This is part of a series of interviews with members of the Foundation for Young Australians Young Social Pioneers program which supports Australia’s best and brightest emerging social entrepreneurs and innovators, aged 18-29. The program amplifies their social change purpose, builds networks of support and develops their business skills and capabilities to drive successful purpose-driven ventures.website facebook twitter Apple App Store
Natalie Kyriacou is the Founding Director of My Green World and the Creator of World of the Wild mobile game app. She has enjoyed a rich and rewarding career as both a wildlife and environmental advocate, entrepreneur and freelance writer. Her work has been published in various journals and she has been recognised as one of Australia’s 2015 ‘Social Pioneers’ by the recognised as one of Australia’s 2015 ‘Social Pioneers’ by the Foundation for Young Australians, Griffith University’s ‘Finalist for the Outstanding Alumni of the Year Award’, and a Finalist for the ‘Victorian Young Achiever Award’. In 2015, Natalie was recognised as a ‘Top 50 Leading Conservationist in the World’ in Lori Robinson’s book, ‘Saving Wild: Inspiration from 50 Leading Conservationists’.
Natalie is on the Board of Directors for Sri Lankan-based charity, Dogstar Foundation and is a sitting member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Natalie has dedicated her adult life to revolutionising wildlife education resources and technology platforms that engage youth in global wildlife and environmental issues. In 2015, Natalie was responsible for the global ban on elephant rides by Australia’s leading travel wholesaler, Tempo Holidays.
Tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?
I created My Green World in 2013 while undertaking a Master’s Degree in International Relations at the University of Melbourne. I had been reporting on, and engaged with wildlife, environmental and animal welfare programs for the past few years, and decided to launch my own initiative to advance the profile of charities worldwide and to revolutionise the way the international community connected with global wildlife, environmental, animal welfare and developmental issues.
My first project at My Green World was to create a mobile game app called World of the Wild; a game that I hoped would re-engage communities with wildlife and environmental issues through fun gameplay. I noticed, while there were so many mobile games in the App Store, there were very few that were inspiring change, education and activism. I thought, maybe I can help save wildlife through a game!
In World of the Wild, every day people can participate in virtual wildlife conservation scenarios. The game represents 17 global charities and gamifies the concept of saving animals. Each action that users take in this app represents a real life scenario that is carried out by My Green World’s partner charities in real life. In this game, users can build their own wildlife sanctuary, and rescue, feed and provide medical care for a variety of animals, compete in educational pop quizzes, and meet some of the world’s most endangered species.
Please explain your business model.
My Green World is a social enterprise committed to fostering a collective environment for change and accelerating innovation and ideas to achieve maximum impact. My Green World offers a unique approach to wildlife and environmental conservation, human development and sustainability issues; utilising online technologies to achieve tangible results in global conservation issues.
Our mobile game app, World of the Wild, is a freemium model game (meaning it is free to download, with options for users to make in-app purchases). Added to this, we offer a variety of resources and services for charities and social enterprises to increase their visibility, develop strong marketing and communications strategies, enhance their impact and find more collaborative opportunities and partnerships. Many smaller organisations simply do not have the time, resources or the money to dedicate toward items like PR and marketing, and their messages are often muted by some of the bigger charities who get a lot more publicity. We support grassroots organisations and young change makers to give both them, and their causes a louder voice.
What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next year?
I aim to create a global ecosystem where people can connect with wildlife and environmental issues and initiatives, where they can learn, feel inspired and be encouraged to make a change. Through My Green World, I want to be a leading resource for individuals and charities around the world to feel empowered to take action. At the moment, I am working on launching My Green World’s ‘Kids Corner’, which is a suite of educational programs and resources that will provide Australian youth with the tools and resources to be able to ensure the survival of our planet and all of its species. Our collaborative education programs and classroom activities will connect young individuals with opportunities to forge their own path and make a quantifiable difference in wildlife and environmental conservation efforts through advocacy, action, innovation and empowerment.
How do you make ideas happen?
