Real Leaders

3 Lessons I’ve Learned From Turning My Passion into a Business — at Age 7

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I traveled to Africa at the age of seven and learned that humans were harming animals. This was when I knew I had to figure out a way to turn the love that kids have for animals into advocacy.

I’m 11 years old now, and the fact that our planet could look very different by the time I turn 21 instills a sense of urgency in me. 

Taking my passion and ideas beyond a concept and turning them into an actual business venture required a team effort and help from giants in the fields of conservation and technology.

My journey to become an advocate and to teach others how to advocate for causes they believe in brings me tremendous joy. I learned so many lessons on what it takes to start a business. 

1. Finding a Call to Action

After adopting my motto, “Advocacy has no age limit,” I worked tirelessly to identify ways to teach kids about the benefits of helping animals and ways in which they could get involved. The first thing I did was co-author the book, Let’s Go On Safari to teach children and teens how to take action to save wildlife and wild spaces. In the process of writing this book, I worked with my team to get my voice out there and have as many people read the book as possible. I found my call to action when Dr. Jane Goodall read an early draft of my book and allowed me to write about her Roots & Shoots Youth Service Program. Dr. Jane gave me the idea to turn my book, Let’s Go On Safari, into a call to action. 

You can have all the passion you want, but if you do not find a way to make it actionable for others, you will likely struggle in creating an organization or service that can help with the problem you are trying to solve.

2. It Takes a Village, So Network!

After finalizing the book, I needed a way to elevate my platform to expand my reach and grow my audience. Had I solely taken on the task of trying to grow my platform by myself, chances are I would have reached a few 100 kids versus thousands if I partnered with the right people. 

Thanks to the help of Dr. Goodall, I was able to amplify the reach of my book through networking. I secured formal endorsements from Angela Sheldrick (The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust), Brian Sheth (Global Wildlife Conservation), and Emmy-award-winning actor and animal advocate Debra Messing. As a result, Penguin Random House in South Africa signed with me, and I became the youngest author in history to launch a global title that is 100% philanthropic. To date, my book has raised over $15,000. The money is split equally between my three conservation partners: the Jane Goodall Institute, The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, and Global Wildlife Conservation (now named Re:wild).

Raising money for organizations that are saving animals is very important. I wanted to come up with a way to prove that kids could be philanthropic. When the wildfires swept through Australia in early 2020, over 1 billion animals died. Koalas were pushed to the brink of extinction. I came up with a campaign idea called “Quarters For Koalas.” I pitched it to my school. Soon, everyone was learning about koalas and how climate change affects bushfires. Kindergarten was in charge of advertising for the campaign, and older kids helped with school-wide messaging. We named a CFO, a female, of course, to count all of the quarters. In just one week, my school, Trinity Episcopal School, raised over $5,000 – all from quarters! My Marketing Director at Kids Can Save Animals, Magdalene, launched a campaign at St. Gabriel’s Catholic School, and they raised over $2,000 from quarters in the same week. I can tell you this  quarters add up quickly. My website has all of the tools needed for advocates to launch a similar campaign. 

3. Be Ready to Pivot Even if it Means Asking for Help

When the pandemic hit, tourism to Africa came to a complete stop. I knew I had to figure out alternative ways for kids to make an impact with conservation and sustainability issues. While participating in a televised covid-relief fundraiser called Endangered Rangers, I realized I had to pivot towards technology. 

Sarah Maston, the founder of Project 15 from Microsoft, came on the show and talked about the technologies keeping animals safe from poachers. Sarah showed a video, and at the end, she and her team asked people to join them. I knew at that exact moment that I had to ask her if kids could join too. I messaged her on Instagram. I told her about my organization and an idea to make a club inspired by Project 15 from Microsoft. I told Sarah that I wanted to connect young learners with scientists, advocates, and technology experts. Sarah took my call!

Club 15 launched in early May with a global lineup of conservation and technology guests, including Dr. Eric Dinerstein of RESOLVE, Fatema Hamdani of Kraus Hamdani Aerospace, Petronel Nieuwoudt of Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary, and Dr. Liz Tyson of Born Free USA.

Microsoft contributed a learning lab for Club 15 so kids and teens can get their hands on technologies like computer vision and AI, all being used in the field to protect wildlife and wild spaces.

Just as in life, business plans and directions are bound to change. You have to be ready to embrace change and roll with the punches. I learned to never be afraid to ask questions or ask an expert for help. Most importantly, I learned never to let my age limit my potential. Just like with advocacy, my entrepreneurial journey has taught me that business has no age limit.

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