The Suicide Epidemic Nobody Is Talking About

The Suicide Epidemic Nobody Is Talking About

In today’s episode of Startup Hustle, the second installment in our Mental Health Monday series is here for you. Our guest host, Jannae Gammage, takes the mic with a sensitive but vital topic to discuss. With her is Ebrima “Abraham” Sisay, the president and CEO of the Freedom Project Forum. These founders openly discuss the suicide epidemic no one seems to be talking about in the entrepreneurial space.

Covered In This Episode

Entrepreneurs, even the most successful ones, all go through ups and downs just like anyone. But the pressure to rise above life’s hurdles and stay competitive (and successful!) in your industry can break your physical, mental, and emotional stability threshold.

What happens then? Tune in to today’s episode as Abraham and Jannae share their own stories as business owners on the brink of giving up. They discuss their own personal experiences regarding the mental health concerns of entrepreneurs. But, most of all, they share inspiring advice on making the best lemonade out of an overwhelming number of lemons that life can throw at you.

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Take a breather and be inspired today!

And don’t forget to tune back in for the last episode of the three-part Mental Health Monday series. We will talk about the “grind culture” and the effects of being “on and always available” has on business owners.

Hear What Entrepreneurs Have to Say in Startup Hustle Podcast

Highlights

  • All about the Freedom Project Forum (02:52)
  • The difference between mental health and mental illness (09:41)
  • Hear Abraham’s inspiring story (11:10)
  • Jannae shares her own personal story (15:40)
  • The topsy-turvy mental ride that entrepreneurs (16:37)
  • Why people are not talking about the suicide epidemic during the Great Resignation (18:43)
  • Abraham’s lowest points as an entrepreneur (26:49)
  • One of the main reasons Abraham wanted to take his life and how he conquered it (36:00)

Key Quotes

There is a stigma as an entrepreneur, even more so, to present such a strong and motivated individual publicly because you have customers. You have employees. You have investors. And you have to always be kind of put together in order to show up and run a business.

– Jannae Gammage

We have to find a way to support this community. In a way that doesn’t make them lose credibility for who they are as an entrepreneur, business owner, friend, or teammate. That normalizes the fact that, hey, we’re allowed to struggle.

– Jannae Gammage

I’m like, no, I have this thing in my heart that is calling to me. If I don’t do it, I’ll be very sad . . . I feel the need to do this, and that comes with a lot of pressure. Not from just yourself but with the family that doesn’t trust you.

– Ebrima “Abraham” Sisay
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Rough Transcript

The following is an auto-generated text transcript of this episode.

00:00.00

Jannae Gammage

Welcome back to Startup Hustle’s Mental Health Mondays series with your guest host, Jannae Gammage. That’s me. I’m a serial founder, vet, mom, wife, and overall badass. That said, I, like most founders, struggle with my mental health. So when Startup Hustle asked me to host a guest series on the topic, I jumped. Today we’ll be talking about The Suicide Epidemic Nobody Is Talking About for entrepreneurs, which is suicide and depression. Um, before I introduce you to today’s marvelous guest wearing his KC hat, which I love.

00:34.97

Abraham Sisay

The senior.

00:36.88

Jannae Gammage

Let’s first thank our friends at Full Scale for sponsoring today’s episode. So, today, our guest is Abraham Sisay, the CEO of Freedom Project Forum here in KC.

00:50.90

Abraham Sisay

Ah, awesome.

00:53.48

Jannae Gammage

Um, actually, you’re probably global, I think. Are you not?

00:55.20

Abraham Sisay

Yeah, I mean. Yeah, um, at this point. Yeah, I’ve found myself everywhere, honestly. So, you know, KC’s home base because I have his son here. So I like to stay here. But, yeah, thank you.

01:06.25

Jannae Gammage

Okay, yeah, if you’ve never heard of the Freedom Project Forum. It’s a mental health media agency that uses storytelling and technology to make mental fitness and services accessible for all. But yes, yes.

01:21.53

Abraham Sisay

Yep, that’s how we do it.

01:24.20

Jannae Gammage

Love it. And if you haven’t checked out his, I came to your premier event about a month or two ago. It’s extraordinary. What you’ve put together, I loved it. I brought my wife, who is also in the mental health space.

01:28.86

Abraham Sisay

Um, ah, May 15. Wow, time flies. Wow.

01:43.58

Jannae Gammage

Yes, yes, and married to me. So um, but tell me about the Freedom Project Forum. You know, we’ve had discussions about mental health and our struggles with suicide.

01:43.69

Abraham Sisay

Um, psychologists are badass. Yeah, right.

02:01.37

Jannae Gammage

And what that looked like for us. Just on a personal level. What inspired you to start the Freedom Project Forum? Help tell me the best story. I want to know everything.

02:10.13

Abraham Sisay

Yeah, yeah, thank you. Thank you for that. Um, but yeah, so I actually started talking about mental health about seven years ago now. But the reason why I went to therapy is that I was dealing with a lot seven years ago. As a developer and someone who works in the marketing and advertising space. Very stressful. But I also had a stutter back then, and that stutter was something that limited me to a lot of things. I had a lot of insecurities. But also, I was dating a girl who constantly kept reminding me that I needed help.

02:42.79

Jannae Gammage

Ah, wow. Okay.

02:45.42

Abraham Sisay

And I was like, okay, um, I don’t need help, so back then, I actually was like no because whenever you know, especially growing up in Africa, whenever we see someone with mental illness. We literally call them. They are mental, so whenever we see someone dealing with it. You know it. It was really bad. Ah, like um connotation attached to it, which is like someone really dirty. You know, dirty locks, and they’re being chased by kids. I was even stoning them sometimes, so that’s how bad it is in like West Africa, so here I am, and this girl is telling me that I have some issues and I need to go see a psychologist.

