Co-Founder, CEO, Proud Dyslexic
Hello all! I am Jamee, the dyslexic co-founder and CEO of Hidden Abilities. I was born in Fortuna, CA in the winter of 1985 to two loving, caring parents. Before I came along, my parents were partnering in a business and buying their own home. About the time I made my debut, mom and dad made a choice to help someone they loved out of a bad situation, but instead of being able to help, they were pulled in themselves. The following three years were the darkest of their lives. During that time, they lost the business and the house, leaving my mom, dad, big sis, bub, and me living in a pickup camper. A month later, we lost that too.
Growing up, we never had a lot, but we made do. I always felt different, like a peg that wouldn’t fit in any of the holes. I felt like there was something wrong with me. I felt less intelligent than the other kids, but my parents knew that wasn’t the case. I remember the countless times going to mom for help with reading because I just couldn’t get it. She would read a couple of pages to me, having me follow along, and then I’d read a few pages back to her.
I not only grew up in poverty, I did so with a learning disability. The poverty I knew about, but the learning disability hid in the shadows, silently stealing my self-confidence and making me feel inferior.
I decided to get tested at the age of twenty-six after bombing an entire semester's worth of online classes at the local community college. It seemed that no matter how hard I worked, I couldn't keep up with the class load, and I felt like I wasn’t smart enough for college. I didn’t tell Payden I was struggling until I got an acceptance letter to KU. After a lengthy discussion we decide it was best to get screened for dyslexia.
I went through the diagnosis process during my first semester at KU. It was an extremely stressful time in my life and I was worried. I remember thinking, “What if the results come back and they tell me that there’s nothing wrong. What if I just not smart and I don’t have what it takes?” The day I went in for the final meeting I was terrified, my stomach in knots. The counselor started out by showing me my IQ score, which was just on the higher side of average. Then he told me that I had a reading disorder and a delay in decoding. A wave of relief washed across my body. In retrospect, it was such a small event. All he did was confirm what I already suspected, but at the same time that diagnosis eliminated much of the self-doubt I’d experienced throughout my life. After the meeting, I began to do my own research on dyslexia. I decided that day that I was going to learn as much as I possibly could about dyslexia, and arm myself with knowledge.
The same semester I was diagnosed, my husband, Payden, convinced me to take an Introduction to Entrepreneurship class with him. We were told at the beginning that we had one major project and the rest of the class was built to teach us everything we needed to know to complete it. The project was to submit a business plan to be graded and entered into a competition. The first stage of the assignment was to come up with a business idea. That day, we had an in-class reading assignment. At that time I had not yet been diagnosed and I was trying my darndest to finish the reading with everyone else, only to notice people setting down the handouts one by one around me. Frustrated, and knowing there was no way I was going to finish, I set down the handout and tried to blend in. Feeling defeated, I started to think about an easier way to keep up. I picked up my pencil and jotted down an idea on the back of my name tag. It read “a descreat kinda pen like thing that you could swipe over text and it would read it to you”. I told Payden about it in Entrepreneurship Club later that night.
That semester was truly a turning point in our lives. We finished in the final four of the business plan competition, and we took my idea and built a company around it. I soon realized that I needed to embrace my differences, not be ashamed of them, and I now know that I have amazing strengths common to people with dyslexia. I was always so worried about being labeled,I never got the chance to discover them.
Knowing that my struggles weren’t caused by my work ethic or a lack of intelligence, but by a minor difference in how my brain works made my confidence soar and our mission grew stronger than ever. We had no idea at the time what that one semester would lead to, but now we are on a mission. We are working to create a better future in which people are no longer limited by their differences, but rather are empowered to become the best version of themselves.
Co-Founder, COO, Honorary Dyslexic
Hi, my name is Payden. I’m the co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Hidden Abilities. I was born and raised in a small town in southeast Kansas by two hardworking parents who value education and made sure that I saw that value as well.
As a lifelong entrepreneur, I see it as my job to help lead the public into the future. I started down this path at the age of nine when I began selling individual Doritos after school to my fourth grade classmates. People often ask me why I decided to help found Hidden Abilities, to which my answer is always the same. Because I desperately want to help brilliant people like Jamee, who have spent their whole lives believing they are unintelligent, when in reality they just have difficulty reading.
With the help of Jamee and the rest of our team, there is no limit to what we can accomplish. Hidden Abilities is improving lives and changing the world for those with dyslexia.