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The Fall Founders’ Series: Meet Zac Clark and Release Recovery Foundation

If you’re unfamiliar with our 2022 Founders Series, you can read all about it HERE. We’re highlighting five founders and their respective brands to talk about values, entrepreneurship and the role of mental health. 

What started as a partnership between Zac Clark and Rhone has blossomed into a friendship and mutual support of one another. He's an entrepreneur, community builder, advocate for mental health and recovery, and avid runner and all-around fantastic human. After undergoing brain surgery, he began his own journey of addiction and recovery but also a deeper life's purpose–to create a space and platform giving others the gift of recovery through community and connection. This is his founding story.

Where did the idea for Release Recovery come from?

ZC: The idea for Release Recovery and its culture came from something I identified early in my personal recovery journey - community and connection needs to be the center point of recovery. We know that no matter what someone is struggling with there’s power in connecting with other people who have similar struggles and experiences to find strength  from. Anyone who knows me knows I am a huge Pearl Jam fan, so the name came from their song “Release”.

What’s the “why” behind Release Recovery?

ZC: The reason we do what we do is to try and inspire individuals and their families throughout their recovery journey. I was given the gift of recovery 11 years ago and it continues to be the cornerstone of my existence today. I knew early on when I got sober that I wanted to make recovery possible to as many people out there that wanted it.

Can you recall one of the biggest hurdles you experienced while founding  Release Recovery?

ZC: When we started the organization, I was going through a transitional time both personally and professionally, which naturally added to the stress of starting a new company. When we originally planted our flag in Yorktown, it was not received well by the town because of the negative stigma that comes along with addiction and recovery. It took time for us to gain their trust, but we were ultimately able to prove that not only are we not going to be a negative presence, but we are going to bring a positive impact to the community.

What’s the biggest piece of advice you’d give to a founder or young entrepreneur?

ZC: 1) Hire people that are smarter than you and be willing to give them the freedom to help you run the business

2) I am a big believer in “paralysis by analysis” - there are definitely situations that you need to think through, but for the most part just go with your gut and trust it. Especially early on when there is going to be a lot of fear, you have to just go for it and learn from your mistakes;

3) One of the things my dad always taught me was don’t make decisions that are irreversible.

Entrepreneurship is often highlighted in a way that may skew what it looks like in reality. What are some of the hardest aspects of being an entrepreneur/business owner?

ZC: It can be really lonely. The relationship you share with your team and employees will always have its limitations, so it’s important to connect with other entrepreneurs and people with shared experiences. It’s always a nice reminder that other decision makers are dealing with many of the same problems and circumstances. 

At Rhone, we talk about and highlight mental health. Can you talk about how you navigated, prioritized or handled your own mental health, as well as those of your employees as you started and built your business?

ZC: Personally, mental health is a priority for me each and every day. I learned that physical fitness, meditation and staying connected to friends and family have all been really important and vital to my own mental health. Professionally, I’ve come to accept that no one will share the same personal connection with Release that I have, but they can still care about their job and do incredible work. Recognizing that has helped significantly reduce my stress. For our team and employees we started doing regular team-building outings, as well as hiring people specifically focused on improving their experience.

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