Nelson teenager Elisha Fleming is a rising star in the Young Enterprise world, but a venture with a fundraising bent is teaching him what consumers really value.

In 2014, Elisha began selling key chains, donating a portion of profits to the Mental Health Foundation (MHF).

“But people were more interested in the story about why I was selling key chains,” Elisha says.

Elisha’s experience of depression and his friends lost to suicide are prime motivators for creating a business that supported the MHF.

When Elisha was unwell, he found helplines, counselling and talking to his parents really useful.

“At the beginning, I didn’t want to tell anyone. I was worried what my parents would think and when they found out they were so engaging about it and so accepting,” he says.

Community embraces business

The Nelson community embraced the key chains business, which promoted the MHF’s Five Ways to Wellbeing.

Radio station More FM provided free advertising and soon articles in the Nelson Mail and Lucky Break magazine appeared.

While selling a product was satisfying on one level, Elisha found talking about mental health and helping others realise they are not alone much more rewarding.

Investing in helping others

Elisha now plans to invest his time into encouraging those with mental health experience to speak up, increase public awareness and, ultimately, save lives.

“This issue could never leave me as I've lost three people to depression so I know the aftermath to the community as well as knowing what the person is going through,” he says.

After hearing a fellow student talk about a suicide attempt during a school speech this year, Elisha is now mentoring her and helping her tell her story to a wider audience.

Business aspirations not lost

Even though Elisha is making advocacy a priority, he hasn’t left behind his commercial aspirations.

He was one of 80 Young Enterprise students selected nationwide to participate in Enterprise in Action in 2015 and win a $1000 scholarship to Massey University. He was runner-up in a local Young Enterprise competition and is currently being mentored by the former owner of a large American clothing design company.

He’s planning on studying commerce and law after finishing college, as well as continuing with his advocacy plans – watch this space!