18 July 2022

Meet The Entrepreneur Who Has Overcome Her Mental Health Issues And Launched Her New Business Portal





Mental health issues do not discriminate. They don’t care about age, gender or socio-economic status. High achievers are high candidates for mental health issues, and sufferers can be struggling beneath the surface, their problems hidden by their career accomplishments. A 2018 study of 700,000 adults by researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, with colleagues from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, showed that those who scored top grades at school were four times more likely to develop bipolar disorder than those with average grades.


Amy-Renee Hovorka is a high achiever challenged by schizoaffective disorder A with bipolar, a kind of schizophrenia and adult ADHD. She is also the founder and CEO of procurement agency, Procurement Marketplace, with a history of successful businesses behind her and, to the observer, an aspirational life.


Hovorka functions because she has worked hard to learn how to deal with her illness. She also still takes antipsychotic and antidepressant medication as well as a mild ADHD medication. And Procurement Marketplace exists in no small part because she wants to change how people see mental illness.



“Physical disabilities have role models and survival stories, why aren’t there any mental disability survival stories? It is mainly because of the stigma. Mental health challenges are seen as a weakness but I feel it is time to change that. This start-up is a big deal for me because it means that I trust myself again, that I believe in myself again and willing to back myself,” she states.


Amy-Renee Hovorka’s career is the history of an icon of successful women in business. She has managed a portfolio of inventions towards commercialisation in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for economic growth, been the founding member of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, raised over AUD $1.5 million in seed and prototype development funding for innovation projects managed without equity commitments, restructured and renegotiated a AUD $1 Billion supply chain contract, developed strategic sourcing plan to deliver  AUD$100 million savings over three years and led strategic sourcing pilot program for the NSW Government delivering AUD $12.4 million savings. As CEO and Founder of Innovation-Firebug, she developed a methodology and platform to value, advance and commercialise innovation that is globally scalable. She has a degree in Manufacturing Management, an MBA, and is a certified member of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS).  



Her career history conceals a long struggle with her inner life. She had a prolonged psychotic episode for a year and a half that ended in a psych ward in March 2018, “because I locked myself out of my apartment which I hadn’t left for over a year,” she notes.


“Biological depression became my normal and I struggled to do anything and everything. The psych ward doctors told my family I would never work again although that information wasn’t shared with me. It really is remarkable the physical manifestations that a mental health problem takes on. It is like your body is trying to tell you there is something wrong but doesn’t have the language to communicate so it does it through pain and fear. Inexplicable and undefinable anxiety is exhausting and frustrating. You have all your sensors go off that something is wrong but you can’t rationally pinpoint the cause so you can’t talk yourself out of it,” she adds.


Hovorka ended up on the disability support pension but the desire to work still burned within her. She contacted the disability employment agency, NOVA. “Eventually they found me a job working with Zimmer Biomet. NOVA and Zimmer changed my life,” she recalls. She began to believe it was possible to conquer mental health issues and began learning to trust herself again. The support of her parents and godmother were invaluable, she says, but then she fell in love. “Being loved and feeling safe and knowing someone has your back allows you to grow, expand and take risks,” she states.


The idea for Procurement Marketplace had been percolating since Hovorka’s days at Innovation-Firebug. She finally had the wherewithal to act on it. With her long history in procurement, she saw an opportunity across the board of companies - small to medium companies that don’t have a procurement function but want a better approach to the industry and large companies that have a procurement department but want to supplement their capabilities with some procurement product support. It is in the process of raising $1m so that it can “hit the market hard,” she states.


“My 'why' is I am innovation personified, I dream big, think big and see the world operating differently, more structured, fair and more beautiful,” she says. “We will do this by acting globally, across all industries and sectors with an Interactive Categorisation Engine. We’ve created a platform for procurement services at the moment but it can do so much more. We are the Amazon for procurement products.”


She adds, “Procurement Marketplace is a huge achievement on my mental health journey. I have been able to shift anxiety into creativity, mental expansion and the ability to trust what I think and create again and take risks. I believe I can do that again.” 



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