Andrea Lee, part of the Lyles Center in Fresno, launched the HiLow Podcast to discuss bipolar disorder. Photo courtesy of Lee
Mental health became the focus of much talk as the pandemic hit the globe. A Fresno business student expands this conversation into the business world with her own podcast.
Andrea Lee graduated as a farewell classmate at Clovis North High School and graduated this month with the highest honors from Fresno State. But behind the confessions lay a struggle for mental health.
In 2020, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a mental health disorder associated with extreme mood swings of emotional ups and downs.
The disorder affects millions of Americans, but Lee decides to turn it into a business opportunity when he realizes that there aren’t many role models in the business world. Her show, The HiLow Podcast, gives voice to business leaders, students and mental health advocates. Available on Spotify and Apple, the podcast launched in March and has five episodes so far.
Its purpose is to create a sense of community and understanding and to inspire others to function despite the disorder.
“I really wanted to find someone who had bipolar disorder and be able to live with it so I could see my future, but it was really hard and almost impossible for me to find it – especially when we were isolated,” she said.
The idea was formed in business class at Fresno State, and Lee developed it at the Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
“Every problem you encounter is solved by an entrepreneurial project or endeavor, and I thought my biggest problem was not being inspired when I was diagnosed,” Lee said.
She was chosen to be part of the Student Hatchery program, a business incubator where 10 students have access to business contacts, their own office space and business mentors. Students in the program are also exposed to investors.
Anna Borheas, part of the teaching staff at Craig School of Business in Fresno, met with Lee in her entrepreneurship class. From the beginning, Lee came to Borheas’ class with The HiLow Podcast.
After hearing about the idea, Borheas invited Lee to apply for the Hatchery program.
“We have room for up to 10 students and we are quite selective to those who want to come. We offer them support services to help them start and grow their business, “said Borheas.
Lee said that a podcast is a great way to start something that is feasible and different from a blog or website. Her advice to future business owners and entrepreneurs is to get started.
“I think a lot of the problems for young adults who want to start a business are that they don’t push play – they keep recording things and then they don’t have to take action. This is a common trap because we are such perfectionists. We want everything to be perfect before we start, “she said.” I got on my laptop, got a microphone and got started. “
Nelson Sebra, an entrepreneur in Fresno, helps select students for the Hatchery program at the Lyles Center. He has been part of the process for more than 10 years.
“From time to time we will meet a student like Andrea, who is truly an outstanding student,” Sebra said.
Vartuhi Tonoyan, Lee’s mentor and business professor, described Lee as creative, a leader and an intellectual.
“She is a truly incredibly talented human being,” Tonoyan said.
Tonoyan met Lee last year when she taught an entrepreneurship course and said she was one of the most outstanding students she has taught.
Tonoyan said Lee’s business plan is particularly attractive because many people talk about physical disabilities, but not many people describe mental disabilities as Lee began to do.
“I think what sets her apart most is that she just has a serious goal. “She is driven by her experience and desire to fill the void she has encountered since she was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder,” Borheas said.
Borgheas said Lee’s story was remarkable for the challenges she faced.
“I think it’s just a beautiful thing to see someone flourish in such a way through such misfortunes – to kind of turn it into an opportunity to do something that makes sense,” Borheas said.
Jorge Cruz, one of Lee’s business professors in Fresno, is an entrepreneur himself. He says Lee stands out from his peers because she was not afraid of risk and used her own challenges as a business opportunity.
“Entrepreneurs always have a sense of urgency and work in these conditions,” Cruz said. “They see failure as an opportunity to learn.”
Lee loved connecting with others with bipolar disorder.
“It’s like I’m not alone. And that’s when you realize I’m not the only one who’s been through this, “Lee said.
She has attributed her strength over the past two years to her therapist and case manager. They both helped her set goals and helped her see the silver line.
Once you accept the diagnosis, you can find ways to help yourself, she said.
Lee used her vulnerability to her advantage and asked her relatives for help after identifying her needs.
She encourages other entrepreneurs to transfer their business plan from the notebook.
“Yes, it’s important to do the paperwork, but just talk to people. “Start turning your business into a real thing,” Lee said.