In today's FemFounder interview series, I chatted with Natalie Kyriacou, founder of My Green World and here is what she had to say about launching and growing an educational and conservation organization.
Please tell us about your background.
My name is Natalie Kyriacou and I am the Founder and CEO of My Green World, the Creator of World of the Wild mobile game app, and the Director of Dogstar Foundation Australia. I hold a Bachelor degree in Journalism and a Master of International Relations degree from the University of Melbourne as well as undertaking a scholarship in Gender and Security at the University of Delhi, India.
I am also a member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and former Board Member for the University of Melbourne’s Animal Ethics Committee in the Department of Veterinary Sciences.
I have enjoyed a rich and rewarding career as a wildlife advocate, social entrepreneur, Corporate Social Responsibility Director, and freelance journalist.
Since 2010, I have been endeavoring to drive change within Australia’s social sector; creating pioneering youth programs that aim to increase engagement in wildlife and environmental conservation efforts.
In 2008, I traveled from my hometown of Melbourne, Australia, to spend time connecting with nature throughout Asia. One of my first stops was Borneo, where I lived in the jungle working at an orangutan rehabilitation center. I was based in Eastern Sabah, and spent my days working with orphaned and abused orangutans who were rapidly losing their habitat to palm oil plantations. These plantations have eaten away at a continent once ample in species, engulfing the countryside, and swallowing the rich diversity of the jungle.
In Borneo, I first witnessed the devastating impact that humanity has had on natural habitats and the species that inhabit them. Then I returned to Melbourne feeling determined to share these experiences with my community, in the hope that I could instigate greater participation in wildlife conservation efforts from Australia. And so, my organization, My Green World was born.
Why did you start your business?
I found a problem that required a solution. It was really as simple as that. The rate of species extinction and the consequences of environmental degradation were too important to ignore. I felt that as a global citizen, it was my responsibility and my privilege to play a role in the future of planet earth and all its inhabitants. I started My Green World because I felt that young people would benefit from a platform that allowed them to connect with nature conservation issues, and I felt it was imperative to engage young people in these issues in a positive way.
What market does your business serve?
My Green World is a youth-focused organization, primarily focusing on young people aged 6-18. However, we also provide resources and materials targeting educational institutions as well as teachers and parents, to ensure that we are providing comprehensive programs that reach children from all walks of life.
What's the largest challenge you've encountered as a business owner?
The progression of My Green World has been a series of successes, failures, and challenges, and each one is something that both myself and the company can grow and learn from. Working in my field, we are faced with huge barriers, and sometimes it seems that the odds are not tipped in our favor. Wildlife extinction, habitat erosion, food insecurity, poverty, and animal abuse are gargantuan issues that sometimes seem too big to take on.
The biggest challenge I am faced with (aside from funding, which is a perennial nightmare) is encouraging people to take wildlife and environmental issues seriously. These issues can seem so abstract, and so far removed from the day-to-day lives of many people, that they are often sidelined, or altogether ignored.
What's your best piece of business advice?
Don't find a problem to "fit" your solution.
How do you like to relax?
Reading. I am a bit of a bookworm and devour books in my spare time.
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