Donovan McKenzie says it was the pressure to be seen as a “real man” that kept him silent about his depression for years. It wasn’t until he decided to see a therapist and open up about his mental health challenges that Donovan discovered an opportunity for himself to play a role in redefining masculinity.
“I started [my business] Heart of a Man to revolutionize manhood,” he says. “I wanted to inspire men to have the courage to share their pain and get the help need.”
But his entrepreneurial journey hasn’t been an easy one. As a speaker and community mental health advocate, he struggled to turn his passion into a business.
Before finding Rise, Donovan says, “I lost hope and felt like it was time to give up … [But] Rise believed in me.”
As a Small Business Lending Program client, Donovan says he not only accessed a loan to help him invest in merchandise and his digital presence, but he also gained the support of a mentor who taught him how to make sound business decisions.
Today, Heart of a Man produces unique t-shirts that symbolize mental health advocacy and hope; Donovan publishes blogs to help people learn about mental health issues and build coping skills; and he organizes open discussion groups that encourage individuals experiencing similar struggles to connect and communicate.
And that’s just the beginning.
Donovan says his priorities are to keep growing the Heart of a Man brand, to sell his socially conscious apparel in stores, to do speaking engagements for corporations and schools, and last but not least, get his Master’s in Social Work.
“My role as a mental health public speaker has inspired me to make a difference in the lives of those who need hope and support,” Donovan says. “Running this business has allowed me to see how important my brand is for this generation.”
And, importantly, he adds, “I have learned what it means to love what you do.”