03:14.33

Jannae Gammage

Flow.

03:22.83

Abraham Sisay

Because I hated going out and hanging out with her friends, I just wanted to be home, and she wanted to meet all these people. That was like why I didn’t want to know them. But I’m dating someone, and I needed to be part of her life, but she eventually gave me an ultimatum. It’s either I go take care of myself. She’s out, so I ended up going to therapy.

03:32.96

Jannae Gammage

Um, yeah.

03:42.81

Abraham Sisay

Ah, with the intention of getting back the girl. And I literally remember telling the psychologist, hey like some guy can just come in and swoop this girl. Why are we talking about my childhood? Can you give me tips and tricks? Advertisers’ tips and tricks on how to get this girl back. But. You know she was very Patient. You know, the first six months was just me being very stopping, but I kept showing up because, you know, in my entire life, that was the time that I had an adult person listen to me intentionally and actually have a conversation like I used to get slapped for just speaking up to my dad or just responding It’s like you don’t speak up to.

04:08.36

Jannae Gammage

Are.

04:18.81

Abraham Sisay

Whenever an adult is speaking, that’s the environment that I was growing up in. You know, I was raised, so this was nice having a conversation with a psychologist and I was like okay I’m I’m going to keep showing up but eventually you also give me an ultimatum. My life is filled with an ultimatum: she was like you have to take this seriously.

04:33.56

Jannae Gammage

Um, if yeah.

04:37.28

Abraham Sisay

Ah, or else you know you’re going to have to find someone else and that’s when I actually started taking you seriously because I knew all the things that she was saying. You know there was some truth to it, but I could not remember, and I just felt like that. Maybe my brain was making up all these things, so I started calling, you know, calling my mom to figure out whether. All these things that I that I started like remembering from getting molested as a kid and you know watching a friend die in front of me this were like memories that my brain conveniently just like mask because I wasn’t strong enough to deal with them as a little kid and I didn’t have the resources. I didn’t have anyone around in Africa to tell me that. Oh, the reason why you’re behaving this way and and even develop this stutter is from. You know, accumulated stress over time and that manifested into a physical stutter because I didn’t. I didn’t know how to deal with them and the fact that I was constantly getting shut up by my dad. You know you don’t speak up.

05:24.68

Jannae Gammage

Wow.

05:31.68

Abraham Sisay

So that also impacted my confidence as a person as a little kid growing up, so the study just kept getting bad to a point that I will hit the table. Ah, so yeah, it’s like this are the things that I discovered while going to therapy and somehow my entire personality chain from someone behind a computer to someone wearing fedoras and.

05:33.28

Jannae Gammage

Yeah.

05:50.68

Abraham Sisay

You know going to meetings and you know walking in places like I own it. It’s like my whole personality changed, but that was me as a little kid before I experienced you know trauma and all these sorts of things that any kid should not experience So that’s why I decided to basically switch careers completely.

05:57.10

Jannae Gammage

What.

06:08.97

Abraham Sisay

But basically using my background as someone who works in phylum advertising and all this other tech space and and then apply it to ah mental health in order to to actually talk about it but not just talk about it actually do actionable things where we’re building AI we’re doing all these different things to to make sure to make to make it accessible for people. Ah, so yeah I know sometimes when I say all people they’re like yeah yeah, what who Ah, who is your target I was like this is not I’m not trying to sell a nine nine nine dollars product here I’m trying to reach people and and give them access to resources. So I say to all people I know sometimes it can be very ah controversial. But hey.

06:34.44

Jannae Gammage

Yeah.

06:42.32

Jannae Gammage

As we all, we all need some way shape or form that you know mental health support. Um I know you said something key for me, you know this person that that.

06:46.69

Abraham Sisay

Right? exactly.

06:59.60

Jannae Gammage

You present the four doors and all that confidence in actually being able to stand up in a crowd and be happy and speak about what you’re passionate about. I think a lot of entrepreneurs have that gift right? And they’re actually probably fighting such a silent fight.

07:00.79

Abraham Sisay

Right? exactly? yeah.

07:19.19

Jannae Gammage

There is a stigma as an entrepreneur even more so to present such a strong and motivated individual publicly because you have customers you have employees you have investors and you have to always be kind of put together in order to show up and run a business right? and then.

07:19.34

Abraham Sisay

Yep.

07:25.63

Abraham Sisay

Um, yep, and. Um, yeah I know.

07:38.14

Jannae Gammage

At home or inside internally like you’re struggling so much right? And do I go out and get help in risk of losing this respect, credibility, customers, money, revenue, and everything I need to survive.

07:42.00

Abraham Sisay

Yep, right? yeah. Yeah, yeah.

07:55.44

Jannae Gammage

Because up here. You know if I’m not 100% then obviously nothing else about my life can be a hundred percent right if it’s kind of a stigma. So I think as entrepreneurs and what I really wanted to highlight in this episode is that we have to.

07:58.20

Abraham Sisay

Um, right? Oh big time.

08:13.82

Abraham Sisay

Um.

08:13.88

Jannae Gammage

We have to find a way to support this community in a way that doesn’t make them lose credibility for who they are, an entrepreneur and a business owner or a friend or teammate. Ah that normalizes the fact that hey, we’re allowed to struggle.

08:20.86

Abraham Sisay

Um, yeah, right.

08:30.31

Abraham Sisay

Um, right? Yeah, I mean I to me it’s like you know, um I also went through that phase of you know, especially when I just started a Freedom Project Forum because um.

08:32.55

Jannae Gammage

We’re allowed to seek help for that struggle and we can still run a business right.

