When social entrepreneur and Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia member Natalie Kyriacou started her My Green World business, her passion project was just one of her countless other projects on the go.
“I was launching this business while I was doing my masters in international relations, and working in a corporate role, in corporate social responsibility,” she tells SmartCompany.
The 30-year-old founder, who has this month been recognised as one of the leading young entrepreneurs on the Forbes‘ list, was determined to create an education and content business focused on Australian wildlife and conservation.
However, reflecting on the launch of the business, Kyriacou says it was a steep learning curve on the unique challenges founders face when launching a new idea.
“I was doing my masters, I was working, I was starting the business. At the same time I was putting up funding for this. I sold my car, I put everything into the app,” she says.
The business officially went live in late 2016 and has a userbase of 10,000 active users on its World of the Wild app, as well as 700 users signed up to its “digital classroom” subscription.
Before getting to that point, however, there were tough days that showed how a new business can dominate all elements of your life, says Kyriacou, who recalls a time when she was putting her vision for My Green World before anything else, including friendships.
“I spent years and years just focused on my work and nothing else. It’s really tough, and it’s important to separate ego from business,” she says.
Have a strong goal in mind
It might have been an at times painful road, but Kyriacou says she was able to transition into founder life because she had a clear idea of the impact she wanted her business to make.
“The aim is to deliver engaging edutech technologies to young people, and rather than educating children, it’s more about empowering them, finding out what they want,” she says.
The business includes a monetised education app, as well as a subscription education service that includes content for teachers to use in classrooms to engage their students in learning about Australian wildlife and environmental issues.
As a business founder, Kyriacou’s driving force was the knowledge that Australian education isn’t a level playing field, and some students will never have access to specialised learning units on topics like conservation.
“There are some pretty significant barriers in terms of inequality in access to education,” she says.
This forms the central part of My Green World’s social enterprise model: as the company grows, it will deliver free education subscriptions to areas that need it, including a plan to get programs into children’s hospitals across Australia, as an engaging education option.
“It’s [about] ensuring that everyone has access,” she says.
Find that support system, stat
Now that she’s involved in Australia’s social enterprise community and has a range of business contacts, the pressures of business life don’t feel as isolating, Kyriacou says.
“It can be heartbreaking — and I talk with friends, you know, about how we cry in the shower sometimes — it’s hard,” she says.
Looking back on the journey of founding her business, Kyriacou says “it’s the best thing I’ve done”, but admits it took a toll because starting out, she was not as aware of the importance of support and balance when starting a business.
“You shouldn’t do it for the glory — it’s really, really hard work. It can affect other areas of your life, quite a bit,” she says.
For those starting out, particularly if their venture is starting out as a side hustle, Kyriacou advocates building that support network early.
“Having those authentic friendships is amazing, and I think it’s important to have friends both in and out [of the business world],” she says.
“Having a diversity of friendships all over the world is so important, and I have other women in business who are my friends, mentors, mentees, inspirations — those that I can talk to, about business-specific things.”