Edison famously said, ‘Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration’. I generally use that as my motto, and once I ascertain that an idea is viable and achievable, I start developing the capacity to making it happen. This generation is all about ideas an innovation, however, I have found that many of us (myself included) have a tendency to generate new ideas rather than finding a way to execute the ones we already have. It is important to stay focused on your objective (while still accommodating to changing landscapes and circumstances) and dedicating time to building your idea rather than getting distracted by the hundreds of ideas that might stream into your mind on a daily basis.
What role have mentors played in your business life?
I would never be where I am today without my mentors and inspiration, Samantha and Mark Green. Sam and Mark are the Founders of Dogstar Foundation in Sri Lanka, and they have been an absolute lifeline for me. Finding collaborators, mentors and partners are an absolutely essential part of running a business, especially to maintain some semblance of sanity and to ensure that your business is diverse and guided by a range of opinions and ideas.
What does your typical day look like?
There is rarely a typical day for me! Last month, a typical day included racing through the streets of Sri Lanka, catching roaming street dogs and cats, vaccinating them, micro-chipping them and then loading them into a mobile van to be spayed/neutered. This month, I am back in Australia focusing on the administrative side of my business.
I suppose that a typical day in Melbourne would be to wake up, have a shower, coffee and breakfast, and then spend 30 minutes trying to retrieve my socks and personal items from my thieving dogs. After this, I set up with my laptop and go through emails, schedule my company’s social media posts and fiddle around on my website, updating content.
Then, I would normally have a meeting with either a fellow entrepreneur, my app developers, a charity or a volunteer, or alternatively, run a few errands.
After that, I would have some lunch, spend some time with my dogs, and then head over to a café to do some more work (I find that I work best in a bustling café in the city).
In the afternoon, I usually spend time creating educational content, writing blogs, liaising with partner charities, creating campaigns and coming up with new material for my mobile app, World of the Wild.
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. There are always major challenges to running a social enterprise; lack of funding, feeling overwhelmed by the global atrocities that are occurring around the world, feeling insecure and being riddled with self-doubt; but I have learnt to welcome these challenges and stay true to my beliefs. I remind myself why I started this enterprise, and that there are animals, environments and people around the world that need our help. I remind myself to remain confident and determined and to treat each challenge as an obstacle that I can learn from and feel proud of myself for overcoming.
What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?
An app that allows you to scan every consumable item and delivers an ethical rating of that product – whether it has palm oil, animal products, where it was sourced ethically, whether the company treats its staff ethically etc. There are a few apps that are heading in that direction, but it would be great if consumers could get a comprehensive overview of the products they are purchasing with the click of a button!
What people/companies/organisations do you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry, in Australia at the moment?
What about internationally?
What role do you think business can play in affecting social change?
Businesses, like individuals, have a responsibility to give back to the world and to accelerate systemic solutions to global social, economic, cultural and environmental issues. I think that businesses should be changing their corporate social responsibility strategy from champion to catalyst for change. The tech sector is uniquely positioned at the intersection of ingenuity and aggressive growth and they can have a huge impact on society as a whole. By harnessing this growth into something positive, our society will be a much better, more inclusive space where we can find solutions to global problems and address today’s most pressing threats.
Is there a particular charity or social enterprise you support?
My organisation is partnered with 17 charities and I am also part of a large community of social enterprises. There are so many fantastic social enterprises and charities, but I would have to give a special mention to Dogstar Foundation; a Sri Lankan based animal welfare organisation that inspired me to create My Green World. I have the great privilege of being a Board Member at Dogstar Foundation, who work tirelessly every day to address street dog and cat overpopulation issues while delivering community education and development programs
I could not simply support one social enterprise or charity, I support many. My goal at My Green World is to create a collaborative ecosystem of change makers, and that has meant that I have the great privilege of working with many social enterprises and charities giving us the opportunity to confront global issues collectively to ensure a bigger impact.
What are 3 websites you would recommend to our readers?
Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea?
Absolutely! First of all, downloading our app, World of the Wild, would help us immensely. We are also always on the lookout for blog contributors, partner organisations and interns, and right now we are on the hunt for investors, funders and/or mentors.
We’re aiming to build a community of Australian idea makers helping each other. If you could have one question answered about startups, marketing, social media, accounting, monetization, product development etc., what would it be?
How do we ensure that people steer away from ego in business and redirect that energy into impact and creating positive social change?
What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?