08:48.20

Abraham Sisay

You know, initially it was just going to be a project for me to just do and decide. But then the more I was learning about the mental health space and almost like this is the most broken Healthcare space I’ve ever seen, like people don’t even know what is the difference between mental health and mental illness. They don’t know what anxiety looks like, they don’t literally know they don’t even know how to go find.

09:01.34

Jannae Gammage

Well.

09:07.98

Abraham Sisay

A psychologist. Some people don’t even know a psychiatrist or a counselor who is a therapist or a social worker. This is basic information that the experts always forget about medication. Yes.

09:08.19

Jannae Gammage

Wow.

09:14.38

Jannae Gammage

So tell us now. So a psychiatrist subscribes to medication for mental illnesses.

09:24.40

Abraham Sisay

And then a psychologist. Basically you know talks to you on a more like you know like emotional intelligence and being able to you know help you navigate all of those feelings that you aren’t even aware of so they’re really good listeners and you know this I think is that a lot of people don’t know and.

09:29.30

Jannae Gammage

Right.

09:35.71

Jannae Gammage

Right.

09:41.21

Abraham Sisay

You know I also went through that stage of should I talk about my story while building this ah because I needed to not know all of a sudden I had confidence I was like okay I’m but also I’m also a black dude and usually I remember there were moments where I would go. To a business and then try to build some like a partnership for you know, either us running their media as a mental health agency and also us helping them on a you know longevity goal as we progress and usually I notice whenever I would dress with my hoodie and this I’ll never have meetings. But when I wear this to send an outfit and then all of a sudden you know we’re talking about my fedora I mean you’re the only black dude. So this way, things that were also impacting me on a subconscious level, so I felt like I could never let my guard down, which took me a few years to actually figure out. Okay am I really Abraham. With all of this fedora or am I just creating another crutch for myself because I’m still afraid of showing my true self with just the bandana. I love wearing bananas because my hair is crazy. I like to hold it there. You know, eventually, I was able to figure it out. Okay, well.

10:45.66

Jannae Gammage

Um, me.

10:52.77

Abraham Sisay

I know what I can do. I know what I’m capable of. I’m now going to you know create this whole new identity just to be able to speak to someone. Which also made it difficult because it’s been six years of working on this project and the lack of support is just overwhelming because I remember being an advertiser. It was amazing. You know, I was making a lot of money. I was very depressed unless I was making money. But now I’m very joyful but the money is going so fast because there isn’t a lot of support again in this space and I think that I had to figure out how to battle to make sure that I’m not creating a crutch for myself and then making it even even difficult because I’ve been there as a developer being the only black guy in the room to a point that I try to take my own life I literally would drive into oncoming traffic just to hopefully someone would do it because that would have been easier I’ve I’ve literally held the gun and tried to take my own life and I’m mistakenly shot.

11:41.63

Jannae Gammage

Ah.

11:48.85

Abraham Sisay

You know it’s someone opening the door and I just shot and you like went right in between my legs because I panicked so you know these are things that I have been through and and but everybody else have seen me as this successful guy. You know my family was very happy but the moment I started talking about my story all of a sudden. It’s like. Yeah, you know how I’m the black she but I’m like I’m happy though like ah yeah I don’t make as much money like I used to I can’t support and which also are another tax that I used to support a lot of people but now but now the support is gone and the love is disappearing which is good because I’m now I’m knowing all the people that. Were really, they’re because they actually cared about me not because of all the things that I was doing and so yeah, it’s like all of these things keep keep showing and be shorter um with like every process that I’m on as I progress in this space but then also now I have the resources I know what. Someone is trying to manipulate me looks like I know how all of these things look like ah maybe to like you know at least I’m aware when things are happening and I can you know point it out and I feel like a lot of entrepreneurs aren’t you know they’re trying to please please please and sometimes you can get lost in that and you know. You know I didn’t back then I didn’t know how to talk or even communicate to my team because I felt like I had to be strong. You know I had to be the – doing literally everything and also you know I wanted to help them and be you know. Part of their growth as well. But I wasn’t even I didn’t even know what help looked like I could not help myself I was depressed I was extremely sad. But yeah I went from a team of almost 65 people to like just 3 of us now. So that’s how you know the gro process has been very very rough because the moment I find out about mental health. I was just like bringing people in because I wanted people to know about their own mental health. But then back back then I’m still growing I didn’t I didn’t I was still dealing with all of these things even though I was aware which was a good thing literally saved my life because I especially being in such a big group of people and then literally just everything just gone. And you know I can imagine if I was still that guy behind a computer which stuttered I would have done something very drastic and you know it. It would not be very great. Ah, but but today you know or now I have the resources so that’s helping me properly navigate and be able to. Point things out and and not make it my identity like oh crap you know I just lost this client and this is my fault because that’s what I was doing or man I’m not you know everybody in the team is not feeling well. This is my fault instead of just communicating and because people’s you know goals change people’s.

14:16.41

Jannae Gammage

Oh.

14:28.89

Abraham Sisay

Needs are changing every day, especially someone when you have big teams. You have people coming in today. You hire them. They want to be ah they want to work as much as possible. But in six months they become a dad. Now they want to spend more time unless and work less, but I wasn’t having those communications which was creating a lot of you know problems within the team. Because I’ll not make it my fault but I’m not communicating and I’ll get angry at them so almost like no say this process is brutal man.

14:49.94

Jannae Gammage

Yeah, you said a lot of key things that I want to circle back to and make sure you know the listeners or viewers actually called it. You talked about self-awareness as an entrepreneur and you even. I mean it sounds like an occasion. You would not be here if your attempts were not interrupted is the same story for me literally. I am type A in my letter that I left.

15:10.15

Abraham Sisay

Oh yeah, right? I have a letter, yeah right.

15:26.25

Jannae Gammage

Had to be a certain way and put in a certain place. So the place um that I was placing them. Um, when I was doing that I decided to do just one more and as I’m writing I was interrupted because you know.

