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How This Entrepreneur is Inspiring the Next Wave of BIPOC Founders

Mental illness is complicated, but not talking about it doesn’t make it less so. Part of our mission is to help people feel better, both physically and mentally, and while CBD can help, there are many tools you can lean on for support. Mental Health Memos is a series that delves into the importance of destigmatizing mental illness and shines a light on those who are using their voice to bring these conversations to front and center. 

Five years ago, Michelle Leger Heng was struggling to find her way. “I had just been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, high-functioning ADHD, moderate depression, severe anxiety, borderline personality disorder, and mixed expressive-receptive disorder,” says Heng.“ That. Is. A. Lot.” Her diagnosis scared her so much that she ignored it, pretending she was fine and telling herself she’d get over it on her own. “Four years of anxiety and panic attacks ensued, which led to insomnia and depression,” she says.

Luckily, she found a way forward in daily exercise, establishing a routine, and psychiatry – and in doing so, went on to co-found entrepreneurship resource Everlaunch, a business-building platform that provides the tools and resources entrepreneurs need from start to launch. Here, she shares how her personal journey informed her professional path:

What led you to found Everlaunch?

I’d been thinking about starting a female empowerment community for a while now, but it all clicked when I realized that consumers want products with as little friction as possible – and that entrepreneurs should have the same seamless process when building a business, too. That’s when I ran home and shared the idea with my then-roommate, now co-founder, Alma Cook.

 We started to iron out the concept and got feedback from venture capitalists, business owners, and aspiring entrepreneurs along the way. After building a prototype and app workflow, we showcased our concept at Disrupt SF 2019 – the world’s leading conference for tech innovation and startup debuts. The feedback we received gave us confidence that our product could make a difference in the entrepreneurial world. 

If I wanted to become the person I needed to be for my business, my family, and my community, I needed to end the cycle that tormented me daily.
Tell us about your own mental health journey.

For the first time in my life, I don’t have anxiety, I am not depressed, my ADHD is in check, and I have a consistent workout routine. And I owe it all to my brother who passed away last spring. As harsh as it may sound, my brother died from the same ignorance I had about my own struggles. He didn’t address what was wrong with him and allowed that to become his normal. Between his passing and a terrible anxiety attack of my own, I realized I could no longer allow this to be my normal. I finally decided that I was going to get the help I needed. 

How has that journey evolved since becoming an entrepreneur?

I recognized that if I wanted to become the person I needed to be for my business, my family, and my community, I needed to end the cycle that tormented me daily. So, I called my doctor, found a psychiatrist, got a Fitbit, and my life has never been the same since.

 It’s my first time on prescribed medication – I was strongly against it for so long, but I subconsciously knew nothing could change unless I tried it. That’s when my doctor told me I was misdiagnosed, saying that my ADHD caused my depression and mimicked bipolar disorder. The root cause of my symptoms was my inability to focus.

Owning a Fitbit has helped greatly because I can see my heart rate when I experience anxiety and am able to see that my heart isn’t actually going to explode. Knowing this calms me down, and trains my brain to recognize that I am okay. It also tracks my sleep, so I can adapt my routine when I’m sleeping less. But honestly, 2020 was the best year for my mental health journey. I feel like a brand-new person, and this is only the beginning.  

When and where did you discover CBD, and how do you use it?

I discovered CBD during a very difficult season with my anxiety. It was a little before I started Everlaunch; I was still a student in community college. I knew I needed something to calm me down during finals and that’s when a friend of mine gave me a bottle of hemp CBD oil to try. I add CBD to my tea before bed, which really helps. 

What’s the one thing about starting a business that no one told you?

I never knew how mentally taxing it really is to run a business – especially if you have more than one. We see success stories and think, “Wow, everyone is doing so well!” But when Everlaunch hit the ground running, I quickly experienced exhaustion and was incredibly tired all the time. It wasn’t until I prioritized self-care that I got out of that ridiculous cycle.  

What are you working on right now that excites you?

We're focusing on making our app more accessible for people with disabilities. On April 26, to honor my brother’s passing, we are launching an Everlaunch update that will further our mission of helping aspiring entrepreneurs make their business dreams come true. 

Not only are we updating our marketplace with over 200+ new tools, but we are also implementing microlearning strategies in order to make the content on our app more accessible to people like me who have learning disabilities.

I wanted to honor my brother with progress, because success for me means success for my family. The update resonates for me because I personally understand what it's like to have new ideas followed by a sense of overwhelm, which can cause anxiety or trigger ADHD symptoms. My hope is that our newest developments will help our current and future users feel seen.

If you could give your younger self a piece of advice, what would it be?

To be proud of who you are! Stop listening to people who don't live the lifestyle you want. Listen to the people who believe the impossible is possible, and don't ever take ‘no’ for an answer.

To learn more about Heng's work, follow along on Instagram. If you're interested in checking out Everlauch, click here.

Charlotte SteinwayCharlotte Steinway LA-based content and creative director.

Likes: collaborative playlists, aquatic adventures, and orange wine.
Dislikes: Road rage and pâté.