Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Hi friends, it’s Spiffy, back again on Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs making the world a more equitable place! I have another interview for you this week. Today I’m excited to cruise around with Michelle Ridsdale, founder and CEO of Kaboose. Are you ready to be inspired?
Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Michelle! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing at Kaboose?
Michelle: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! At Kaboose, we're aiming to improve mental health and connectedness through friendships and employment. Often, neurodivergent people feel alone with no sense of belonging. In a world grappling with loneliness, one in four feels the weight of this isolation. Heartbreakingly, youth suicide is the number one cause of death in young people with autistic people three times more at risk. Let's unite, end loneliness, and build a more inclusive and compassionate world for all.
Spiffy: What motivated you to do it?
Michelle: I’d like you to meet Nick. Nick is autistic and also has generalized anxiety and attention-deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). He’s one of 75 million globally who have autism and one of well over a billion who identify as neurodiverse. Like many autistic people, he has had trouble with social interactions all his life and, when he got to secondary school, he was bullied and socially isolated. He turned to social media to find friends, only to be tricked into meeting people with fake profiles. By the time he was 15, he had no friends, wasn’t able to attend school, and was frequently admitted to hospital due to mental distress. Nick is my son.
Spiffy: Thanks for sharing Nick’s story! How would you say that your organization is working towards a more equitable world?
Michelle: Our vision is for Kaboose to be a global community platform that is a single place for autistics to safely build their tribe of support. Our social impact goal is to improve mental health and connectedness through friendships and employment. Initially, we will build a thriving social community and expand from there. We know that providing opportunities to interact from a younger age will help develop the much needed social and soft skills that provide a higher chance of employment in the future. Neurodiversity doesn’t stop when you become an adult—there are different supports you need throughout your life.
Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organizational milestone or initiative. What impact does it make on your audience/community?
Michelle: We now have over 2,000 people across the globe using Kaboose. Recently one of our parents sent me an email saying, "Daniel absolutely loves chatting with the other kids on Kaboose, and as a mother, it melts my heart to see him so excited when he realizes he has a message. You're doing a great job, thank you!”
Spiffy: Please share an experience when you faced failure and didn’t give up. What did you learn from it?
Michelle: Doing something you haven't done before is hard and often you don't know what the next step should be. It would be easy to give up or not try new things. We've had a lot of members delete their accounts. Even early in our journey, we had a parent calling us a scam because they didn't understand why we were verifying our members with an ID. It's easy to feel deflated when you're trying so hard, but I've learned to listen to the feedback, sit with it, and then brainstorm various solutions that might solve the problem. It also helps to talk these through with someone, as it gets the thoughts clearer in your mind.
Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Michelle—it’s been an honor!
As its founder and CEO, Michelle Ridsdale is the visionary force behind Kaboose, an innovative app designed to foster a sense of community for autistic individuals and those embracing neurodiversity. Drawing from her own personal journey and lived experiences, Michelle is a dedicated advocate and volunteer within the autistic community. Witnessing her own son grapple with isolation and disconnection, she was inspired to create a platform that addresses these challenges head-on. Through Kaboose, Michelle seeks to build bridges of understanding, companionship, and inclusivity while exemplifying the powerful impact of uniting personal passion with professional acumen. (Nominated by Josef Scarantino at Hubspot Ventures. First published on the Ladderworks website on January 3, 2024.)
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.
© 2024 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Sujit Kunte. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.