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037 So You Want To Build A Business


“Abundance is a lie, but it doesn’t have to be. We can all thrive on this planet, but it’s going to need us to rethink how we design our lives and the planet.”

Welcome to season 3 of Where Ideas Launch, where we explore how we build a better planet, one small business at a time. This is series is a guide to small and medium-sized eco businesses or green tech businesses.

Katherine Ann Byam is a consultant and strategic partner to leaders in SMEs on sustainability, resilience and business transformation.


Katherine Ann Byam  00:25

I got started in earnest on my sustainability journey in a classroom in Grenoble, France, the year was 2015. The topic was innovation, and frugal innovation to be precise. And the principles of frugal innovation were not actually foreign to me. My mother practiced them all her life. In fact, so much of who she was and still is, has become more precious to me as I navigate and build my services to support sustainable and impact-driven entrepreneurs like myself. Businesses continuously design new solutions for problems that come with an increase in price, but not always with an increase in value.

We’ve built a machine that’s designed to make a few rich, and others, to keep them rich. In some countries, we don’t really have a history of doing business any better. We move from the property of the crown to the property of the Lords and Ladies to the property of the privateers, pirates and the independent land owners that arose after the New World was discovered. Yet there are examples of designing social systems that work for business and society. So why don’t we spend some time trying to study these?

This podcast is about addressing the problem of “how do we do business better?” not just taking a netzero box without substance behind it, without considering the social side of the story. So follow me down this road to build a better and greener business. When I started, they considered that there was no resource where I could find the complete big picture, the how to land firmly on my feet, as a sustainable business-minded person. There are pockets of information for sure, specializations in one domain of one area of the job, or another, but the experience of being an entrepreneur is not specialized or siloed and the challenges of being sustainable throughout your offer and your operations requires systemic and more integrated thinking.

Most entrepreneurs start solo or with a small team, and have jobs with multiple facets. To be successful, you need enough exposure across all the various aspects of the business that you’re building, so that you can be prepared for the relentless stream of decisions you need to constantly make. Decision fatigue is absolutely real. In particular, when operating from a place of low trust. Low trust happens when brands, suppliers and service providers greenwash what they are doing. We don’t want to be caught in a greenwash affiliation. If we are working hard to build an ethical reputation. So we need to do the checks and the disclaimers, to make sure that who we’re working with stands up to the values that we ourselves have.

When I understood what this journey was going to be like, I began to prepare a manual to walk with me as I step through all the hurdles along the way. I wanted to solve the problem of where to start, and what to consider for the millions of people who want to make a positive impact but are overwhelmed by all the things that just come up. I wanted to create sign posts to great resources, templates, maps, and a navigation system to find the triple bottom line that’s good for the planet, good for the people, and let’s face it, what you need in your pocket. You’re likely a specialist in an area, and you want to trade either a service or a product, or software as a service, perhaps in your zone of genius, while having a net positive impact on the world around you to round it off.

If you intend to start as a solopreneur, get prepared to be uncomfortable in your first six months, as you figure out the market, consumers, their behaviors and how to serve them better. More often than not, the product you start with is not the one that will make you ultimately successful. You also need to be prepared to pivot and reshape your offer as many times as needed for as long as it takes. I’m starting with the fundamentals and building forward from there.

Katherine Ann Byam  04:25

This episode and season is going to be a guide, but the workbooks that will come alongside it at the end of the season will really help you to personalize this for yourself and make the best use of what you’re learning. It is widely acknowledged in the scientific community that we are in the Anthropocene epoch, where the activities of mankind have the most important impacts on the evolution of our planetary systems. The evidence for being in a new epoch has been building since the 1700s, but became clear in statistical records post the 1950s. What changed in the 1950s, is that we became a world with no wars, women contributing more equally to the economy and to growth, democracy and capitalism, and perhaps the most impactful of all mass marketing and advertising and increased use of synthetic Parliaments.

Most experts believe that given the boundaries of current tipping points to irrevocable climate change, we have between 10 and 15 years to radically change the way we operate in order to maintain the stable conditions that have led to the exponential growth that we have seen. The nine tipping points that you need to know about are the Amazon rainforest and preventing savanafication, and drought and converting that forest into a net carbon producer. We really need to look at that and make sure that it doesn’t happen or it doesn’t happen any more than it already has. Then we have the Arctic sea ice, and preventing the full melt that we now expect to happen during summertime. Atlantic circulation slowing down, is happening as a result of the other tipping points being shifted. So, the increased sea ice into the ocean is creating that slowdown in the current span.

The boreal forest decline, caused by fires and past changes, is also an area of concern. Coral Reef bleaching has been occurring everywhere on the planet at this point in time. And the Greenland ice sheet melting is another area of great concern. All sorts of permafrost thawing everywhere that it is can expose us to risk that we have not even understood yet. And the West Antarctica and East Antarctica ice sheets and the other final areas of tipping points that we need to be aware of. What this implies is that we need to make radical shifts, cutting your annual carbon footprint in both your personal and professional life by half every year is a start. But can we do it? I talk about these things because we need to understand when we get into business that it’s not just for us.

When we get into business today, we need to think about our impact down the road, and how we’re going to be influencing what happens for our kids for the next generation and for this blue earth that we all love. So I wanted to create that setting, but I also want to create another setting for you, which is a bit about the UN 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Okay. So beyond the Climate, the climate has other tipping points that haven’t even been discussed yet, which is around the other aspects of social life. The UN 17 Sustainable Development Goals captures these very well.

They are: no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, decent work, and economic growth, industry innovation and infrastructure, reduce inequalities, sustainable cities and communities, responsible production and consumption, climate action, life below water, life on land, peace, justice, and strong institutions and partnerships for the goals. Of all of these platforms to leverage for change, which of these are impacted by your business. It is possible that your business has both positive and negative impact on more than one of these goals. The first thing to do is to know which. Can you articulate the impact, and in the long run, will you be able to measure the impact that you’re having. Even if you’ve already started in business.

 This series aims to provide a supporting guide to position yourself to create the positive impact you want to, and to articulate it over time. There’s also tremendous opportunity. We are all today creators and designers of a new economics, and a new way of interacting with the planet. The dominant solutions are, how are we able to convert to renewable sources of energy, how can we rewild and regenerate in nature and in our lives. How can we generate novel designs and creativity towards some of the solutions and problems that we face? And how do we use artificial intelligence, as well as bio engineering and technology to change the game. The growth of green tech solutions and advances in artificial intelligence can be truly transformational if well-guided in the context of complexity, and the risk we face as the dominant species on this planet. 

This episode was brought to you today by vehicle Business Growth club by Katherine. And by the space where ideas. Eco Business Growth club supports positive impact SMEs with coaching and community support to achieve the impact and reach they set out to meet. You can find out more by connecting with where it is launched on Instagram following the hashtag, where it is across all of your social Media.