We were fortunate to be joined by Mitch Wallis, founder of the Heart On My Sleeve Movement. Mitch describes Heart On My Sleeve as an organisation that straddles a number of categories. We’re a stigma prevention charity, a mental health provider and an art project. “Imagine if TED Talks, Black Lives Matter and Humans of New York had a baby”.
Mitch has come a long way from his days working with Microsoft after “lucking his way into the internship”. The Heart On My Sleeve Movement is a radical pivot for Mitch, who once pitched the Microsoft Surface Pro to Robert Downey Jnr.
Mitch was on campus speaking to Macleay’s Entrepreneurial Mindset class about his personal journey with mental health, and how that evolved first into a movement and now a mental-health service provider and more. We caught up with him after to chat more about the Heart On My Sleeve Movement and his partnership with Macleay.
Can you tell us about the Heart On My Sleeve movement you founded?
It all started after I felt a tension between my inner and outer worlds and I didn’t know how to resolve that. I felt like I was living a fake life and not being authentic.
I drew a heart on my arm and recorded a story on some of the things I experienced from a mental health perspective and that video went viral. In a week we reached a million people and before we knew it, a global social media movement had started where people started to draw hearts on their arms and were sharing their stories as well.
We are now moving into the second phase of our journey after almost a year of being operational. We are moving from what was a cool social idea into a fully-fledged program and services provider with a mission to humanise mental health one heart-felt story at a time.
Focusing on the eradication of stigma and building preventative and educational resources for people who are going through a tough time.
What has been the most rewarding part of your journey with Heart On My Sleeve so far?
Waking up to Facebook and Instagram messages every morning and seeing people express how much it has helped them to have a place to go where they can be seen and heard for who they really are. I think there are very few times in our life, nowadays with social media, where we get the opportunity to just be ourselves, and feel worthy as we are.
The goal of Heart On My Sleeve is to utilise the positive aspects of technology and social media, which is safety and scale, whilst bringing realness back to the way that we communicate with one another.
I know you recently collaborated with Macleay’s Business Consultancy class, how did you find that experience?
It's amazing! I think the partnership with Macleay and Heart On My Sleeve is one that is mutually valuable. I originally went in to present on entrepreneurship and it turned into Heart On My Sleeve being adopted as a student project.
The students spent a trimester breaking down our model and our offering, to give feedback on what we could optimise and differentiate. Many of those learnings that were given in the final presentation, I have actually gone and reshaped our vision around.
"It wasn’t just an excuse to study a new business for them, it was just as valuable for me to get insights from incredibly bright and passionate students wanting to make a difference."
Do you think you can learn to be an entrepreneur or is it something that is intrinsic?
I think it is a combination of both. Learning is key because, ultimately, entrepreneurship is about passion. It’s a form of self-expression. Wanting to create something, and to bring an idea that is in your head to life.
I think passion and a willingness to grind is the main ingredient, but someone could have all the energy in the world and if it is not directed in the right way nothing will ever come of it.
From a very pragmatic and practical standpoint, if we have the right tools and educational resources around it, like the Macleay program, we will be encouraging a generation of young entrepreneurs to be directed in the right way.
What advice do you have for new entrepreneurs?
Fail fast; pivot; and go again.