15:29.80

Abraham Sisay

Are yeah.

15:43.61

Jannae Gammage

For whatever reason and luckily that did happen because everything was right there ready I was just finishing my letter you know getting everything in order. You know what? I mean? Um, but so yeah you talked about Self-awareness um and he talked about.

15:45.12

Abraham Sisay

Um, yeah, right? Yep yep. Um.

16:01.95

Jannae Gammage

I think one of the things people don’t believe because we don’t talk about it enough is that entrepreneurs are truly suffering, like they’re technically 50% more likely to have a mental health condition than ordinary folk huh.

16:07.28

Abraham Sisay

New. Yeah. Um, it’s actually 79%. It is 79%. It’s pretty high. I know it’s scary.

16:21.30

Jannae Gammage

79 okay all right? Yeah, like we gotta get together and see what it is? what it is because now we’re pulling from different sources and then twice as likely to suffer from depression. Um, it is such a tumultuous experience to be an entrepreneur and there’s so much self.

16:28.57

Abraham Sisay

In.

16:37.65

Abraham Sisay

M.

16:40.90

Jannae Gammage

Doubt and imposter syndrome and loneliness and just good old fashioned burnout that affects your mental state and your ability to push forward through these things if you don’t have a high level of self-awareness and it can be very hard to navigate that it can be very hard. Not.

16:42.48

Abraham Sisay

Um, yeah, yeah.

16:58.90

Abraham Sisay

Um, right.

16:59.41

Jannae Gammage

Get to that point and I feel like in my life I’ve done a lot of things that were super stressful. I played high-level collegiate sport. You know what? I mean I’ve been in the military you know, but entrepreneurship is when I get depressed.

17:03.51

Abraham Sisay

Um.

17:13.43

Abraham Sisay

Um, yeah.

17:18.36

Jannae Gammage

I thought about suicide right? Um, it’s just incredibly stressful, and there’s so much doubt before I ask my next question I do have responsibility to make sure that everyone here is listening. Um.

17:24.90

Abraham Sisay

Um, minute.

17:30.45

Abraham Sisay

And

17:34.88

Jannae Gammage

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17:36.81

Abraham Sisay

Right.

17:49.18

Abraham Sisay

Any.

17:53.20

Jannae Gammage

I have used them before as a startup founder. I’ve been on this website. It’s amazing. It’s crazy what they have built. Please check it out. Okay, so next up we have to bring it up even though I know it’s 2022, most people know the pandemic you know has given rise to mental health issues. Why do you?

17:59.44

Abraham Sisay

Yeah, the.

18:05.36

Abraham Sisay

Right. Me.

18:13.60

Jannae Gammage

Think they’re not talking about the current suicide pandemic and as as we talk about the great resignation. Um, and how people are at one third of those businesses one third of those that have resigned are actually starting businesses. So.

18:22.28

Abraham Sisay

Um.

18:29.75

Abraham Sisay

Man.

18:32.40

Jannae Gammage

You would think we would start to address the fact that there will be an increase in suicide rates right? because the entrepreneur population is growing by the day, I can’t remember the exact step stat but over a – businesses started every single day. What do you think about that?

18:35.75

Abraham Sisay

Yeah, yeah. Right? Um, so um, you know I’ve actually talked to a lot of people you know because you know, um sometimes people would find my listing on Google. You know with my old agency that I used to run because it’s still active I have one of the highest reviews in Kc right now I’ll come by creative solutions when I do advertising very and I still do but but not as active as I used to ah so ah, people find me and reach out so I’ll get calls from random people that are.

19:05.35

Jannae Gammage

Allow.

19:12.10

Jannae Gammage

Okay.

19:19.58

Abraham Sisay

Starting a business you know is a necessity because they don’t have jobs and these are people that have been working. You know your regular 9 to 5 I’m not saying that’s anything wrong with that. But now it’s not available anymore and they’re all jumping in and you know and not you know entrepreneurship is not for everybody honestly, you know.

19:21.97

Jannae Gammage

Yeah.

19:35.75

Jannae Gammage

That you say that. Anyway, that again.

19:37.29

Abraham Sisay

Ah, but people are going into it right now because they need help and entrepreneurship is not for everybody you know because some people don’t even understand why we do what we do until the end goal they’re like oh okay because right now even with my son’s or mom’s family. That’s very long.

19:52.65

Jannae Gammage

Um I.

19:55.43

Abraham Sisay

My ex’s family. You know the reason why we aren’t even together is because I just one day just went into entrepreneurship and then we’re very confused. They’re amazing people but they didn’t understand why I was doing what? Why was I suffering I lived in my car and then they didn’t understand why go get a job and just go work and I’m like no I have this thing in my heart that is calling to me and if I don’t do it I’ll be very sad and um I may even take my own life. So I feel the need to do this, and that comes with a lot of pressure, not from just yourself with the family that doesn’t trust you.

20:19.41

Jannae Gammage

Um, yeah.

