Johnny Crowder, CRPS-Y|A and “Accidental CEO”
“Overnight success.” “Self-made billionaire.” These are often the phrases that accompany any mention of today’s influential entrepreneurs. However, metal singer and founder of Cope Notes, Johnny Crowder, prefers to call himself an “accidental CEO.” Indeed, although Cope Notes is a daily mental health support service that uses mobile technology to disrupt recipients’ negative thoughts, Crowder does not have a background in tech; he never intended to be a part of the industry. Instead, he describes his background as “lived experience” since he is a Certified Recovery Peer Specialist (CRPS-Y|A) and has had his own struggles with conditions like OCD, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.
Before Crowder would become an “accidental CEO,” though, he would first attend the University of Central Florida, where he initially got involved with peer support. As dedicated as he was to helping others improve their mental health, he sometimes found peer support a heavy responsibility. Like any human, Crowder had personal affairs to handle and did not want someone else’s well-being to depend solely on his availability. With this, he noticed that those who needed support did not have a resource that could walk with them every moment of each day, one that did not require the person in need to make the first move. Crowder explains that “making the first move” can sometimes be too much. Sure, someone can purchase a personal self-help book, but what if that individual is too depressed to open it to the first page? An individual can get a new pair of running shoes, but what if the thought of going outside triggers their anxiety? And an individual can even have people to reach out to, but what if they cannot find the energy to speak to anyone?
Thus, Crowder founded Cope Notes. Driven by an innate “DIY” mentality, the service began with Crowder typing out positive texts and manually sending them to close friends to promote positivity in others’ lives. From there, Cope Notes has grown and evolved for almost five years to become the version it is today. Over 1 million texts containing helpful tidbits have been sent to over 25,000 people worldwide. Despite this growth, Crowder’s service continues to be delivered through text rather than an app. The entrepreneur knows that text messages are 50 times more likely to be read than an app notification. Additionally, Crowder understands that not everyone has a smartphone capable of downloading applications. Accessibility has always been this accidental CEO’s primary goal.
Building a Business and Belting Notes
When asked how being an entrepreneur affects one’s mental health, Crowder admits that such a role is “unbelievably stressful.” Generally, according to Crowder, pressure, anxiety, burnout, depression, and poor self-concept are just a few common issues that entrepreneurs face. Regarding his role at Cope Notes, in particular, Crowder shares that working in mental health can sometimes be even more triggering since he has behavioral health conditions. To combat such issues, the entrepreneur has integrated steps into his life that help him prioritize his well-being; he schedules his daily tasks around wellness. For example, Crowder always ensures that his work does not overlap with the time allotted to therapy. When he exercises on a recumbent bike in the mornings, rather than mindlessly cycling, he focuses on learning about healthy coping strategies. Crowder believes that, while wellness is a constant pursuit, it can become a normal part of one’s routine.
Moreover, when Crowder is not occupied with his entrepreneurial duties, he serves as the lead singer of the heavy metal band “Prison.” He confesses that it can be scary to open up as an artist, especially in a genre where people usually expect him to be “real tough” — not someone who talks about feelings and journaling. But, contrary to what people may believe about the genre, hardcore lyrics can convey vulnerability and what Crowder calls “raw honesty.” That authenticity first captivated Crowder; it continues to inspire him to speak up in his music, as well as in spaces outside of music. In turn, he has received much-appreciated support, often from audience members who can relate to his metal lyrics and the human emotions they express.
Mental Health and the Public
Just as Crowder is aware of the stereotypes surrounding metal music and singers, he is also aware of the stigmas associated with mental illness. Crowder suggests one way forward is to make mental health a part of the public school curriculum so that we can start normalizing the mental health discussion both in school and at home. He reasons that if students are to learn about the anatomy and physiology of the brain, schools should include mental health in the lesson plans. Similarly, Crowder thinks that public media outlets often glorify entrepreneurs, conveniently leaving out the not-so-glamorous details of business and mental health. In the spirit of transparency, Crowder states that Cope Notes has never gone viral or received an extraordinary amount of public attention. The average successful business will not have that kind of luck. For this reason, he advises aspiring entrepreneurs to choose a business endeavor they will enjoy even if they do not achieve immediate success or are ultimately unsuccessful. Therefore, aspiring entrepreneurs may also need to re-evaluate their definition of “success.”
As for Cope Notes and its public impact, Crowder would like to expand the service so that anyone diagnosed or undiagnosed can benefit from it. In fact, over the past few years, he has been working with local school districts, businesses, nonprofits, and governments to eventually secure the funding necessary for the expansion of Cope Notes. In the meantime, anyone interested in knowing more about Cope Notes can visit their website. Here, you can get a subscription for yourself or give a subscription to another person, but, as Crowder says, “Don’t think you have to give [them] money to let [Cope Notes] help you.” Crowder and the Cope Notes team offer a free seven-day trial to those who wish to begin training their brain and bringing themselves closer to a healthy mind — one text at a time.