Introducing EcoMentor

Sophia Cheng / 8 min read / Newbie Entrepreneur Life
27 January 2020
Oscillating wildly as I make my first entrepreneurial steps

So I launched a thing.

And two months later I am going to tell you about it.

This is not the way I recommend my clients, friends to launch something.

But a late launch is better than no launch, eh? So here goes.

Introducing EcoMentor – a service-based product fit for the Anthropocene.

What am I offering?

Navigating the world in the middle of a climate and ecological crisis is difficult: we are in uncharted territory.

Get a helping-hand and mentor as you prepare for a less carbon-intensive future.

I’ve developed a 1 on 1 mentoring service for individuals who are ready to make changes or get involved in the green movement but don’t know where to start.

Your EcoMentee journey starts off with a survey, designed to acknowledge the emotional weight many of us are holding around the climate crisis and ease you in. You’re then asked to share the changes you’ve already made in your life – we start with consumer choices and build up to citizen actions.

And then we get into the meat of it… what barriers are you putting up? And, what are your values? From the inception of this idea, I wanted to instil a value-based behaviour change approach, based heavily on Brene Brown’s research on wholehearted living. When we know what our two key values are, we have clarity on what to do more of and what to stop.

I collect some demographic data, including your calculation on just how rich you are in comparison to the rest of the world. I include this to give a sense of perspective because we often have much more agency than we think. And I politely ask you to declare that you’re not wasting my time.

Step two is then to book in time with me. We’ll go through your results, get to know each other a little bit and I’ll get a sense of some areas we can focus on that align with your values. I’ll prepare your personalised plan of action and we go from there. Three to four sessions later, the hope is you will have made 1-3 concrete changes in your life.

Where did the idea come from?

In October 2018 I finally felt the weight of the climate crisis and it spilled over in many conversations I had with whoever would listen at the time. One was with an old boss of mine. When we were discussing how many of the UK banks invest in fossil fuel exploration, he said in passing; why don’t you offer this as a service? People are often so busy they aren’t aware of this stuff, why don’t you help them?

That set the cogs turning. I wanted to focus on impact, but using this blog as my main platform for change feels one removed. Maybe I should work 1on1 with people. The reach would be fewer but the impact would be far more tangible. And the connection much more meaningful. I pitched it to a supportive online community who told me to run with it! So run with it I did. In a fury of creative energy I wrote pitch docs, drafted the survey, mapped out the steps. Then winter happened; returning to the UK due to climate change reasons happened; then XR happened. My motivation dropped as my awareness cracked wide open for the need for systemic change.

In June I spent a week working on the idea at a Digital Nomad Girls retreat where a dedicated mastermind session meant I was getting advice from many perspectives. In a further flurry, I mapped out user journeys, user personas, tone of voice, the logo, steps to launch the minimum viable product, bought the domain. But back home, despite ongoing accountability from my peers, it stalled yet again, I was working with guinea pigs though, and that face-to-face time proved really valuable.

I hit another slump (noticing a trend here?) after the October Rebellion, I’d experienced a vignette of the possible as XR transformed parts of London, car-free and community centred. I’d made what I thought was a real sacrifice but nothing changed. Eventually, I knew I had to suck it up, systemic change is going to take time. But I can take action now. In two weeks, I had my web copy written, my logo made real, my brand down, even my pricing down (that was tricky) – but I finally launched – [drum roll please ]:

Go Live

In my first week I received my first EcoMentee, who came via an interview I had done for Triodos bank years before! She visited this site and saw the EcoMentor button I’d just added at the top there ⬆️. Although I pre-empted it all going wrong, it hasn’t – we’re working through some fantastic steps that make sense for her, with one session left to go.

It’s January 2020, a new decade and I am emerging from yet another, post-election, post-Christmas, post-darkness, post-Australian wildfires slump. And a little sprinkling of imposter syndrome.

One major shift factor this time round is that I’ve asked for help: therapeutic help, massage and physio help and mentoring support with EcoMentor. I want to model what I am offering.

I believe we’re gonna need all the help we can get to get us through this ‘rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society’ that the UN scientists demand if we’re to keep global temperature increase to below 2 degrees celsius. So I’ll be supported while I’m helping others. I’ll keep my life jacket on.

After much yo-yoing, I also believe that parallel to systemic change we need individuals finding their sense of agency, power and citizenship again. It’s not an either/or, it never was. Nothing is ever that simple, it’s not a in/out, left/right, red/blue dichotomy. Simplifying the narrative to two polar opposites is not only socially divisive, it is crippling our collective ability to hold complexity and nuance. And do you know what is complex and nuanced? Tackling climate change!

So I’m going to spend my energy doing ‘both/and’. With EcoMentor we’ll start with the individual, with lifestyle changes, but we’ll bring in systems change and explore the interconnectedness of so many of the world’s ills. Because once you’ve seen it, it’s impossible to un-see.

What if it takes off?

Here officially starts the marketing journey of EcoMentor, albeit a bit unconventionally. I hope to bring my ideas to fruition over the next few months. And what if it works?

My hope is that bit by bit more people will reach out for the service. I am ready to talk and listen with anyone who is worried by the climate crisis. It’s not designed to be a money-spinner but it’s possible it could be self-supporting. And 25% of every payment will go to climate-tackling projects, I hope to raise a decent amount of money and normalise philanthropy with everyone I work with. The tech part could get more jazzy, offering your survey results all nicely designed, so even if you don’t follow through with meeting me, everyone gets some value out of it. The data I collect – once anonymised – might show some interesting insights as the data set grows. I could partner up with an affiliate sales specialist, meaning I could remain independent but have directories of tools, suppliers and products on hand for EcoMentees to select from. If I up my PR game I can get the word out there in publications, radio, even video. Who knows? For now, I’ve got my CRM and content library set up, so I’m ready to scale.

My vision for EcoMentor is:

Real change requires top down systems change AND bottom up shifts at the grassroots level. Driven by impact, EcoMentor envisions a supportive peer network of active change agents as we address the greatest issue our species has ever faced.

A community of people who have gone through the programme supporting each other and more. They all started with small steps and now they’re taking bigger actions and they’re confident talking about the climate crisis with their network and so it spreads. And more EcoMentors too, geographically spread but also demographically varied: mums, retirees, students can offer focused sessions uniting behind the principles of value-based behaviour change. If it really soars, I’d still be talking face to face with some EcoMentees but my focus would shift to training up more EcoMentors, supporting them financially while they tackle actions in their local community wherever that is in the world. Oh doesn’t that sound delightful?

My statement of commitment

I ask all EcoMentees to declare their commitment, so it’s only right I do the same.

I commit to giving EcoMentor my best shot, offering my knowledge, experience and willingness to learn with those who want to adapt and tackle the climate crisis. To avoid oscillating wildly in future, I will ask for help and stay accountable.

Thanks to everyone who’s offered their support so far.

If I’ve piqued your curiosity, you can take a look at the site here:

Avatar photo Sophia Cheng With a decade of communications experience across the for profit and nonprofit sectors, agency and in-house, Sophia has made a habit of making ‘the hard stuff’ more accessible. Since 2018, she has reorientated her life around the climate crisis. She has forged her decade of communications experience into offering workshops, mentoring, blogging, and more, on the biggest issues of our time. View all posts
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