20:30.42

Abraham Sisay

And all of the things that are around you that I telling you that you know this is not going to work you are seeing stats of how quickly people fail in the first five years and now you’re having a lot of people that are jumping into this space with with 0 you know, um, like preparation not and not that we have 0 we have any preparation but at least we have the mindset but they don’t have the mindset and they come in with a lot of expectation I’ve consulted so many people where I’m literally if it feels like and you know I’m like interrogating them now because I don’t want them to go into this space with all the expectation they’re like hey I have this idea. You know I want to build this I want to build this I mean I’m just like yes, but why are you doing this? Why do you do it and then they will tell me well I lost my job. I’m saying well that’s not enough and I’ve been turning down things from left to right because I don’t want to you know help someone go into a space that could potentially become fatal. Because it is very rough here. You know it’s hard to be in this space and be you know a hundred percent vulnerable and and this people most of the people that are coming in during covid you know they’re going in and jumping in headfirst and they usually get chewed up so fast. And now they’re identifying with that failure and this is something that even the seasoned entrepreneurs are doing but usually the mindset kind of helps a lot of people to keep going and most of these people don’t have that mindset to to identify. Okay I’ve failed. I’m going to keep going because of this failure. Ah, you know, teach me x y z but they’re coming from a sector where you know you cannot fail. You just have to excel at what you do and now you’re failing Con Stanley and that failure can be very scary and is something that I also experienced when I first started in the mental health space. I was having meetings with with funders and I’ll walk in with so much excitement fire in my eyes I was little my hair was probably on fire and ideas and I’ll walk in I’ll say all these things and then they said no and I’m like like but people are dying I was saying things like that people are dying and you said no.

22:14.61

Jannae Gammage

Oh.

22:30.58

Abraham Sisay

And they’ll say it’s not part of my pillar. I’m just like what pillar are you talking about? I will be so confused. Ah, but you know I think ah you know, understand that these people have their own businesses that they’ve been running for years that they have KPIs that they have to hit and I came from just and ah you know as a media buyer into entrepreneurship. So. You know I I went trial out the first two years, but luckily I had therapy that was kind of guiding me through the whole process. So I guess they’ll be my cheat coat but a lot of people that are coming in now they’re coming in because they really really really need to work and they need to figure out how to make it. You know we are a very resilient species. I’m pretty sure a lot of people are adapting. And actually realizing oh I’m meant to do this. But as also a lot of people that you know which I’m very afraid of you know? Do you know going through a lot right now because they cannot figure out why they are failing because I’ve I’ve talked to some people that are like I know I’m really good at my job. Um, I was like no, it’s not about how good you are. It’s about you know what? What can you do for this company? You know most people will forget that they’ll go in and lay out all their strategies, but they’ll forget that you were talking to another company. So that’s a lack of listening. So. I can go on and on about why because there are so many different factors that I have experienced and adopted and then implemented as I go forward in this space because I’ve only been around for 6 years as an entrepreneur, but I feel like I’ve always been one. Ah, growing up not that I was saying I was selling lemonade or anything because everybody has the lemonade story but you know in my heart you know I’ve always been ah, you know, kind of like a very tech kid I used to break down radios as a kid very much into that I’m a big fan of sola I was part of a band where we actually.

24:01.56

Jannae Gammage

You see it here.

24:16.43

Abraham Sisay

You know the creator actually created a solar power device that would power the entire set for hours and it was so janky and I’ve always enjoyed being part of that process and tweaking and you know just taking a lot of risks. And now we’re seeing a lot of people that don’t have the capabilities to be risk takers. But now they’re forced to do so and they have mouths to feed and they have a high risk of failure because they have kids that are depending on them and most of us I just got you know, usually coming in at a very young age luckily with not a lot of responsibility.

24:41.83

Jannae Gammage

Yeah.

24:49.99

Abraham Sisay

So we have more room to fail and grow. But yeah I’ve talked to a lot of people that I just find him in Google and and he’s very sad for me to say no because I know if I say yes I’ll end up running their whole business because I don’t want them to fail either because I understand you know the mindset that they have and how scary it is. So yeah I can.

25:01.49

Jannae Gammage

Exactly. So let’s look, let’s hit that real quick because I think as entrepreneurs. We’re very very loud about our wins right? Of the ways that we can even advocate for ourselves like getting support, sorry about that.

25:08.23

Abraham Sisay

It’s definitely a lot of factors. Then.

25:25.32

Jannae Gammage

Support and help and resources is if we talked about when we weren’t so good right? and that we are struggling with the loss and it is okay to lean into your losses as people say and your failures and learn from them and grow from them in ah, a failure isn’t a failure. It’s a win.

25:29.90

Abraham Sisay

Um, right.

25:38.80

Abraham Sisay

Um, you’re right.

25:45.18

Jannae Gammage

All the cliche things that are put out on social media wherever else. But where can you remember a time where you failed it within your business or as an entrepreneur where it really took you to a low point.

26:00.56

Abraham Sisay

Oh yeah, I mean that just happened I know I you know sometimes people like you’re contradicting bro im like no, it’s a process you can’t even get it I’m constantly growing so I fail a lot literally back in November of last year you know I hired almost 65 people to work in 3 different project three different films.

26:07.21

Jannae Gammage

Um, ah.

26:19.24

Abraham Sisay

And this is all like you know, really expensive budget films. But I’m like I can do this. I mean you know I have the money and then I just hired a bunch of people and I was happy about hiring people in Kansas City in the middle of COVID because um, because as an entrepreneur we love to help.

26:20.41

Jannae Gammage

Okay I.

26:37.11

Abraham Sisay

Create opportunities and here I was. I brought in so many people that we’re going through so much, and I hired so many people, but then I didn’t have the skill to manage a team that big. Honestly, I’ve never managed more than 5 people and now sixty plus people.

26:37.23

Jannae Gammage

5 is black those 5 a lot.

26:46.69

Jannae Gammage

Um, well.

26:52.40

Abraham Sisay

Literally, we were hanging out in the office and I didn’t know what to do and we were just hanging out one time I’m gonna admit to this we started eating edibles because and we were supposed to like pre like ready for work and we we got so high and and and then one guy who I’m not going to say his name.

27:04.40

Jannae Gammage

Rena.

27:09.61

Abraham Sisay

Because it was not a great experience but he was the only one who was like we cannot do this in the office and I was like you can’t tell him what to do? This is my stuff and I would say I want to have a space where people can do anything that they want and be completely free.

