily by creating a strong support network and team. Finding someone (Saskia Mardi) to help with creating us an organised back end was game changing – consolidating a million different systems, lists, and notes!

It’s hard to switch off when you love your work, but it’s vital to being able to continue doing it. Ironically, having ADHD coaching has really helped me to find this balance.   

What are your plans now/for the future?

Having ADHD means I struggle to think ahead very far in advance. I don’t have a ‘proper’ business plan – I just solve problems as they come up and chase my curiosity, which keeps things interesting!

Generally, my plans are to continue making ADHD support and education as accessible as possible around the world, and training as many ADHD coaches as we can to provide this – and to have fun! 

What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?

It’s the best thing you will ever do – like being able to create your own world, with no limits as to what you can achieve. The world needs what you have to offer!

If you have any kind of health condition and live in the UK, definitely apply for Access to Work to access tailored support, as your business needs to work for you and your needs – not the other way around.

If you have ADHD, you’re 300% more likely to start your own business – your innovative, creative, ideas-machine brain is built for this. My ADHD Coach told me, ‘leap and the net shall appear’ – and it did!

Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?

Dopamine doesn’t pay the bills – do 1 thing that will make you money first every day.

It’s easy to get caught up in metrics like social media, but this is not the same thing as running a business. Leverage your existing network and ask for help from people you know, listening to the issues and brainstorming how you can help.

Remember that nobody wakes up ‘successful’ – running a business takes a lot of resilience, and there’s no shame in working alongside this to support yourself financially. Coaching can be extremely helpful to harness your unique selling points, habits, and systems for success – it’s all about consistency, and not giving up.

Defining what ‘success’ means to you is also extremely important – setting specific goals will help you to focus your energy. You can do anything, but not everything (at the same time!).

Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?

1) Josephine McGrail –  who endlessly inspires me by being unapologetically herself – an amazing energy healer & wellness coach, with the ability to make you believe that anything is possible (including the first ever ADHD retreat!).

2) Beth Lewis – as an integral part of ADHD Works, Beth inspires me everyday with her incredible organisational brain that works completely differently to mine – I have no idea how she does it.

3) Stephanie Camilleri – my first ADHD coach who showed me it is possible to earn a living whilst ‘doing good’ and helping people – and that I can finish what I started (ADHD: an A to Z!).

4) Lisette Schipper – it’s amazing to see her advocating for neurodiversity so strongly as a senior leader in a company like Google and openly sharing her experiences to help others succeed – she’s changing the world.

5) Beth Huntingdon – as our Coach Supervisor, she constantly inspires me to set boundaries and look after my own wellbeing. She isn’t afraid to stand up for what she believes and inspires me to do the same.

6) Every single person I speak to and work with on a daily basis, especially my clients – they are extraordinary!

What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?

Be the change you want to see in the world – Gandhi

What are your Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn social handles and also website links so our readers can connect with you?  
https://www.instagram.com/leannemaskell & @adhdworks: https://www.instagram.com/adhdworks/