Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is a neurodevelopmental condition that impacts executive function — the mental skills that help people plan, prioritize, and focus. Core characteristics of ADHD include inattentiveness, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.
Having ADHD can make it difficult to keep up with daily, sometimes tedious work tasks, but traits often tied to the condition — like the tendency to take risks and hyperfocus on topics of interest — can also be a boost to entrepreneurs.
A study published in Small Business Economics found that people with ADHD were 60%-80% more likely to have entrepreneurial intentions; having the condition increases the odds of starting a business by almost 100%.
You may be familiar with famous entrepreneurs with ADHD — like Richard Branson, Charles Schwab, and Ingvar Kamprad. Below are stories of 12 successful entrepreneurs with ADHD, along with their tips on how to succeed in business with ADHD.
Zee Ali, Z-SWAG
Photo courtesy of Zee Ali
Zee Ali founded Z-SWAG, a one-stop shop for custom company swag. (Think T-shirts, hats, totes, etc., with your company’s name on them.)
While his ADHD makes it hard for him to stay focused, it also gives him a million ideas and creative ways to solve problems.
These resources have supported Z-SWAG and helped Ali stay organized:
Hire an executive assistant (or two). Give yourself the time and space to do what you do best. Hire someone else to do the essential business tasks you don’t enjoy.
Leverage technology. Ali likes using tools that help organize and capture his ideas on the fly. Some tools he recommends:
- Voxer: A mobile app that allows you to quickly share audio messages. Voxer allows you to efficiently share spur-of-the-moment ideas with colleagues, without getting too pulled out of the task at hand.
- Craft.do: A visual tool that helps organize creative ideas.
- Brain.fm: A streaming service for “focus music,” for when you need to complete a task.
Meghan Baciu, Kodiax Media
Photo courtesy of Meghan Baciu
Meghan Baciu was diagnosed with ADHD in fifth grade. Her condition presented as the inattentive daydreaming type, which made it difficult to focus on schoolwork.
Now Baciu runs her own photo and video production company, with clients in the tech, art, and music industries. She’s learned to manage her ADHD by being well prepared — for example, if she can anticipate her client’s question in a meeting, she’s less likely to stumble or feel anxious.
If you struggle to complete tasks on your to-do list, try Baciu’s strategies:
Write out a daily schedule. Baciu jots down her daily schedule the night before on a special “daily planner” pad. “There’s a section that has the most important tasks of the day, which is something I need,” she says.
She rips off the page at the end of the day, adding to the feeling of accomplishment.
Try the Pomodoro Technique. It involves alternating between 25-minute blocks of focused work and short breaks. Instead of having hours to complete a task — giving more temptation to procrastinate — the short blocks motivate you to go full steam ahead for 25 minutes.
Reward yourself. Baciu has a rewards system to keep her motivated throughout the week. If she finishes her most important to-dos for the day, she treats herself to a task she wants to do that isn’t urgent.
Dan Bastian, Angie’s Boom Chicka Pop
Dan Bastian built the popcorn brand Angie’s Boom Chicka Pop with his wife, Angie Bastian. The couple started popping corn in their garage in Minnesota as a way to pay for their kids’ college tuition. Angie’s Boom Chicka Pop was eventually acquired for $250m.
The secret to Bastian’s entrepreneurial success?
Hyperfocus. Bastian is really good at focusing on what’s important to him — a trait common to people with ADHD. He used this to his advantage and was able to quickly zero in on critical tasks, which helped build his business efficiently.
Make a daily to-do list. Bastian used to write down a daily to-do list of ~20 tasks each night. These lists helped him stay organized, and he made checking things off a top priority.
Recognize your strengths. Investor pitches and speaking engagements made Bastian nervous, so his wife handled those tasks. Operations and sales were more up his alley, so that’s what he focused on.
Emma Case, Women Beyond the Box
Case runs a consulting and coaching business that helps women leverage their skills and navigate their careers. She’s also the creator of Women Beyond the Box, an educational resource and community for neurodivergent women and their allies.
After years of working in luxury fashion, Case started feeling burned out and was having trouble staying on top of tasks. She knew something was off, so she investigated and learned she had ADHD.
Cases’s condition impacts her executive functioning, which can make time management and organization a challenge. But she excels at creative thinking and problem solving. She shared these tips for neurodiverse people with Lexxic:
Educate yourself. Understand your diagnosis, who you are, and what you need to thrive.
