Sam Marwood is the founder of Edge Pledge, a social enterprise that allows people to raise money for endangered wildlife by pledging to complete exciting challenges. As an Environmental Scientist, entrepreneur and funny man, Sam has dedicated his career to making a difference for the environment. He has over 12 years experience in making policy, planning and supporting the management of Victoria’s natural environment. Sam came up with the concept for Edge Pledge after many years of observing that the funds we need for all environmental solutions are not available.
Tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?
The environment can be a bit of an overwhelming topic to talk about. The problem seems so big that it can make people tune out, so with Edge Pledge we really wanted to build something that creates hope, laughter and connections between friends. Something that people would enjoy being a part of and to help them realise that they can do something to help.
The concept is that you pick 3 challenges, friends vote (by donating) and you do the winning challenge. Funds raised go to bring endangered animals back from the edge of extinction.
After working for 15 years in environment policy for the Victorian Government I knew that the biggest issue facing our environment was a lack of funds. That is why we created Edge Pledge – to be a new source of funds to support the great work being completed by environmental agencies across Australia.
We took the plunge to start Edge Pledge – and for me to quit my well-paid Government position – because we knew we had some unique concepts that could make a big impact for our environment. We had spoken about it to enough people to realise that we had something. We knew we had the contacts in the environment industry to be able to convince others to come along and give us the credibility we needed to start raising funds.
Plus, I didn’t have a home loan or a child and was able to live with my parents-in-law – all key factors in the decision-making.
Could you please explain your business model for us?
Funds raised go directly to our 10 environmental organisations, who will deliver the work needed to protect our 16 wildlife projects. Edge Pledge takes a 10% administration fee from donations made.
What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next year?
After launching in August 2016, we have proven that the concept works. People enjoyed using the challenge generator and voting to decide their friends’ challenges.
We are now working on applying the concepts of Edge Pledge at events where celebrities or members of the public take on challenges ‘on the spot’. We believe having a captive audience to participate in the voting will be a lot of fun.
We have had enquiries from environmental organisations from all over the world who want to be a part of this as well. So we will be working to figure out how we can start supporting international wildlife.
How do you make ideas happen?
There is such power in talking out your idea
We spent 18 months meeting with as many clever people as we could about the concept. Not only did this help us to refine our concept, but gave us confidence that we have a great idea that could work. Talking to people also creates momentum; you feel like you are getting somewhere when you walk away from a meeting having had someone pull apart your idea and recommend next steps for you.
What role have mentors played in your business life?
Mentors give me a reality check but also give me credibility. I have deliberately selected mentors that are more cautious than me in business. I need people around me to question what I am doing as I have more of an optimistic view about my ideas than I probably should.
Mentors also give me the credibility I need to help open doors to the people I need. Being able to drop names of my supporters has been a powerful way to move Edge Pledge along.
What does your typical day look like?
After reading ‘The Miracle Morning’, I am trying to be an early morning person and get some ritual into my morning routine. Exercise, journaling, 10 ideas (see James Altucher) and visioning.
I use Wunderlist to order all my to-do items and the first thing I do is knock off all the easy tasks and sort out my plan for the day.
Then the day is a mixture of phone calls, hustling to make our next ideas happen, encouraging people to take on challenges, and social media.
What challenges have you faced when starting or growing your idea in Australia?
Finding funding has been the biggest challenge. We have received enough to get off the ground, but it was a struggle. We have learnt that it is easier to ask people to get work done for free than it is to seek funding to pay for it.
What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?
I write 10 ideas a day, so I have plenty of ideas to give away.
A lesson I’ll share is that when emailing, don’t take a ‘no response’ as ‘they hate you’. Most likely the person is busy. So be persistent and send a few emails over a period of 2-4 weeks to double check they received it. I have had so many leads by being persistent – leads I would have lost if I only sent one email
What people, companies or organisations do you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry in Australia at the moment?
My Green World. They are another environmentally-focused social enterprise. They built a game app (World of the Wild) where you can be an animal and it has in-app purchases which raise funds for wildlife organisations.
Check out our previous Ideas Hoist interview with Natalie from My Green World here
What role do you think business can play in affecting social change?
I wish someone told me about social enterprises ten years ago. I only thought that I could make a difference for the environment by working in government, consulting back to government, or within a Not-For-Profit.
I am a strong advocate for businesses that do good.
I am also a strong advocate for people to get up and find solutions to problems that they care about, rather than waiting for government or others to do it.
Can you name 3 websites you would recommend to our readers?
Appsumo.com – I still haven’t figured out who they are but they always have great offers for online stuff for entrepreneurs.
Treehugger.com – the editor has the best pithy commentary on articles they post
What about 3 Australians we should follow on Twitter?
John Safran – always fun insights on life – @JohnSafran
Nathan Chan – CEO of Foundr – @NathanHChan
Ash London – the most vibrant person you’ll meet – @Ash_London
Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea?
We would love people to take on a fun challenge – find your perfect challenges here: www.edgepledge.com
We also want CEOs to take on a challenge and get staff to vote to decide what they do.
And we have some volunteering opportunities published through the new and amazing Vollie.
What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?
Friends of Mine, in Richmond.