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Hayes Helper

Hayes Helper

Hayes is an undergraduate student at Georgia State University pursuing a BS degree in Computer Science. Please read more about him and his startup idea below.


What is your startup idea?

My business idea is the creation of an app called Haven. Haven is meant to be a safe space for all those struggling with mental illness. No matter their background, this app will create a space to share and connect with others through mutual struggles in virtual support groups, and beyond those support groups, a place to form individual connections with their peers in mental illness and build a support system, connecting with likeminded people through direct messaging where they can openly share their experiences and find solace in knowing they have found others like themselves, so they never again feel alone in their battle to cope with and overcome their disorders.


What type of social justice issue(s) does your startup idea focus on?

Though less today than ever before, there is an ongoing stigma around mental illness in our society. By creating and expanding a platform that gives people a voice, my startup will help advance the dialogue around mental illness and help promote broader awareness and understanding.

Haven will encourage people to start sharing their experiences on a small scale with others whose own experiences mirror theirs, and ultimately begin to foster confidence in such openness, which will have a direct impact on their ability to take this newfound voice and direct it towards their lives beyond the platform, facilitating the start of a more candid dialogue with the people in their lives, which will then create a higher understanding and empathy amongst those who matter most to them.


How does your startup idea promote equity for its target audience?

One of the hardest, but most important things to do for someone struggling with mental illness is to open up about their struggles and confide in others. This initial step is the foundation for progressing in your journey to overcome your afflictions and get to a point where you are no longer defined and controlled by your disorder but learn to live above it.

My startup will provide a free, accessible platform for people at all different stages in their journey to come together and speech about their struggles in an understanding and supportive space. This opportunity to connect will help set those who have just received a diagnosis and are in the beginning stages of grappling with that on a path towards a better understanding and management of their disorder, as well as reinforcing for those farther along in their journey just how far they have come, giving them the opportunity to lend their wealth of knowledge from their own lived experiences to those who need it most. By creating a community, support will no longer have a price tag associated with it, and accessibility will be given to all without a wait time.


How will your startup advocate for its target audience (people/community for which you are aiming to promote equity)?

It is my belief that there is no greater advocacy than self-advocacy. Self-advocacy has the ability to make a greater more lasting impact because it is done on a small scale among people who are more likely to listen. Through the support and network users build on the app, they will become more comfortable being open and taking more ownership of their mental illnesses, and through this metamorphosis the platform will inherently create broader awareness of mental illness. Fostering this heightened sense of self-advocacy as users gather with their peers in mental illness and grow through these interactions, users will grow more comfortable with speaking out, and channel this outspokenness beyond the bounds of the platform.


How did ITEP help you with your entrepreneurship journey?

Through guest speakers, the guidance of a mentor, business coaching, and the access to a wealth of resources, ITEP has opened my eyes and deepened my understanding of advocacy for the people with disabilities and has gone on to provide me with the tools and knowledge base to confidently pursue my own entrepreneurial endeavors beyond the completion of this program.

Through this program, I have been able to take what was the seed of an idea and develop it into a thoughtful business model with promise beyond the realm of the purely theoretical. I now understand what it takes to launch a startup and the positive impact it can have on my community. Beyond my entrepreneurial journey, ITEP has facilitated so much personal growth that I know will serve me well in whatever path I choose moving forward.


Do you have any other comments?

I really loved being a part of this program. Thanks so much for choosing me to be a part of it. I learned so much and am very grateful to have had this experience.