Bell Let’s Talk helps Rise give entrepreneurs supportive working lives
For people living with mental illness or addiction, employment flexibility can play an important role in supporting well-being and recovery. Over the past ten years, Rise has coached over 1,000 entrepreneurs with lived experience and disbursed more than $1.9 million in small loans to launch over 400 businesses. The charity’s mentorship and micro-financing programs have provided clients with financial independence, workplaces that support their health needs, and a chance to give back to their communities.
In 2016, Rise received a $1 million gift from Bell Let’s Talk and the RBC Foundation to expand their programming, with over 50 new loans available each year to kickstart Canadian small businesses. This support helped entrepreneurs like Dundalk’s Jessica Amos, who launched Stable 71 in 2019 and received a loan from Rise in 2020. After facing personal difficulties, Jessica refused to give up on her dream of a healthy working life that incorporated her passion for animals. In addition to providing a home for horses, Jessica’s out-of-the-box approach to her career has presented an opportunity to share her passion for mental health advocacy with others in her community.
Q. You’ve been involved with the horse industry for over 20 years. How does interacting with your horses and managing their well-being support your own mental health?
Horses are very emotional and healing beings. They pick up on the energy you present to them. I suffer from depression, panic disorder, anxiety, agoraphobia as well as Borderline Personality Disorder. Managing my emotions daily is difficult. Prior to having horses in my life, it was easy to allow depression and anxiety to completely take over. My responsibility to look after the horses provides me with a reason to get out of bed. If I don’t provide the care they need, they would suffer, and I will not allow that. On top of providing me with the motivation I need to keep going every day, the horses fill my life with happiness. Their personalities, behaviors, and ability to adapt to how I am feeling provides me with a sense of calm when I need it. Honestly, the healing powers of any animal can be amazing.
Q. Stable 71 has become even more important in helping people keep their horses safe during COVID-19. How has your financial support from Rise allowed you to grow your business and help your community during these challenging times?
Since the start of COVID-19, I have been approached weekly about horses in need. Whether it’s owners who simply can’t afford the ongoing care of their horses and need to find new homes or owners who need assistance with the cost of boarding their horses, we’ve been stepping up. With the assistance of Rise, we were able to obtain much-needed funds to build shelters and start the renovations we needed to meet the needs of the horses coming into our care.
Q. How have your previous experiences with financial adversity and mental health challenges shaped the way you approach your work at Stable 71?
With my past experiences as well as my ongoing mental health challenges, I have learned to be more understanding and have empathy for those who may be struggling right beside me. I understand the overwhelmingness of everyday life with mental health challenges. It’s taught me to view situations differently and assist people with overcoming their own challenges as best I can.
Q. As a mental health advocate, you have held sessions on healing with horses and self-care. How do you see your business and your passion for mental health growing together in the future?
I would like to make this a much larger part of what we do at Stable 71. Prior to COVID-19, I had been planning on launching our Healing with Horses program to offer assistance to those looking for an alternative way to cope with their emotions. The pandemic has altered these plans slightly, as we need to hold off until restrictions are lifted. In the future, by combining my skills and education with the assistance of the horses, we will be able to offer help to those seeking an alternative to traditional means of managing mental health. I am extremely excited to see how this part of the business grows.
Q. If you could share one piece of advice or encouragement with another upcoming entrepreneur living with a mental illness or mental health issue, what would it be?
Never give up on yourself and PLEASE think outside the box!
I was told I would never work again in the “traditional” sense. The fact that I struggle with many different mental health concerns meant it would be difficult for me to sustain any type of traditional employment. I refused to allow myself to accept that. I started thinking about my passions, my dreams and what I could do to make them a reality. By creating Stable 71, I have been able to pursue my career dreams and passions all from the comfort of my own property. Since I’m self-employed, if I have an extremely overwhelming day, or my agoraphobia gets the best of me, I can choose to scale back if I need to. I have the flexibility, to a certain degree, to control my own schedule.
Driven by a passionate leader ready to make a change in her community, Stable 71 is off to the races. Jessica’s vision of building an exciting career while working at her own pace has provided an important community support for others facing mental health challenges.
Behind every innovative business supported by Rise, there’s an emerging entrepreneur with a story to tell and lived experience that shapes the ideas they bring to the table. With a bit of support and opportunities to dream big, the end results are nothing short of incredible.
To read more about Rise’s small business lending and training programs, visit risehelps.ca.