Meet the Portsmouth entrepreneur helping neurodiverse people on their journey to success

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Becky Lodge is an award-winning businesswoman who has helped Portsmouth become the most entrepreneurial city in the UK, but it hasn’t been as easy as she made it look.

Becky is a degree and CIM-qualified (Chartered Institute of Marketing) founder and director, with a 30-year career history in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) as an international sales and marketing director.

‘I started selling when I was 21. I sold cars for a living. It was a case of I needed to get a job and I worked my way up through the ranks.’

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‘By the age of 24 I was managing multi-million pound corporate clothing.’

Real Life Neurodiversity, Rebecca Lodge 

Pictured: Rebecca Lodge at Aspex Gallery, Portsmouth on Thursday 15th September 2022

Picture: Habibur RahmanReal Life Neurodiversity, Rebecca Lodge 

Pictured: Rebecca Lodge at Aspex Gallery, Portsmouth on Thursday 15th September 2022

Picture: Habibur Rahman
Real Life Neurodiversity, Rebecca Lodge Pictured: Rebecca Lodge at Aspex Gallery, Portsmouth on Thursday 15th September 2022 Picture: Habibur Rahman

Becky was initially trained by Tesco on its graduate scheme and she has since worked with brands such as Disney and Ferrari.

‘After that I got into radio, I ended up as an international sales director for a radio broadcast software company based in the States,’ she says.

‘I travelled around the world designing radio broadcast software.

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In 2015, after 25 years working in international sales and marketing roles, Becky founded Little Kanga Ltd, a management consulting practice specialising in entrepreneurship for universities and governments all over the world.

Real Life Neurodiversity, Rebecca Lodge 

Pictured: Rebecca Lodge at Aspex Gallery, Portsmouth on Thursday 15th September 2022

Picture: Habibur RahmanReal Life Neurodiversity, Rebecca Lodge 

Pictured: Rebecca Lodge at Aspex Gallery, Portsmouth on Thursday 15th September 2022

Picture: Habibur Rahman
Real Life Neurodiversity, Rebecca Lodge Pictured: Rebecca Lodge at Aspex Gallery, Portsmouth on Thursday 15th September 2022 Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘I spent my life building other people’s businesses to the tune of £100m worth of sales.

‘But what I didn't really realise, because I was always a top sales performer and quite heavily protected in those corporate environments, was that my brain was built differently,’ she adds.

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This was the first time Becky began to realise she was different or ‘neurodiverse’ – an umbrella term for a whole range of conditions, autism among them.

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‘It didn't really hit me until I started my own business. I had always been in organisations where sales teams looked like me and behaved like me.

‘I just thought that everybody had a life that looked like mine.’

Through her own research, Becky learnt that entrepreneurs are 600 per cent more likely to have ADD or ADHD, a statistic which fascinated her and inspired her next venture.

‘Overnight, I’d gone from something incredibly structured to something that had no structure at all,’ she says.

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‘For someone with a neurodiverse brain such as me that change can be quite difficult.

‘What I did see was a lot of very competent people and start-up business owners suffering from a number of things. Some were dyslexic, some had dyspraxia, some had dyscalculia, some had ADHD.’

Becky soon founded her second entrepreneurial effort, the online and digital business support brand ‘StartUp Disruptors’ – a subscription service that helps early stage start-ups and business owners, often on the neurodiverse spectrum, in Portsmouth to fund and scale their businesses.

‘I do not want to hear that a mum-of-two feels too socially anxious to go into a networking event because she’s afraid what people think of her,’ she says.

‘To me, that was fundamentally unacceptable.’

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Unlike other similar services, Becky has created a real community to provide aspiring entrepreneurs with world-class business education at a reasonable price.

‘We don’t take any equity from businesses,’ says Becky.

‘I don’t agree with taking equity from neurodiverse people who don’t have the business capacity to understand what they’re giving away so early.’

‘StartUp Disruptors’ is sponsored and supported by an array of well-known, successful organisations from Uber to the University of Portsmouth Business School.

‘We’re basically providing a nest for people to test their ideas, see if it’s got legs, and push them out when they’re ready to get funding.’

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Becky’s brand has changed the face of business support not only in Portsmouth, but across the UK.

‘We had a lot of women coming to us saying “I've got additional caring responsibilities, I can’t make all the business workshops I want to go to because they’re between the hours of nine and five and I’m doing school runs, looking after parents...”.

‘We had men and women and also people from the LGBTQIA+ community coming and saying “there's not a place where we feel safe to express our ideas because people think they’re a little bit out there”,’ Becky says.

As someone whose brain worked slightly differently to everybody else’s, Becky could understand the feeling of being disregarded and was keen to help change the way the business world worked.

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‘For me, being from an innovation and engineering background, it was very progressive, but I found in the business world it was very pale, male and stale, or PMS as I call it,’ she laughs.

‘We needed more parity, we needed more representation, these people were really talented and they were being ignored.’

Becky found that being neruodiverse wasn’t the only challenge she faced in the business world.

‘From my point of view, it was only when I came out of the corporate world and saw real life for the first time in trying to start up, and increasingly looking at the barriers there were for women. From funding to even being taken seriously and not being virtually head patted,’ she says.

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After struggling to secure funding, Becky decided to take matters into her own hands – with a little help from social media.

‘No one would give me any money because I was a woman, even though I had this terrific idea. I went to all the investment networks and got laughed out the room,’ she says.

‘I said to myself that’s fine, this is what happened at school this has happened my whole life, but I knew the vision of what I wanted to build. I wanted to help these people who weren't being helped by anyone else.’

Becky and her team started getting a lot of social media traction and soon, what started as a bunch of nine ‘nerds and geeks’ in a pub in Portsmouth in 2016, grew to 150 members in the first year and today the community has more than 50,000 social media followers and 2,000 members on Facebook.

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Becky, who in 2019 was named one of Sky News 100 Women – picked from more than 10,000 UK applicants, saw potential in digital business support in place of outdated male-dominated networking events and did not give up on her dream.

‘Everybody else providing business coaching was saying “I do not see why she’s doing this”.

‘Then Covid happened and everybody who was laughing, was then on the phone.’

Becky is now the ‘go to’ person for people in the early stages of entrepreneurship in the Portsmouth and wider Solent region and champions women in business and people on the neurodiverse spectrum.

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‘We’ve transformed the whole start-up ecosystem in Portsmouth and in 2020 we made Portsmouth the most entrepreneurial city in the UK.’

‘What people have to realise is that your challenges are so great as a neurodiverse person, that you have to be able to see round corners, you have to really double down on your vision. Nobody else is going to see it because their brains are built differently.’