An interview with Natalie Kyriacou, a female entrepreneur who was a regional finalist in the UN’s Young Champions of the Earth

Natalie Kyriacou UN’s Young Champions of the Earth
From left to right: Mark Williams, David Macellari, Marika McKay, Natalie Kyriacou, Rebecca Lee, Lea Brunel, Matthew Ellis, Bruno Savarino, Rod Fitchett, Peter Caley.

Covestro for the second year running is supporting the UN’s Young Champions of the Earth, a forward-looking prize designed to breathe life into the ambitions of brilliant young environmentalists. In mid-September, the seven young winners were announced for their big ideas on environmental protection (result here). Their projects address issues ranging from coral farms and women in engineering to chemical recycling technology and making musical instruments from trash.

Covestro Australia was pleased to invite the first Australian representative Natalie Kyriacou, selected as Asia & Pacific regional finalist, to share with us her experience in UN’s Young Champions of the Earth (find out more here) and her incredible and courageous journey as CEO of My Green World (find out more here).

We took the opportunity to ask her some questions during a morning tea at Covestro Australia. Here’s what she shared with us.

1- Would you like to explain us a little bit about how did you get started?

My Green World was born about 5 years ago, it is a social enterprise and we develop education technologies to engage young people in the wildlife environmental conservation and science. The original idea was to build a free mobile game App to engage kids, just as fun as Candy Crush, but adding more real life and educational values for kids.

The game called World of the Wild, which is now in the App store, allows kids to become virtual conservationists and participate in real world conservation scenarios and is supported 18 charities around the world. The kids can build their own world, rescue wildlife, learn about different species, and connect with other players within the game. The responses were so great that we piloted an education program and empowered young people to see themselves as the drivers.

2- How many people do you have in the organization?

We are about 15 people and a very diverse team with full time, advisers, part time, casual and freelances on ad hoc basis based in different office around the world.

3- Does your market is focused only in Australia?

Interestingly it is focused in Australia but we have a lot of interest from schools in the US, China and few others countries. However, for now, the focus is Australia before we look at the international market.

4- How did you promote the App?

As it is been a very difficult process to build the App (tech and legal battles...), we did little marketing for it. Fortunately, there were huge demands without us doing anything. Now, I have had the privilege to have my App picked up through Apple Education Program. Incredible story…one day I woke up with ten thousand downloads in just one hour. So I contacted Apple to ask them if it was a mistake that my App is part of their education program and they said it was not a mistake.

5- For your company, what is your goal and in term of revenues, where do you rely on?

We have a road map and our aim is in two years to have our Kid’s Corner program embedded in 2000 educational institutions around Australia. And in five years, we would like to extend the company overseas and work in China and US, for instance.

Our main revenue comes from small grants or corporate sponsorships, such as Lush cosmetics with their environmental line. In the near future, I would like to prepare individual donation, to be able to focus on our inclusive educational program. I am also working on leveraging partnership and we are working with an educational platform in USA that has very cool interactive games for kids with diverse needs and in which we would like to share contents. When you have tight budget you learn to work in such creative ways to get things done.

6- Being an entrepreneur, what were some of the challenges you experienced during this start-up phase?

Starting my own business has been full of big challenges. The first key challenge has always been, and is still funding. I would also say the long hours and managing work-life balance. I still haven’t figured out this one.

My age and gender were also a big challenge. When I first started, I was not been taken seriously. I was on the startup sector and was usually one of the youngest and the only female. Then, I moved to the social enterprise sector and environmental sector, the network was much more supportive. In retrospect, those challenges have forged my identity.

7- What’s the best advice you’ve ever received for your company?

Stop saying yes to everything and at the end of the day couldn’t grow the company as I wish. In essence, it is lot about managing your priorities and time. Knowing where you invest your time and energy in is crucial.

8- If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?

I would encourage people to start their idea if they have one, but my key advice would be (and I haven’t done it earlier) to have a strong support and community groups are very important. My family, team and mentors are strong pillars of support that I know I can always count on.