Mental health presents a serious concern for startups. The creativity, focus, discipline and long hours required to launch a business, let alone maintain and grow it, demands superhuman efforts from entrepreneurs and their staff. Add in an unhealthy lionizing of hustle culture, a volatile economy, chronic stress, a crowded marketplace, and the quotidian demands of life, and you’ve got a recipe for a breakdown (and not a super cool musical breakdown either—a real one.)
In fact, a 2015 University of California study conducted by Michael A. Freeman, et al, found that about half of all entrepreneurs struggle with at least one mental illness. Anxiety, depression, ADHD, bipolar disorder and addiction are some of the more common illnesses entrepreneurs face. And although these conditions may be associated traits perfect for launching one’s own business (such as ambition, self-criticism, the willingness to take risks), if left unchecked, they can be life-threatening.
That’s something Micah Yost wanted to address with Populus, the new coworking space he launched this summer in Omaha at 26th and Farnam.
Populus is a 10,000-square-foot workplace designed to support the physical, mental and emotional health of entrepreneurs as they try to bring their vision to life. Membership includes access to a team of licensed therapists available to provide free counseling.
The culmination of a four-year endeavor to get office space for small businesses and startups, Populus began to take shape when Yost was trying to find an office for his marketing business, Method Mark.
“Trying to find office space for four people was kind of a racket,” Yost said.
So, Yost went on a tour of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco. He took advantage of coworking spaces like WeWork and thought Omaha could use a coworking space of its own. Thus came Populus.
“We’re really trying to create a healthy workspace for companies of 2 to 20 people,” Yost said. “We’re also trying to provide them a space that has the amenities they might get a larger organization—say, the amenities that Flywheel might have now as a large company.”
Such amenities include coffee and beer, a fitness center, standing desks, healthy snacks, fast internet, printing and 24/7 access.
Arguably the most important amenity, however, is the sense of community and emotional support.
Yost finds the mental health of entrepreneurs an all-too-overlooked concern, though he appreciates that the tide is changing.
“I think the conversation has come to the forefront more than it has in a long time. More people, not only in our city, but in general are talking about mental health and entrepreneurship. But it needs to be so much more,” he said.
Like so many entrepreneurs and creatives, Yost has had his own struggles.
“It’s something I deal with. Most entrepreneurs will deal with some sort of mental health challenge. I think we need to make it more normal to discuss and hopefully make more resources available for entrepreneurs to take advantage of,” Yost said.
Populus memberships are available month-to-month, as are day passes. For more information, visit their website at populus.co.
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