• Madeleine Bonser

Spotlight on Lee Chambers

Here at Spotlight, we had the opportunity to chat with Lee Chambers, Founder and Psychologist at Essentialise Workplace Wellbeing. He spoke to us about overcoming his biggest setback and where his drive and determination comes from.

A background into you and your business?

Born in Bolton in 1985 to teenage parents, I’ve always had a curious edge and a desire to shake the status quo. Reflecting back, I had a great childhood, despite some of the challenges I faced. Growing up in the 1990s was a real period of opportunity, and my parents worked hard to give me a platform to succeed in education.

I was the first one in my whole family to go to University, and two years later, the first one to drop out, as my mental health failed and I locked myself away. I built myself back up over time to go back and graduate, proving I could triumph through adversity. Both my mental health challenges and my overcoming difficulties are a large part of the business I launched over 10 years later.

Essentialise is not my first entrepreneurial journey. That honour lies with PhenomGames, set up from my parents back bedroom after losing my graduate scheme in the financial crash in 2008. This grew into a seven-figure company operating across Europe, assisted by innovation, automation and market opportunity. It also funded the launch of VideoGameBox, which after initial success was replicated and ended up being swallowed by the competition, teaching me a number of lessons in the process.

During this time, I continued to work alongside the business, learning new skills and picking up industrial knowledge. Time in local government, corporate finance and elite sports sharpened my toolkit. I would need this for the journey I was about to unknowingly undertake.

In 2014, seemingly having everything I could have wished for, I became unwell and lost the ability to walk. In the year of learning to walk again, the idea of Essentialise was formed. How could I help others to value their health and be more purposeful in building a business? These questions sat with me for four years, while I continued to recover and spent time at home with my children before they started school. I learnt a lot as a stay at home dadpreneur, and my patience, presence and communication became so much better from those fun times.

When my daughter started school in 2019, I could no longer sit on those questions, and Essentialise launched, looking to make an impact on the world of wellbeing in the workplace and how entrepreneurs perform at a high level without sacrificing their health.

Overcoming setbacks

There have been plenty of bumps in the road; I’ve lost 5 figures in a day from one decision, I’ve been squeezed by my competition, I’ve had a dishonest employee. But losing the ability to walk has been the biggest thing I’ve had to navigate, from both a business and personal perspective. In reality, it’s actually shaped my business career in a positive way and it is why I’m featuring here today.

Learning to walk again is difficult as an adult. I first had to accept that I had lost my mobility, and take ownership over the situation. Next, I had to continually practice and try and progress, literally one step at a time. I had to remain consistent and celebrate the small victories while remaining resilient on difficult days. I had to believe I could walk again, and this was fueled by wanting to take my daughter’s first steps with her. I continued to listen and commit to my physiotherapist’s advice, and after 11 months, I walked a mile unaided, just before my daughter started walking.

What is an important initiative that you feel passionate about in your role?

Essentialise works at the intersection of wellbeing and inclusion, so naturally, I am massively passionate about creating inclusive cultures and psychologically safe spaces. Wellbeing can be quite the privilege if you are fighting inequality, and with the work I do, the projects I’m involved with and the message I share, social equity is something that I fight for on a number of fronts.

Drive and Determination

I have a clear purpose and mission; to empower a million adults and children to be happier and healthier. This is why I get up in the morning, the first thing I see on my bedside cabinet, and what I think of after a long day. I’ve always been renowned for being driven and having perseverance, but this has been taken to a whole new level by having absolute clarity on the impact I want to make, and why I’m building the business.

The biggest lesson that you’ve learnt along the way

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that it’s easy to become tunnel-visioned when you’re building a business, especially if, like me, you were trying to prove people wrong. You are just one part of a successful business, and a business is only a vehicle to achieve your own mission. Get clear on what you want, find amazing people to collaborate with and add value to your team, and never stop developing yourself and leading yourself first.

Three tips you give to those starting their careers

  1. Being an entrepreneur isn’t as glamorous as it looks. There will be hard work to build momentum, doubts and tears. It’s not for everyone, but you can learn a lot from trying.

  1. Don’t know what you want to be? No problem, you wouldn’t even know what it was like once you’d got there. Get out there, explore the world, find out what you like and why you enjoy it, find what you don’t like and why, and start to think how you could get more of what you like in your career.

  1. Never stop learning and building your skillset. The world is constantly evolving and you should be too. If you keep the mindset of a beginner and treat life like a scientist constantly experimenting, you won’t fall into most of the traps those around you will.

Advice to people who are wanting to start a business

Be mindful that while it’s trendy and there are entrepreneur influencers telling you it’s easy if you buy their course, most of them haven’t even been on the journey themselves, or if they have, made their money due to good timing, past privilege and the investment and hard work of others.

My advice is to seek a mentor who is willing to invest in you and to do that you will have to show your enthusiasm and the market potential of your business idea. There is a lot of good free advice out there, and it’s worth getting a base knowledge on finance, marketing, sales and business fundamentals before setting off.

Aim to have a minimum viable product or service and launch to allow it to be optimised and evolved. Don’t wait for perfection to start; by the time you think you have it there, time will have moved beyond. Take that courageous step, make sure you know where your customers are, and remember, nothing is an overnight success, and you learn every day.

The future

We’ve spent the last 18 months building sustainable foundations for growth, and are now adding members to the team to create an amazing people board for SMEs, offering wellbeing, coaching, leadership development, diversity and inclusion, organisational culture and performance psychology to those businesses who are just starting on their journey of creating a healthy, happy and high performing business.

Behind the scenes, we are working on some additional data and evidence-based work with a local university to add yet another level of rigour to our methodology and measurement. We will be continuing to grow in a controlled and stable manner and will be looking to secure investment in 2022. Am I excited? Certainly, there is no better time to get clear on where you want to go and get the wellbeing and performance advantage for your teams after such a challenging 18 months.

Thank you for taking the time to tell us your story Lee, If you’ve found this interesting make sure to follow Essentialise on Instagram and Twitter. To read more blogs like this, head over to our blog.

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