Ellen Cole

Sowing the Seeds of Success

Ellen Cole of Little Seed Group tells us how a sudden redundancy turned out to be the push she needed, and how her dyslexia, ASD and  ADHD help her think innovatively and out of the box.

What do your learning and cognitive differences mean to you?

I was diagnosed with dyslexia in my last year of postgraduate education, and have spent the last decade working to understand the beauty and benefits of being a dyslexic professional. Having dyslexia has provided me with unique strengths that I use within my business: I’m highly creative, and able to think outside of the box and spot patterns that others miss, which allows me to come up with innovative marketing campaigns and PR stories quickly. It takes a lot of imagination to succeed in marketing, so this dyslexic trait has really helped me and my clients to succeed. Last year, I increased one of my client’s annual sales by 1566% through digital marketing activity – their best performing year in business.

In 2022, I was also diagnosed with autism and ADHD and am currently learning more about these through attending webinars and conferences as well as talks by industry professionals.

Tell us a little about your business.

Little Seed Group is a marketing, PR and social media agency that I founded in 2016. We offer a range of services, from consultancies to social media management and more. Our core aim is to help organisations to grow, thrive and blossom through award-winning marketing, PR and social media services.

Redundancy gave me the push I needed...

Why did you start the business? Share your story so far.

I started Little Seed Group after the agency I work for closed down suddenly, leaving all of its employees redundant with 48 hours’ notice. I had always wanted to set up my own business, but I was worried that I wouldn’t make it on my own. The redundancy gave me the push I needed. I used my last £10 to print personalised letters addressed to businesses I wanted to work with across York. After this, I didn’t have enough money for the bus fare so I walked into York, hand-delivering letters. Two weeks later, I had a full roster of clients and I’ve never looked back.

Since then, I have also become an advocate for Dyslexic Entrepreneurs, taking on several mentees at one stage. Now, I conduct public speaking engagements on dyslexia in the workplace, to help businesses be more inclusive. I hope to also speak about ADHD and autism in the future, once I feel comfortable doing so.

What do you see as the main challenges facing your business and its continued operation or growth?

I am looking to transform Little Seed Group into a fully fledged agency. My overall aim is to become the leading agency in the north of England for sustainable and meaningful marketing, PR and social media practices.

What can we do to encourage more disabled entrepreneurs to start businesses – what is holding them back and what can we all do to help change that?

Over the last ten years, I have conducted surveys of dyslexic professionals to see how they felt they were being treated at work. One trend I’ve found is that actually, more and more dyslexic professionals are choosing self-employment to escape unwelcoming workplace cultures. Some expressed a desire to go self-employed but were worried they wouldn’t succeed.

We need to work on promoting the strengths that dyslexia can bring to business so that dyslexic professionals can feel confident in themselves and thrive at work. Dyslexic individuals often describe feeling like their brains are ‘wired differently’. Being able to think in a unique way is a huge asset within business. Self-belief is so integral to entrepreneurship, and dyslexic individuals can possess so many traits that can help them succeed in business.

However, no one should ever feel that they need to go self-employed, and it isn’t suited for everyone. Improving public perceptions of dyslexia will help dyslexic individuals to feel confident and successful wherever and however they choose to work.

Part of this also involves making more accommodations for dyslexic professionals at work, providing things like AT software for those with reading difficulties, or alternative methods of communication.

What do you consider your greatest achievement or the proudest moment in your life so far?

My proudest moment in my business life so far is sustaining and maintaining a thriving business. Running a business is challenging, but the last five years of self-employment have allowed me greater creativity and freedom to work with clients whose values in business align with my own.

If there was one thing you could change about peoples’ perception of disability what would it be and why?

That disabilities only provide weaknesses and no strengths. There is a generally negative public perception of dyslexia, and that’s something I am always advocating to change within my work and personal life. Every single person in this world has strengths and weaknesses and by working with a diverse range of talent, this brings different thought and talent into the workplace.