Ninety-five percent of respondents to a new survey of the New Zealand business founder community believe that being an entrepreneur had affected their mental health.
The survey, created by New Zealand’s national coworking and collaboration provider BizDojo, asked business and startup owners throughout New Zealand about their mental health and well-being.
BizDojo co-founder Nick Shewring had long suspected mental health issues were common but was shocked to discover just how many of his fellow founders were affected by these issues.
“We spoke with business owners and people that support businesses about what New Zealand founders needed to succeed, and we quickly realised many of the conversations we were having centered around mental health. It made our whole team sit up and say ‘What can we do to help?’”
When asked how their mental health concerns manifested, 79% of respondents said they had some degree of stress, 76% felt overwhelmed and 71% experienced anxiety.
Fifty-nine percent of founders had issues with sleep, while 40% identified as being depressed and 13% as severely depressed. Other concerns included addiction (13%) and a general feeling of worry at 64%.
“Alarmingly, just over 50 percent of those surveyed did not seek help even when facing mental health issues.”
Alarmingly, just over 50% of those surveyed did not seek help even when facing mental health issues. Many founders cited lack of time or financial resources as key reasons for not accessing support, with over 68% of people saying that they felt the mental health pressures they were experiencing were part of being an entrepreneur. Sixty two percent were not sure how suitable the help would be for what they were experiencing.
“Right now, the kind of support that is typically put in place for entrepreneurs is topic specific, such as investment introductions, or accounting help. This research suggests we should be supporting business owners in other ways too.” says Nick.
Nick has faced his own battle with wellbeing during the development of BizDojo.
“I went public with my own history of battling mental health issues whilst growing BizDojo and our digital product Colo and we used this as a jumping off point to survey the community,” says Nick, who says the report he received was fundamental to taking on this challenge.
BizDojo co-founder Jonah Merchant believes that the focus on growing a new business may result in these issues going unchecked.
“There has been a big focus from central and local government on growing an entrepreneurial business culture in New Zealand. What we are finding is that we will not get the impact these policies expect without addressing mental health issues within the entrepreneur community.”
BizDojo found that of those who did seek help, 66% talked to a counsellor or therapist and 57% talked to friends or family while 49% went to their GP. Others talked to mentors, other founders, used support groups or reached out online. Just over 50% that sought help found the help they received useful, with 40% feeling the help they received was somewhat helpful.
BizDojo is using the survey insights to roll out mental wellness initiatives through its founders’ support programme Founders Central. But Nick says the organisation is also challenging other providers and government to step up to support entrepreneurs.
“We started the conversation, and we are keen for others to help us keep it going. We owe it to our business community to do that,” says Nick.
The first Founders Central cohort is launching in Wellington, with activity expected to run in BizDojo locations across New Zealand.