Moving Beyond Learning Differences to Support the Next Great Entrepreneurs


“What if we created a research lab and business incubator that took these people with learning differences and put [them] together? What if we gave them a place where they could figure out what their true passions were and then turn those passions into a livelihood? ” – Rick Fiery

This was the shared dream of Rick Fiery and Tom Bergeron, the co-founders of InventiveLabs, a multi-track research center that supports Inventives, people who have non-traditional learning styles and are looking to make their passions a reality. Rick narrated his journey to this collaboration in a recent TEDx talk, sharing stories of participants, how they’re embracing their unique creative processes and the difference they’re making in the world around them.

We interviewed two current Inventives, Craig and Rebecca, about their projects, mentors and what advice they would give to young entrepreneurs. Here’s what they had to say:

Craig Simms headshot

Craig Simms

What excites you most about being a part of Inventive Labs?

The most important lesson I’ve learned at InventiveLabs is that no idea is too big. I started off small, initially looking to create and sell pet toys on Kickstarter, but I ended up joining two others here and we decided to create our own app.

I think the lab has definitely changed my life. I came after being a student for six years, unsure of what I wanted to do. I changed my major several times; I couldn’t find a stable job. I was looking at a generic office position based on my skill set and my experience. This program gave me a gateway to finding what I truly want to do, something I am really passionate about and interested in. This is probably the first time in my life that I am excited to come into work every day. I could not have done this on my own.

What project are you currently working on, and how will it impact others?

I am developing my own mobile application. At first, I didn’t think I wanted to run my own business. I didn’t want to be the CEO and have all that responsibility.

I actually would not have even discovered my interest in developing mobile apps if I hadn’t met these other two guys at InventiveLabs. We raised $250,000 from family, friends and investors. We will continue to use the incubator space here at the lab and have Rick and Tom help us with the hard parts of running a business. Who knows, we might become a billion dollar business – anything is possible!

Who has been your greatest mentor and why?

Without a doubt, Rick Fiery and Tom Bergeron. They showed me how to start and run a business properly. It is the type of information you do not get from a typical college level business entrepreneur course or a business management course. I have taken both of those and have learned more here than I did in either of those classes. Specifically, we learn things like pitch decks, focus groups, financial profit and loss statements, legal work and so much more that goes into getting a business started and off the ground.

What advice would you give other aspiring, young entrepreneurs?

I would say exploring your possibilities and passions is your ticket to changing your life. You get out of the experience what you put in to it. This isn’t for everyone; some people don’t want to put in the kind of effort that is required for a startup, but if you think that you can do that, go for it!

Rebecca Carroll

Rebecca Carroll

What excites you most about being a part of Inventive Labs?

I was sort of fed up by not having enough help in Australia. I Googled my way to Dr. Ned Hallowell’s site, which led me to InventiveLabs. I rented out my newly built home, sold my car, got on a plane and rented an apartment just down the road. The business stuff that you learn here is just fantastic! Everything you need to learn to start your own business is here.

What project are you currently working on, and how will it impact others?

I had an envelope of ideas I wanted to create. But the one thing that has resonated with me since childhood has been a love of fashion, clothes, patterns and colors. That was my strongest idea I wanted to work on.

The Lab introduced me to business people and people from the fashion industry, giving me a wealth of knowledge and a real good kick-start in my project from the beginning. I am working on creating my own fashion label called PAREU AUSTRALIA. It is born from my love of fashion and is brought together through patterns and colors. I hope to launch the company in Australia in 2016.

Who has been your greatest mentor and why?

All the people at the lab have been my greatest mentors; I don’t think any of us would have made it as far as we have without it. It is constant, and it is every day – which is really awesome. You get the pep talks from Rick and Tom when you are feeling down. One of the best parts about being here is the family feel; everyone is really lovely, and working with the boys is absolutely hilarious. It’s a great environment to be in.

What advice would you give other aspiring, young entrepreneurs?

I see pain and exclusion in the workplace. A college degree is so expensive, and there needs to be another option for those of us who want to take a different direction in our lives. If you have passion but struggle academically or have ADHD, find a place like InventiveLabs where you can excel. Delve into your ideas, pick something you are passionate about and then try to change your life. To make it happen, you need to be willing to put in the hours to knock down walls that block your path. I’ve hit many at the lab and powered through them with hard work.

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Featured image courtesy of InventiveLabs.

Categories: Entrepreneurial Journey general Goal Setting Guest contributors Inspirational Interview Make a Mark Women Entrepreneurs


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