Hidden Abilities Founders
Co-founder Jamee Miller
Hello All! My name is Jamee. I was born on the 6th of December 1985 in Fortuna, CA. I was born to two extremely loving, caring parents who were in a bit of downward struggle around the time I came along. Before that time, they 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 place, but instead of being able to help, they were pulled in themselves. The three years after that led to one of the darkest times in their lives. In the process, 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. For the next six months, we lived in a tent on the beach, and because a tent was no place for child in school, my big sister went to live with our aunt and uncle.
Flash forward to age seven.We were living in an income-based housing unit, and I woke up to my mom and my uncle packing a U-Haul at 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning. Mom told my brother and me to load up because we were moving to Kansas. It ended up being a three day trip that took two weeks because the U-Haul kept breaking down. I remember climbing out of the back of the truck in my shorts and tank top in the middle of February, only to see snow for the first time.
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 less intelligent than the other kids, like there was something wrong with me, but my parents knew that wasn’t the case. I remember countless times going to mom to have her read to me because I just couldn’t get it. She would read, and I’d follow along and read a page or two myself. Not only did I grow 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, until I was later diagnosed with my “reading disorder” at twenty-seven.
I decided to get tested after I tanked my first and last attempt at an entire semester's worth of classes online from JCCC. It seemed that no matter how hard I worked, I couldn't keep up with the class load, which made me feel like I wasn’t doing enough or that I wasn’t smart enough for college. I didn’t tell Payden I was struggling until I got an acceptance letter to KU. We talked about it, and we decide it was time - time for me to get tested to see if I had a learning disability.
I went through the process during my first semester at KU. I was so worried because the process was over a three week span and I was attending classes at the same time. I remember thinking, what if the results come back and he tells me that it isn’t anything. What if I just don’t have what it takes? The day I went in for that final meeting I was terrified, my stomach in knots. The counselor started out by showing me my IQ score, which was on the higher side of average. Then he told me that I had a reading disorder and a delay in decoding. A feeling of relief just came over me. All he did was confirm what I already suspected, but at the same time he eliminated some of my self-doubt. After that meeting, I began to research everything he had told me I had and it added up to dyslexia. I decided that day that I was going to learn as much as I possibly could about dyslexia, and arm my self with knowledge.
My first semester at KU was the same semester that my husband, Payden, convinced me to take an Introduction to Entrepreneurship class with him. We were told that we had one big project in the class, an ongoing business plan. At the end of the semester, our business plans would be entered into a competition. The first stage of the assignment was to come up with a business idea. That same day, we had an in-class reading. I had not received my diagnosis yet 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. Feeling defeated, I started to think about an easier way to keep up. I picked up my pencil and jotted down the 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 for a reading device and turned it into a company. 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 problems with learning weren’t caused by my work ethic or a lack of intelligence, but by a minor difference in the way my brain works made my confidence soar, which made our business stronger than ever. We had no idea what that one semester would lead to, but now we don’t just want to make a product or build a business,we want to empower people to learn, in every way possible. We are creating a movement!
CO-FOUNDER Payden MILLER
Hi, my name is Payden Miller, and I’m one of the founders 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.
In 2008, I moved away to college, where I knew big things were waiting for me. I spent my first year and a half playing football, but I wasn’t all that good; I only started one game in my two seasons with the team. It was a humbling experience, but one that taught me the value of hard work and perseverance.
After community college, I began working as a night janitor at a local university dining hall, where I met Jamee. She and I worked together for nearly a year before we realized a romantic relationship was eminent. After we married, Jamee and I moved to Lawrence, Kansas so I could attend the University of Kansas and study meteorology. After just one semester at KU, I realized I had a passion for entrepreneurship. Jamee and I enrolled in an introductory entrepreneurship class, which is where Jamee came up with the idea for the Read ‘n Style pen. The class required that we submit a business plan to be judged for a competition. Out of 65 plans and 220+ people, our plan for Hidden Abilities was selected as one of the top business plans in the competition, which allowed us to pitch our idea to a high profile group of investors, Shark Tank style.
People often ask me why we decided to start Hidden Abilities. Business isn’t nearly as exciting as chasing tornadoes, so what made you decide to switch from meteorology?” I always tell them the same thing. We started Hidden Abilities for two reasons:
- I want to provide a great life for my family, one that includes travel and time spent together, a lifestyle that only business ownership can provide. I also want to be an example for my (future) children and show them that with hard work, perseverance, and the right mindset, they can achieve anything they set their minds to.
- I desperately want to help brilliant people like Jamee, who have spent their whole lives believing they are stupid, when in reality, they just don’t read well.
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 learning disabilities.