27:16.90

Jannae Gammage

Ah, this is my budget. Oh well.

27:25.50

Abraham Sisay

Which was horrible. That was the worst experience I’ve ever had. Ah, by December I ended up losing half of the crew because I let someone else manage instead of ah instead of me doing it because I’m like ah I’ll I’ll just let someone else manage it. And this person was writing contracts that they had no business writing; they were writing proposals and accepting deals you know proposals from filmmakers that were overcharging. Usually for example, ah, let’s say someone who’s operating one camera I’ll pay them. You know 350 to $400 a day because that’s the Kansas City rate but they were giving him $700 as a proposal and he accepted a sound person. I used a budget for $900 for a sound person and he accepted $4000 for a sound person. So imagine that 65 people the budget for the production were was supposed to be I think $12000 and then one of them went up to the second thousand the budget was was 15 that went all the way to 40 grand and then I but you know I did not review because I trusted him you know he looked like he knew what he was doing.

28:16.42

Jannae Gammage

Um, oh god.

28:29.22

Abraham Sisay

So I didn’t take time to do it because I was overworking myself at the same time I was still running my advertising gigs at the same time. So Andrew Morgans was actually one of my clients. I was running his advertising at the same time so I was trying to balance all this. So I let go of the Freedom Project Forum and I let someone else manage it. So I can focus on clients and then one day. All the invoices came in one day. I literally still remember the opening. I’m using my big screen here and I open all of the tabs with different tabs of almost 65 different invoices for buffer 2 projects and I did them as I like what the heck. So imagine me calling everybody and trying to renegotiate after.

29:04.90

Jannae Gammage

Um, the death. Oh.

29:07.17

Abraham Sisay

They’ve already shot the episode and we had 7 episodes so that would have been a disaster and then what while that was going on. There were a bunch of scandals happening on the side. There was a mismanagement of funds. You know there were so many things happening at the same time.

29:20.24

Jannae Gammage

10

29:24.70

Abraham Sisay

And you know I definitely was not paying attention. If you know I took it as you know this is my fault and that almost damaged me like November December January and I was also losing clients on the agency side because now my mindset is not steady. And I had a really big client. I don’t want to name their name but he’s a very big company in the film space, and it was a 6 figure budget. So I was managing that too, and then all the results started dropping, and I was spending so much time that I’ve ever done on like the Google accounts and then you know trying to figure out what am I missing.

29:46.23

Jannae Gammage

Um, ah.

30:01.71

Abraham Sisay

But the fact that my mind was so thinned out and I was thinking about so many differences I could not find why the results were dropping because you know bigger companies. They have specific numbers and use them when it drops you you’re in big trouble, but I did not know why so I could not figure out why there were so many things happening and I was blaming myself for all of that. And everybody started getting angry. I had a Facebook group and imagined myself wanting to help people who have become better in their mental health. I mean the mental health journey and here I um have people that I’ve never met because the film community in KC can be very toxic. People will say something and it gets cheap.

30:28.56

Jannae Gammage

I have.

30:36.30

Jannae Gammage

Ah.

30:38.56

Abraham Sisay

You know more things that’s adding I had a Facebook post Facebook group and people started commenting people were sending me screenshots and then there were some people defending me that know me, but I wasn’t saying anything because I do have a tendency of just you know I literally went to Utah and just disappeared because I’m just like I can’t I can’t do this so that was a very bad point.

30:53.26

Jannae Gammage

Well.

30:58.80

Abraham Sisay

Which taught me something that I should always never know, just let go especially if I’ve never done something as big as that and and not you know I should be part of the process because I’ve always been in the process but I felt like at that point I was living saying new money. I had a velvet shirt I was calling the new money shirt because I was like I’ve been working on this for so long now there’s money coming in I’ll hire someone else to do it. But that was a big problem and I wasn’t paying attention and then the thing which was the most important thing was that I was trying to do so many different worlds at the same time running a big campaign and.

31:20.80

Jannae Gammage

Hey.

31:32.66

Abraham Sisay

Running production required so much of my attention because I did write all this crypt too. So I was involved in the process. So it’s like there was so much that I was doing that overwhelmed me I was way out of my ah you know my head. Ah my league it was it was insane but gay.

31:47.90

Jannae Gammage

That’s what we do as entrepreneurs. I don’t wear every single hat. This woman, nobody can do it like us. But but it is a slippery slope every single hat to Suicide excuse my rates.

31:52.23

Abraham Sisay

And now just balancing I know it was scary. It was good. Yeah, no, yeah, it was dark.

32:07.57

Jannae Gammage

It very quickly gets to a low point like instantly and I feel like this is a good spot to go ahead and talk about hiring. So for my listeners, do you need to hire software engineers, testers, or leaders? We do not have a production crew like.

32:12.10

Abraham Sisay

Yeah I know. Right.

32:26.10

Abraham Sisay

Um, you roast you mean your ad.

32:26.26

Jannae Gammage

You know, everyone here. Um, yeah up years, testers and leaders let full Full Scale. They have the people on the platform to help you build and manage a team of experts so that we don’t get to our low point right? Visit FullScale.io and all you need to do is answer a few questions then let the platform match you up.

32:45.69

Abraham Sisay

In.

32:46.40

Jannae Gammage

Fully vetted, highly experienced team of software engineers, testers, and leaders. Um, Full Scale specializes in building long-term teams that work only for you. So you can learn more at FullScale.io. Back to our regularly scheduled program.

32:56.70

Abraham Sisay

Men.

33:02.60

Abraham Sisay

Ah, well that was awesome. They should definitely pay you extra for that roast using my story to roast me for your ad one was that you welcome guys. A funny story I was just you know before I called actually you know looked at their website.

