Paul Clark, Managing Director, VentureSouth

    by Paul Clark, Managing Director, VentureSouth

    Mental health issues affect 1 in 5 Americans, according to National Alliance on Mental Health data.

    Mental health issues have long been recognized as particularly prevalent among entrepreneurs and company founders.

    Mental health issues are intensifying as people struggle with physical health, economic dislocation, isolation, and stress during a global pandemic.

    Combine these three statements together, and it is not surprising that the mental health of entrepreneurs is facing a challenge of an intensity and scale we have never seen before.

    Fortunately, there are two silver linings to this unprecedented combination of stresses. First, founders’ mental health challenges are better recognized than they have ever been. And secondly, right here in the Ten at the Top upstate counties, we have resources and experts to help provide resources to build resiliency and lessen the impact of these challenges on our mental health.

    What is mental health resilience?

    In mental health circles, resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, tragedy, or stress. It is the ability to bounce back from challenging experiences and find ways to adapt, control, or modify these experiences. For some fortunate people, it is an inbuilt personality trait, but, for most of us, the good news is building resiliency is a skill that can be learned.

    Here in the Upstate, Venture Carolina is a non-profit in Greenville that provides educational materials to entrepreneurs, particularly around methods for raising capital to grow businesses. One of its missions is to help make entrepreneurs more resilient—as that helps companies to persevere, stay in business, and position themselves for raising capital to grow when times improve.

    Last year, Venture Carolina partnered with Sharpen, a mental health technology company in Spartanburg to work on the subject of founder mental health. Sharpen provides its technology to several populations of people that need support, including college students, veterans, foster families, and more. Venture Carolina and Sharpen have adapted Sharpen’s resiliency training materials to company founders, through the SharpenFounder platform.

    What is the SharpenFounder platform, and how does it create resilience?

    The SharpenFounder platform is available for free to entrepreneurs across the TATT region. Clinical studies show that peer-to-peer engagement is a very effective way of having a positive impact on mental health issues.

    This is exactly what SharpenFounder provides: peer-to-peer video content of entrepreneurs sharing their stories directly to other entrepreneurs—stories of CEOs responding to “failure”; stories of founders changing their behaviors to avoid stress spiraling into substance abuse; stories of diverse CEOs responding to the specific challenges they face; stories, ultimately, of building resiliency and turning adversity into success.

    Sharing the experience that other entrepreneurs gain on their journeys builds resiliency. The platform combines these stories with other clinically supported behavioral health tools, coping strategies, and nourishing techniques. These tools are embedded within a supportive community of other entrepreneurs, reducing the unique stresses of being a founder by sharing them with others. It also includes local and regional resources to help.

    Being an entrepreneur was a precarious path before COVID. Now it often seems like an impossible challenge. But with resources like these available to help build resiliency, we are confident the future is bright for founders in our region. We hope you will check it out—and share with us your stories of building your own resiliency in these challenging times.