Many people have a great empathy or love of animals and want to help them. Finding international groups to volunteer with can be stressful and overwhelming, who do you chose? How can you chose?
We partner with animal welfare and conservation programs first, visit them to make sure they are safe, ethical, sustainable, and operating at a high level of animal welfare and then invite people to live their dreams by volunteering with these groups. We set up the entire program first and do all the logistics so the volunteers just have to focus on volunteering with animals.
What is your proudest accomplishment so far when it comes to your business?
My proudest accomplishment is our B Corp certification. The fact that a third party non profit organisation (B Labs) looks through AEI every two years and continues to see quantifiable benefit to the communities we work in and the planet- that is incredible. It means it's not just me trying to convince clients they will be a help to the places they volunteer, it means they know they will be. AEI, as a team makes a difference to real people, animals, communities and ecosystems. Being a B Corp means we can quantifiably prove it! How could I not be chuffed to bits every day knowing I am a part of that?
Who/What inspires you?
We visit these programs before partnership and that is inspiring because I get to sit with people all around the world who have seen great sorrow and animal suffering and don't wallow in apathy. I am constantly inspired by those people who look at a heartbreaking problem and instead of resorting to anger or denial, get to work! All our programs are operating in the real world, our partners are people from the local community who know the contextual problems that lead to the animal welfare or conservation issue. They see the problem but they also see the solutions and they don't give up or give in to negativity. They inspire me to love and hope and believe in change, because in the midst of these problems they have shown me: love and hope and change!
How as being an entrepreneur affected your life? How did it change the way you think about life?
Being an entrepreneur has made me stop focusing on what I am not so I can focus more on what I can be to the team I am one. I have always loved animals and the natural world but I thought the only people to help animals were vets and smarty scientists. Starting AEI has shown me the vast team of people needed to successfully help animals including but not limited to vets and scientists. I can not do much as one person, I can't even do as much as one veterinarian. But, that doesn't matter because I am not looking to do one person's amount of change. I am looking to bring us all together, no matter our backgrounds and make sure we can all do our part to help animals- whether it be medically, welfare focused or conservation based. It's not about me, it's about us, together.
I don’t leave my house without… lip balm.
People would say that I am… a bit of a worrier.
The most important aspect of any business is… their ethics.
My favorite business book of all time is… Start With Why by Simon Sinek.
Do you believe that there is one specific formula for success? What does it mean to be a successful business owner?
I don't think there is a specific formula for success because I think success looks different to everyone. A B Corp's success has a triple bottom line, that means we weigh our success by not just a monetary factor but also the benefit we have to our communities and our environment. Success isn't static and we shouldn't think it is, we create an unhealthy economy when we do. When we are always pushing towards a fluctuating goal (most of the time monetary), we trick ourselves into living for the future, not for now. I believe, even though AEI is very new we are very successful because we have had more than 400 volunteers. That is thousands of hours in service to animals, thousands of dollars donated to programs, thousands of conversations between new friends meeting around the world, thousands of lives changed. Do I have a sports car and a pony? No, but that doesn't mean I am not successful, it means my success isn't defined by those things. The formula for success is not important, the definition of success is what we should be focused on.
What does it mean to have competition/competitors? Do you compete/collaborate or just observe? What is the best practice to approach your competition?
The fallacy of recourse scarcity is one that many people buy in to much too easily. We have many competitors and that is wonderful. That means there is a market for people who want to travel and see animals. It means even if people don't know about AEI they can do research and find volunteer programs. No one is going to offer exactly what we offer which means our programs are perfect for some people but not for everyone. AEI is 100% owned by women, we are a B Corp, all of our programs are locally run, all of our programs are in service to animals, all of our programs have a high degree of animal welfare and community immersion, we are fully compliant with the Cape Town Declaration and it's characteristics of Responsible Tourism. These facts matter to some, we love to take these people on as clients. If these facts don't matter to someone, they may find a competitor's program more suited to their investment of time and money. We wish everyone well, there are enough programs on Earth that need help and support, for us not to share would be unethical.
Do you have hobbies? What are they? Is it important to take “time off” and focus on other things such as friends, family, hobbies etc.?
Time off is really important for all of us. We are creating a whole new business, a whole new life. We can't think that all this output can go on forever! We need to have time off, to breathe and to be inspired. We also need to get out of our echo chambers and bubbles and talk to people with different ideas.
Travelling is something that comes with the job so I take true time off while mountaineering, climbing and biking. Things that make me focus on the task at hand, rather than the emails sitting in on my phone. They are also hobbies that lead me to meet some of the most support and awesome people on the planet. There is something about suffering on a mountain bike, going up hill on the moors of England in the rain that really makes you cherish the people you are spending time with. Some of the best conversations I have ever had took place while on top of a mountain, while on the saddle of a bike or while literally hanging on the side of a cliff (fully safety checked into my climbing harness, of course).