Our #MVPtoVIP series celebrates the inspirational journeys of some of the fantastic founders in our Farillio network. This time, we're chatting to Francesca Mahoney, founder of Wild Survivors. Find out more about her below...
Tell us about your business and the problem it solves
Wild Survivors is a small but ambitious conservation charity! We’re focused on resolving a historic and complex issue, which often falls under the radar in the conservation spectrum. It’s called HEC – human-elephant conflict, and it’s increasing at an alarming rate in East Africa.
Africa’s population is set to double by 2050, which means that land on this vast continent is a precious commodity. The distinction between agricultural areas and wild territories is becoming increasingly blurred. Subsistence farmers and migratory species like elephants have become neighbours without boundaries; both attempting to survive, with little tolerance for one another!
HEC is on the rise and, along with poaching, accounts for the majority of elephant deaths today. One crop raid by elephants can ruin a farmer’s harvest for the entire season, compromising economic security and directly contributing to poverty.
At Wild Survivors, we’re using nature’s own simple technology as a natural, sustainable solution…
It’s all about the bees!
Elephants have a deep-rooted fear of these powerful pollinators! Inspired by the research, and success of an innovative solution, created by Dr Lucy King in neighbouring Kenya, we’re installing beehive fences around the front perimeter of farms to repel elephants from entering and mowing down crops.
The buzzing fences act as a buffer to the herbivores, while protecting their vulnerable migration corridor from further encroachment by farms. The bees pollinate crops and provide an additional livelihood for villages through the sale of organic honey and wax, once farmers complete a practical beekeeper’s course.
This scalable solution is facilitating human wildlife coexistence, and it provides an opportunity for wildlife education to make a positive impact on community development, once farmer and elephant safety is restored.
What inspired you to launch it?
Elephants have always captivated me, and I took the first opportunity I could to work with these magnificent beings in 2007, tracking and monitoring their behaviour in South Africa.
Following the severe spike in poaching during 2009 and 2015 (the consequence of an approved stockpile sale of 107 tonnes of ivory to China and Japan in 2008), Tanzania lost 60% of its elephant population, as Africa witnessed over 100,000 elephants slaughtered for their incisor teeth, in just five years.
I felt compelled to act, and apply my skills in journalism, to create a voice for the elephants. In 2015, I left my job in the broadcasting industry to investigate all contributing factors to poaching and to see first-hand what was really happening on the ground in Tanzania; a country famed for its spectacular wildlife and biodiversity.
Listening to and learning from rural communities, it became clear that combatting human-elephant conflict was a priority. Resolving this fraught situation can empower and inspire villagers to protect their natural resources and see a tangible benefit to keeping elephants alive, while preventing poaching gangs from targeting crop raided farms to intimidate villagers into assisting their hunting mission.
What do you feel is the most challenging aspect of being a business owner?
Founding a charity overseas is a steep learning curve, and it's the toughest challenge I’ve ever experienced!
Time management is crucial, but not always easily achieved. Managing all aspects of a charity: from policy, legalities, fundraising, donor relations, to project development, and cross-country communication, it can be challenging to remove yourself from the thick of it and take a moment to evaluate and review the fundamentals.
It’s important to stay true to your ambitions and acknowledge what you’ve already achieved! This is something we could all reflect more on.
Work-life balance – attainable or just an aspiration?
Absolutely attainable! It’s essential to achieving happiness in life, and also productivity at work.
I’m the first to admit that establishing a healthy balance has been tough, especially when your passion doesn’t feel like a job, but your life’s work.
However, without time out, it’s impossible to refocus the mind and feel energised to take on the next challenge.
The most important aspect of this balance for me, is to make time for family and friends, who are been pillars of strength and support to me and Wild Survivors.
There’s a lot of debate about why not enough women are launching their own businesses. What are your views on this?
I’ve been very fortunate to meet a number of wonderful and inspiring female business owners, and leading conservationists, all of whom have offered me invaluable support and advice!
However, the data speaks for itself. The number of male business owners greatly outweighs that of female.
Launching a business carries a significant amount of risk, and often uncertainty, and many women in their respective fields are battling through the fog of male dominated industries.
There is absolutely no doubt that women possess the ingenuity, creativity and commitment to achieve long-term business success.
Risk aversion and a lack of self-confidence are two major factors, I believe, that are halting many women from taking that leap of faith into the unknown, and believing deeply in themselves that anything is achievable.
Some of the greatest inventors and leaders this world has known have been women. Encouraging and empowering one another to succeed is one of the greatest gifts we can give. I hope that I too can support and inspire other female entrepreneurs to succeed in their chosen ventures!
What are you using Farillio for?
Merlie, Farillio's founder, has personally assisted me with expert advice and inspiration on essential business case documents for our charity.
Farillio’s connections to experts across multiple fields, and their comprehensive online guides, will be of great assistance to us in the future as we develop our wildlife technology and require further legal and IP advice.
What’s the most important piece of legal advice you’ve ever needed?
The Charity Commission’s legal guide to establishing a UK registered charity!
What’s the next piece of legal advice you predict you’ll need?
Setting up a subsidiary trading company for Wild Survivors, and IP advice for our wildlife technology.