Ask for what you need. Pinpoint what you need to be successful — whether it’s coaching, mentorship, a tech tool, or some other type of support. Ask your employer for this reasonable accommodation, or go out and get it for yourself.
Don’t go it alone. You need support from humans, either from a coach or from people who understand your experience. Try joining (or building) a community of neurodiverse folks.
Michael Chapman, Soul Cap
Michael Chapman is the co-founder of Soul Cap, which makes extra-large swim caps designed for voluminous hair.
Chapman, who was diagnosed with ADHD later in life, calls the condition his “superpower” on Soul Cap’s blog. A key tip from him:
Surround yourself with supportive people. You may have different work patterns than the people around you, and that’s OK. It’s important to have a business partner and/or colleagues who are supportive of your differences and understand, for example, that you might sometimes do your best work at night.
Emily Hinks, Mischief Makers
Photo courtesy of Emily Hinks
Emily Hinks is the founder of Mischief Makers, an agency that helps organizations facilitate more engaging, collaborative meetings, workshops, and off-sites. Their client list includes the UN, Spotify, IDEO, and Patagonia.
She shared some advice for neurodivergent entrepreneurs:
Find your most effective coping mechanisms. Research your diagnosis and try different coping mechanisms. A few strategies that work well for Hinks include:
- Eating a protein-rich breakfast and avoiding heavy carbs until the afternoon.
- Working “together” when you’re alone. When Hinks is struggling with focus, it helps to hop on Discord or Zoom with another co-worker, even if they’re working on separate things.
- Pumping herself up. If a task is urgent and unavoidable and Hinks doesn’t feel like doing it, she gets in the zone with a brief workout, a quick chat with a work bestie, or a play session with her dog.
Destigmatize ADHD. Hinks attributes much of her success to her “neurodiverse superpowers.” She works well under pressure, is a non-linear thinker, and has high emotional intelligence.
Joanna Kurylo, SaaS It Up
Photo courtesy of Joanna Kurylo
Joanna Kurylo showed signs of ADHD earlier in life, but she really started noticing her differences after beginning full-time work.
Her friends seemed to easily hold jobs for several years, while it was difficult for her to stay somewhere for more than a year. When asked how things were going she’d say, “I'm bored out of my brain” or “Oh my full-time job? It's fine, but look at this side project I'm working on!”
After a string of unfulfilling jobs, she realized she needed work that provided “constantly changing challenges.” And this realization led her to entrepreneurship.
Kurylo is currently working on multiple entrepreneurial ventures including SaaS It Up, a consulting firm that helps SaaS companies improve user engagement, plus another SaaS platform that helps marketers use AI in decision making.
Here are her top strategies for succeeding with ADHD:
Let ADHD be the driver. Kurylo likes to set aside time to let her creativity and thoughts run wild. This may look like reconnecting with an indie hacker she met on Twitter. Or spending hours researching how making video content can help generate revenue.
Harness the benefits. Some of Kurylo’s biggest ADHD challenges revolve around hyperfocus, impulsivity, and restlessness. But she channels it to benefit her.
“Hyperfocusing helps me move forward on many of my business goals, if I do it in a healthy manner,” she says. “My impulsivity can help me make decisions faster if I have the right mindset, [and] my restlessness can help spark creative ideas and ventures.”
Goals, goals, and more goals. It’s easy for Kurylo to get excited about a new hobby or business, and then drop it when she finds something else. She combats this tendency by setting goals for every new business and personal venture, which includes spec’ing out micro goals and longer-term goals.
Jenny Lachs, Digital Nomad Girls
A chemist turned entrepreneur, Jenny Lachs founded Digital Nomad Girls — a community and consultancy for location-independent female business builders.
Lachs received her ADHD diagnosis two years ago at age 37. Once she got diagnosed, she says things started making a lot of sense. “I feel like I spent 90% of my energy throughout my life [trying] to get myself organized,” she shared on the Nomad and Spice podcast.
One of her tips for success:
Implement systems that work for you. Don’t try to fit into other people’s molds. Recognize your uniqueness and create business systems that work for you. She says her diagnosis almost gave her a blank slate — and allowed her to consider whether the business systems she had in place actually worked for her brain.