33:17.16

Jannae Gammage

And

33:19.32

Abraham Sisay

And I’m like wow I should figure out how to work with this v 1 hire more developers on there and sort of and.

33:22.15

Jannae Gammage

Yes, it’s you know I’m I’m out a hey I am not paid to sell fullcale services. But what I will say is I know the owner of the company Matt I know a lot of his team members and um as I build tech startups.

33:29.20

Abraham Sisay

Oh yeah.

33:38.43

Abraham Sisay

A right? Yeah, that’s awesome.

33:40.35

Jannae Gammage

They’re always front of mind. Um, just just the business model and the way they’re set up to help and the mission and what he’s trying to do like ah I love it. So I know a lot of tech founders here in Kansas City who work with Full Scale and have a bill of inception all the way to.

33:54.37

Abraham Sisay

Yeah, that’s a wow Wow That’s awesome. Well you know looking into it because that’s a huge stretch Reliever right there.

34:00.52

Jannae Gammage

Acquisition using his developers. So ah, you should. Yes, yes I mean it literally solves the problem.

34:13.12

Abraham Sisay

Right? And they have wasted so much more man. Yeah literally I yeah is like you.

34:13.84

Jannae Gammage

Testing you, you hire these people. You think you got the right team. You’ve hired 65 people. That’s a lot. I still can’t get over that number sixty. Tap the title of this show to 65 I feel like people would get it after that they click it because it’s like why is this called 60.

34:33.60

Abraham Sisay

Like how to mess up at 65 they’re like ah but yeah.

34:34.64

Jannae Gammage

Ah, okay, so the Freedom Project Forum I want to I want to really dig into that is about rethinking mental illness and how to get people the support they need through documentaries. So.

34:45.59

Abraham Sisay

Yeah. Yeah, you? yeah.

34:53.53

Jannae Gammage

So how can it help? um victims of the current suicide epidemic when we talk about entrepreneurs.

35:01.10

Abraham Sisay

Yeah, so yeah, thanks for that because you know I’m gonna make sure I don’t go you know just keep talking because this is my my pivot part 5 minute okay cool so yeah so but but basically you know I am.

35:08.80

Jannae Gammage

Get 5 minutes lizless and I have much breath at the end.

35:17.67

Abraham Sisay

You know the reason why I even wanted to take my own life is because I wasn’t aware of what was wrong. I didn’t realize I was dealing with mental illnesses. Ah you know to me I was identifying with everything that was happening and not and not realizing I was also identifying with my depression and anxiety and all these sort of things.

35:23.21

Jannae Gammage

Um, and if.

35:34.78

Abraham Sisay

So that was 0 boundaries and that’s why I was very, you know, um, dangerous to myself. So I basically figure out what’s the best way to talk to people directly where we’re using a people’s story and also mixing it with theirs. You know you know with the psychologists and also artists and all these different people that are really good at communicating their feelings, but they don’t know they don’t even know why they’re communicating it. So I use art a lot. I use classical music a lot and you know mix it with storytelling to be able to speak to people. Where they are so that’s an element of the Freedom Project Forum. We use film to do that. Ah, you know you know if you’re a fan of a film. Everybody knows how powerful films are, in general, you can talk to people and propose things as long as you capture their attention. So that’s one element and then the second part is to be able to do events on a global scale right now I’m doing on a state-to state level and with that comes with legislation I want to make sure that I’m actually passing legislation to make sure that we’re not just advocating but we’re also enacting solution through legislation because right now I’m passing to. I’ve actually proposed bills to the state of Missouri and Kansas which is going to require for every child as they progress through school they will learn about your their own mental health and that’s for me because when I was a kid I didn’t know what was wrong I was making fun of people with mental illness and I didn’t even know that that was bad so you know I didn’t know. Ah, so I’m trying to make sure that kids grow up. They learn. We’re creating curriculums to make sure that they’re aware of them on mental health and the – bill is going to focus on licensing for psychologists so that they can be able to practice and not having to jack up their own prices because licensing is very expensive, especially if you have to practice in different states. And especially now with covid imagine being online and paying licensing because you have to serve someone in cancers. But you live in Missouri and we’re literally in the same place. Yeah, it makes no sense and psychologists are really tired. Yeah.

37:23.70

Jannae Gammage

Hey, I am going through that she won off 15 Missouri in Kansas literally.

37:33.82

Abraham Sisay

Ah know and and most of them will end up leaving because they’re like I can’t I can’t pay this you know because people are expecting them to do things pro Bono but being a psychologist is really hard because you also have your own things to deal with and now you’re hearing stories every day and people are expecting you to charge.

37:38.92

Jannae Gammage

Yeah. Correct.

37:49.41

Abraham Sisay

Literally zero dollars and and they want you to pay licensing, so that’s also another legislation that I’m working on and then this’s on a sector which is research and education. So I’m actually building an education platform right now and I’m partnering with institutions like um. Sort of we can bring in more psychologists into the works. Ah the psychology space. So I have a partnership with the University Of Kansas Health system to do research which is going to be very like detailed academic research in order for us to introduce that to schools. And then also talk about the like you know, licensing because if you can have a big institution talk about licensing then we can get it on a federal level because you know it’s you know? So yeah that that’s the goal that decided 3 sectors of the Freedom Project Forum that that I’m working on so I think I did good 3 minutes cool

38:26.90

Jannae Gammage

Wow. My. Okay, you know you did good all right? So I’m going to end it with some questions right? off the do answer immediately. Are you ready to be positive?

38:39.81

Abraham Sisay

Yeah. Um, yeah I’m ready. Yeah, let’s do it. Ah Wow, I wasn’t I I didn’t think that’s what you can now I’m stuttering.

38:51.00

Jannae Gammage

Okay, describe yourself in 1 word.

38:57.49

Jannae Gammage

Ah.

