Preston man using challenges he faced as a young Black man to help others become happier
A Preston man has shared his lived experience with adversity as a young black man struggling to find his place in life which he has used to build his now successful company over a decade on.
Lee Chambers 36, works as a specialist in providing wellbeing and inclusion advice, support and resources to business to ensure their employee’s mental health is always considered.
After his own struggles and obstacles as not only a young man, but a young black man with no one to turn to or look up to, Lee has found a way to use his milestones in life to be that mentor for so many others in the community.
His journey to success and self fulfilment did not occur overnight and took Lee nearly 15 years of battling with his mental health, physical health and identity to figure out how he wanted to be a role model for young black people in similar situations.
The wellbeing specialists first experience of adversity came during his years at university where alone, lost and without a role model to look up to, he shut himself away from the outside world.
“I grew up on a council estate and as one of three brothers, my parents worked really hard for us all to have a good life,” Lee told LancsLive.
“I became the first one in my whole extended family to go to university which was obviously a very proud moment but it involved a lot of pressure on me to be that example- to show everyone in my family and community that you could succeed in education and build something better for your life. I went off to Manchester to study and in my second year I struggled with my mental health as a young black male, looking out to think about what I was going to become.
“A lot of the icons at the time were rappers, dancers, footballers, athletes, singers and I didn’t see who I could learn from- I struggled to handle some of my emotions and just understand myself really.”
Lee’s emotional struggle soon became too overwhelming and resulted in him locking himself inside his university dorm room for two weeks with no contact with friends, family or anyone in the outside world. After being found alone in his room by campus security, Lee’s family were called and they took him home to help him recovery – a year later in 2007, he was able to graduate with a degree in international business psychology.
The months after his graduation took Lee down another dark spiral after redundancies and jobs loses overwhelmed the young man. In his efforts to use his knowledge and degree to make something for himself, Lee used his business plan which he drew up in university to start selling video games.
Despite taking the plunge to start up a new business, Lee was never encouraged to follow his plans even though they ended up making him enough money to buy his first house.
Lee said: “I took my plans to a business mentor in Manchester towards the end of uni and he said to me, Lee, this is a really good plan- as a business, there’s a good chance that this would succeed due to his strong character and ability to analyse situations. But he also said, you are young, you’re black and you come across as you’ve got a bit of an attitude, in the industry, those who control things probably won’t like the way you approach it and they will probably make your life hard.
“If it was perhaps a white man, that would be classed as being assertive, they’d be using their intuition – it’s not right.”
Sticking to his gut, Lee soon found success in his business, PhenomGames, selling video games and had his small room in his parents house full of games and packaging materials.
The next few years saw Lee through different career paths which he tried and tested whilst continuing to run his video game business but with the arrival of his firstborn, Lee scaled everything down to spend more time with his son.
In 2013, Lee was hit with a huge blow to his success as he was hospitalised for months due to his immune system breaking down. Bed ridden and having to learn how to walk again, Lee found the motivation to get on his feet with the birth of his second child in 2014, his daughter.
Once he finally got back on his feet, Lee’s outlook changed and he knew then he wanted to be the role model for others he had always wished for.
In 2019, Lee launched his wellbeing and inclusion company, Essentialise, a now booming business helping other employers make their places of work a better place for their employees.
After months of figuring out how to digitalise his work during Covid times, Lee has been able to talk at universities, charities and hospitals to provide resources and share his story.
“I’m now being the entrepreneur and psychologist that I wanted to be when I was 18 to look up to and that what drives be on and becoming a psychology mentor for future psychologist of colour,” Lee said.
“Part of my success is being an example for young black people so that they can be whatever they want to be and there might be more obstacles and barriers that they face because of the way society is but never give up on those dreams.
“I see Black History Month as a way for people to be more aware of our history and the people that paved the way for me to be able to do what I do today. I also see Black History Month as Black Future Month in how can I help the future black people and future people of colour find their way without feeling lost on their journey- and helping the black people of today leave a legacy and helping the other people of colour.
“Using the vulnerabilities and sensitive moments that I’ve had, I can place the flag in the sand so that others can not feel like it’s not gangster to talk about your mental health when ultimately it’s one of the most gangster things you can do- to be truthfully honest when you’re struggling.”
Focusing on his future ahead, Lee’s next goal for business and his life is to “impact the health and happiness of a million people by 2035.”