ADDing the Right Resources

November 1, 2017

Many people can fondly recall a teacher who pointed out their individual strengths, building up their confidence. Keith Gelhorn can attribute his business success to a high school principal who declared he would be a failure in life. 

Keith Gelhorn ADDvocacy“I was difficult and self-centered as a young adult,” says Keith. “I struggled in school, had challenges with authority and flash anger, and blamed everyone else for my problems. My goal was to become a social worker but I couldn’t focus well enough in the classroom to be successful.” 

“I decided to complete my plumbing apprenticeship but got caught in the economic downturn of 2008. I was then diagnosed with ADHD and situational anxiety. That knowledge explained my previous behavior, but also made me realize I had the power to change my life for the better.”

It also showed him how little support was available to help young adults with ADHD, learning differences and co-occurring mental health challenges in Canada, which fueled his journey into entrepreneurship. In 2011, Keith relocated to Nova Scotia from British Columbia and completed a diploma in Disability Supports and Services, as well as training to become an ADHD coach.

Turning Experience into a Business to Help Others

Today, Keith is a learning strategist, ADHD coach, and entrepreneur who founded ADDvocacy, a coaching and training company based in Halifax that is committed to helping clients excel in their personal, scholastic and professional lives.

“Our coaches collaborate with clients on how to master executive function strategies such as organization, time management, goal-setting, emotions management, and communication skills,” says Keith. “We also help them navigate community programming and relevant funding opportunities.” In addition, Keith provides professional development training for educators and employers on how to boost productivity in a diverse workforce. 

As ADDvocacy’s coaching is one-on-one, and disability and mental health resources are stretched thin in Nova Scotia, Keith realized there was a bigger opportunity to help more of his target demographic (aged 16-39) by incorporating technology.

“What if we could develop a platform that enables 24/7 text-based learning strategies and real-time support between coaching meetings, or as a stand-alone service?” The app ADDtext was born, and like its potential clients, it needed help.

How SmartBusiness Helped

Keith met with the Halifax Partnership’s SmartBusiness Account Executive Minder Singh in November 2016. Minder introduced Keith to Dr. Adrian Kelly, Grants Facilitator at Saint Mary’s University, who sourced the Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) as the right fit for ADDvocacy’s growing needs.

IRAP helps businesses with advice, funding, access to global markets, and support for hiring youth; a perfect fit for ADDvocacy, which employs young coaches who have experienced and managed similar emotional and mental challenges as their clients. 

Through IRAP, ADDtext received advisory services and funding in January 2017, and the app was up and running within a month. The current platform has room for up to 5,000 early adopters to help fine tune the service. In mid-2018, the full version of the app will launch to an expected 600 million users worldwide.

From Minder’s many introductions, Keith learned about an opportunity to pitch his company and network with like-minded developers and entrepreneurs at a Propel ICT event. “Minder is methodological in his approach. For example, he recognized I needed a programmer and provided connections through Saint Mary’s University to find one. It’s been priceless working with him because every contact he has given me has been influential in my work.”

“Keith made the most of SmartBusiness,” says Minder. “He followed up on every introduction to gain the information and connections to help his business take the next step,” a head-on, diligent approach to success even a former principal would have praised. To learn more about how the SmartBusiness Program can help your business, click here.