38:59.65

Abraham Sisay

1 more word I’ll say grateful I’m um I’m very grateful for where I am today because seven years ago I never dreamed of being here so grateful. Yes.

39:03.14

Jannae Gammage

Of her. Absolutely if you had to write a book for your earlier self. What would you write about?

39:16.91

Abraham Sisay

I actually did that while I was in college. While I was going to college, I started writing a book called space of a love because you know, can you imagine how much pain I was in. I wanted someone to give me space to just talk and hear me out but I had a stutter. So no one had patience.

39:27.40

Jannae Gammage

Space Club wow.

39:36.40

Abraham Sisay

So I felt like you were devaluing me the moment I opened my mouth because of the stutter. So I started writing a book called a space of love that took out like 5 pages that was it. It was just me just crying in the beginning of the 2 pages that no one gives me space, but I have all these ideas in my head but no one lets me talk. So.

39:53.69

Jannae Gammage

Okay, space of love. Okay, new show title Space of Love no longer is 65 if you love okay, what would be the title of a book that your worst enemy wrote about you.

39:54.95

Abraham Sisay

Yeah, right? Ah cool. Yeah.

40:08.80

Abraham Sisay

Ah wow um, the worst title. Ah so back then when I was going through the whole 65 you know, problem 65 will be ah.

40:18.16

Jannae Gammage

– o

40:25.17

Abraham Sisay

Like 65 would probably be something that would scare me because I see remember ah you know but I find a lot of people tell me you call yourself a mental or health advocate and you can’t even ah pay my damn invoice and I was like the show is being canceled. We only did 1 episode, you only need to pay for the whole.

40:36.88

Jannae Gammage

Um, yeah, yeah.

40:43.54

Abraham Sisay

Ah, but I didn’t know much about film as far as the ah lawyer side and all of them you know paperwork side so I felt like a lot of people made me say yes because I was desperate at that point and and and and I was cornered into saying okay I’ll pay it. And then when I actually spoke to my lawyer. She’s like you don’t have to pay anything you haven’t done anything. You don’t even have any of the footage. Why even messaging them and I said well I know these people they’re friends of mine so because I genuinely wanted ah to to help them. But sometimes you know the best you know intentions or pathway to hell sometimes.

41:07.60

Jannae Gammage

Yeah.

41:18.49

Abraham Sisay

And I had to experience it because I was very gullible. I was very happy about bringing all of my friends and not all of our friends are wanting to be at the same space the way if anything some of them are just watching us and waiting for to say aha I knew it which I had had a few people went to Instagram and tag me and then they’re saying I knew it. You know this guy is over a way of is in his head and some of these people I’ve paid straight never missed the date for years straight I’m even getting my voices get emotional because one of them is someone that I really cared about you know we had the same similar age kids so that that was very disappointing to see that.

41:50.88

Jannae Gammage

Um, yeah.

41:53.92

Abraham Sisay

And um, yeah, so that was definitely dark so 65 will be a title that was scaring me. I’m so this about me. Yeah yeah, ah wow ah, $10000000.

41:57.98

Jannae Gammage

65 last question I gave you $10000000 right now for the Freedom Project Forum. How would you use it?

42:13.16

Abraham Sisay

It will probably find one of the documentaries that completely finishes it. Yeah, because you know they’re very expensive cooks because whenever I do projects, I always have to make sure that I have money for the distribution. That’s just my advertising brain before I will let anyone hire me or to make sure they have the budget for my services and the budget for.

42:13.95

Jannae Gammage

Just one.

42:32.10

Abraham Sisay

Making sure people know what their products are so now as a filmmaker I apply that so actually we create a whole distribution strategy right now a partner with companies and be like hey um, ah this is what you were trying to do with your business. Let me help you get to Xyz while you help me do this film. So I include their marketing strategy in my distribution strategy and that’s how I’m able to afford films now as I progress. So yeah, um, $10000000 will be sweet which means I’ll just be able to do things faster.

43:03.10

Jannae Gammage

Um, yeah.

43:05.70

Abraham Sisay

And you know that that’s a whole element of like because you know one of the films that I actually completely finished which has chiefs players in it. You know and Netflix actually bought a similar film just like that which had aoc and an auto congresswoman and I also have congresspeople in this film football players. And Nexus bid for ten ten million dollars and I have 7 of those written, and they have the same production value and I already have a Netflix producer attached to it to make that introduction when I finish it. So if there’s anyone who’s listening on right now on a new one page I have of that a film that Netflix has paid $10000000, so if you’re interested. Let me know.

43:25.51

Jannae Gammage

Um, over.

43:31.34

Jannae Gammage

Um, okay.

43:42.90

Jannae Gammage

Um, yeah, yeah, and where can people reach out to you.

43:43.66

Abraham Sisay

Ah, because your boy needs help. Ah, so usually, when you find the Freedom Project Forum online, you’ll find me, but my Instagram is Abraham advocates, and I use that name just too. Become not to move away from advertising but an advertiser as they in the mental health space. Ah, who’s also doing film and technology, so Abraham advocates with an s usually you can find me on Twitter Facebook ah actually not Facebook I haven’t been there in a while and I usually. Ah. Ah, Instagram and Twitter are where I’m more active. So yeah, ah, you can find me anywhere.

44:23.89

Jannae Gammage

Awesome! Well, you heard it. Hopefully, everybody enjoyed the show. I absolutely enjoy speaking with you. We did go a little over time, but I don’t think anybody minds. It is a Mental Health Monday series with me, Jannae Gammage, your guest host.

44:33.18

Abraham Sisay

A hopefully very important topic.

44:43.59

Jannae Gammage

Our next episode. See you back for our last and final episode. It is sure to be a treat. I hope you all have a good one.

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