Lauren's Story: Neurodivergence in the Workforce, DIRT Coffee, and How People Are Just Plants

Host: Lexie Gutierrez-Goldfarb Guest: Lauren Burgess

"People are just plants: give them the right food, environment, water and watch them grow."

Lauren Burgess is a Forbes Next 1000 social entrepreneur who has built, sold, and invested in successful companies with a focus on including neurodivergent communities in the workplace. The business that caught our eye was DIRT Coffee, a coffee shop that Lauren started as a coffee truck in Littleton, Colorado with a workforce comprised of neurodivergent employees, primarily those with autism. 

What is neurodivergence? Neural differences that affect how the brain learns, thinks, or otherwise functions in a manner that diverges from the standard or "neurotypical." Neurodivergence includes medical or learning conditions such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down Syndrome, and ADHD. One of the biggest obstacles neurodivergent individuals face is finding employment. Lauren is helping companies and communities understand that people whose brains function differently can still be an impactful member of society. DIRT Coffee is an inspiring example of how companies can successfully incorporate neurodivergent individuals and how routine, understanding, and a chance can help neurodivergent people live more independent and empowered lives.

Did Lauren imagine leaving DIRT? Never. But after discovering her stress-induced health concerns, she passed over the reigns to her passionate successors and took a step back: she had spent a decade helping others and in the last year, finally took the time to help herself and learn how her own neurodivergence has impacted her life. Lauren said she would wait one year before starting a new business ... and she just hit that mark! What's coming next? Follow along her journey to find out.

DIRT Coffee

Want to learn more? Or are you a neurodivergent entrepreneur seeking coaching from business plan development to management or funding? Find out here! Lauren Burgess

Lexie's Note:

I have wanted Lauren on the pod for so long and am so happy we finally made it work! Neurodivergence is a term I've heard a lot lately and diving into how people can function differently and helping them thrive in the workplace was so interesting. I challenge you to think about struggles that you have at work and what small step you can take to help yourself or ask for help. I shared some of the effects that OCD and anxiety have had on my educational and professional career and small steps I've taken to maximize the positives and reduce the negatives. Enjoy the episode!

Host: Lexie Gutierrez

Guest: Lauren Burgess

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