- Tell us about SharpenFounder. Why is this an important resource for entrepreneurs? Who has access to it?
Sharpen Founder is a collaborative effort between VentureSouth and VentureCarolina, our educational nonprofit arm, along with Sharpen, aimed at supporting early-stage founders in enhancing their mental health and resilience. Its core purpose is to address mental health challenges faced by founders and CEOs of early-stage companies. VentureSouth's involvement includes initial funding for Sharpen and the creation of founder-centric content, including video interviews featuring founders sharing their stories and challenges.
We pursued this initiative for several reasons. First, it aligns with our commitment to assist portfolio companies. Additionally, starting a company can be a demanding endeavor, often requiring a unique level of determination. Sadly, mental health issues, particularly anxiety, stress, depression, and, in severe cases, suicide, disproportionately affect entrepreneurs.
There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that investors should pay attention to this issue due to its profound impact on mental well-being. In light of this, we sought to create an affordable means of supporting entrepreneurs on their entrepreneurial journey, recognizing its critical importance.
- From your POV, what have you seen founders struggle with in terms of their mental health?
Founders experience a wide variety of stress factors that affect their mental health. They have to answer to concerned investors, manage the livelihoods of their teams, and navigate unexpected deviations from their plans – a common occurrence in startups. Consequently, founders often find themselves in highly stressful situations where they are accountable for any setbacks that happen in the business. They feel alone and often don’t reach out for help.
- How do you care for your mental health as a founder?
My top recommendation would be to acknowledge that you're not alone in facing the challenges of startup entrepreneurship. Every other startup founder encounters similar issues.
Seek out someone to talk to, as you'll undoubtedly discover fellow entrepreneurs who share your experiences. At Venture South, we provide our portfolio companies with access to the content we've invested in. Additionally, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Venture Carolina secured a grant to extend this resource to any startup founder in South Carolina.
My second piece of advice is to encourage people to take advantage of these resources. Explore the content, verify its value, and you'll find reassurance in the fact that others have overcome similar hurdles. Initiating this process can lead to a support network that helps you and others navigate the challenges of entrepreneurship.