Kyla Roma, Kyla Roma Creative
Kyla Roma is a business coach and marketing strategist. She helps online business owners reach new audiences and grow their clientele in a sustainable way. Before operating her coaching and marketing firm, Roma bootstrapped, built, and ran a boutique web design studio.
Two years ago, at age 36, Roma was diagnosed with ADHD. Before her diagnosis, she felt like she was always falling behind and wondered why it was so hard to get things done. Learning about her ADHD allowed Roma to seek treatment and figure out new ways of working that work better for her.
One tip from Roma is:
Prioritize sustainability and flexibility in your work life. Your ADHD may prevent you from putting in the type of hours you think you should be working, and that’s OK. It’s important to find a work rhythm that keeps you moving forward and prioritizes work-life balance. That way, it’s less likely your entrepreneurial endeavor will lead to burnout.
Reet Singh, TripOutside
Photo courtesy of Reet Singh
TripOutside connects travelers to local adventures and online gear bookings. Reet Singh built TripOutside with his wife, Julie, in part so the couple could own their schedules and travel around the country.
Maintaining accountability amid freedom can be challenging for anyone, especially a founder with ADHD. Singh shared a few methods he uses to maximize his productivity:
Meditate. Singh uses his meditative state to recognize distractions, allowing him to go back to the point of focus. Headspace and Insight Timer are Singh’s favorite meditation tools.
Get outside. Mountain biking, hiking, snowboarding, or simply walking his dog help Singh clear his mind and refocus.
Limit social media. To reduce his time online, Singh has avoided using social media. He also blocks notifications and uses browser extensions to block sites where he finds himself wasting time.
Kim To, Flair
Photo courtesy of Kim To
Kim To started Flair, an ADHD coaching platform, to empower neurodivergent people like herself. Flair offers one-on-one coaching, helping professionals develop strategies to meet their goals, plus neurodiversity training for corporate clients.
To plans to build Flair into a digital hub for information, videos, and coaching content on neurodiversity. Her advice to entrepreneurs with ADHD:
Make specific business goals attached to deadlines. Setting very specific business goals helps you focused instead of being overwhelmed.
“It can be something like within six months, I want X number of clients, or I want to make X amount via coaching, or I want to write one blog post every three weeks.” It’s also key to build out the associated sub-tasks and attach them to deadlines to stay on track.
Automating tasks. She uses a lot of technology to help with administrative tasks, including TidyCal, a scheduling software. It shows your calendar availability, lets clients book meetings through an automated system, and sends out reminder emails ahead of appointments — saving her valuable time.
Make business building fun. Getting excited about creative projects, like website design and social media posts, helps keep To interested and motivated to complete other more mundane tasks.
Give yourself flexibility. To says that some weeks she’s filled with ideas and energy, while other weeks she doesn’t have the capacity to do as much. Allowing herself to take breaks when she needs them has helped her to sustain momentum.
“Having ADHD means I inherently find it hard to be super consistent with activities, so being flexible and just being kind to myself actually helps me stay consistent with my entrepreneurial activities.”
Anthony Vicino, Invictus Capital
Photo courtesy of Anthony Vicino
After getting diagnosed with ADHD at age six, Anthony Vicino spent many years feeling trapped — by a mind that his teachers, parents, and doctors said wasn’t “normal,”, and by jobs that weren’t working for him.
At age 28, Vicino was living in the back of his van with $80k in debt. To make some changes, he started studying the habits of peak performers and turned toward entrepreneurship.
In the decade since, Vicino has built and exited two seven-figure companies. He currently works at real estate investment company Invictus Capital, where he’s a founding partner.
His top tips for entrepreneurs with ADHD:
Own your schedule. Vicino takes control of his schedule through time blocking — a practice that blocks out the amount of time it takes to complete each task on your daily calendar.
Direct your hyperfocus toward things that actually matter. Vicino says people with ADHD have more of a distraction-management problem than a focus problem. He recommends becoming aware of what distracts you and designing your environment to minimize those distractions.
Focus on your strengths. Hire out your weaknesses. Vicino focuses on his strengths — creativity and curiosity — and hires out his weaknesses, like management and finance. He likes creating systems, for example, but doesn’t enjoy maintaining them. So he hires detail-oriented people to maintain and improve his business systems.