How Much Do Elephants Weigh Founder Ana Blanche on Protecting our Mammal Friends From Harm
For many years, the world has been made aware of just how majestic, beautiful, and extremely intelligent elephants really are, which is why it's such a crying shame that 60% of all elephant deaths occur at the hands of ivory poachers. It isn't just that they are being murdered, it is also that fact that the loss of these wonderful animals gravely disrupts the ecosystems in which they live, making it next to impossible for other wildlife to sustain themselves in the harsh desert climates.
So what do we do as a society to help aid these gorgeous animals and save them from this terrible fate? Ana Blanche has a few ideas. Since starting her elephant charity store--How Much Do Elephants Weigh--she has ensured that 10% of the proceeds from all items sold go to support Save the Elephants, and the Elephant Crisis Fund, both of which work tirelessly to try and diminish the poaching and murdering of elephants for their ivory tusks. Read more about how she got started below.
Where did you come up with the idea for your business?
You know those small cozy coffee places where you can sit for hours, sip your almost cold coffee (or tea) and do something fulfilling - writing a book or article for your blog or just trying to distract yourself from some disturbing thoughts? Well in my case, most of the time it was the last option because back then [before I started] I was working as a corporate affairs person for multinational IT company and sometimes (to be honest, most of the times) I was depressed about how I was spending my lifetime. So, those coffee places were my escape from reality, the chance for a mental reset, an opportunity to solve the riddle of an unfulfilling life. A couple of years ago at one of those places, I decided that I needed to do something on my own, something that would allow me to make an impact, to make choices, to have more freedom.
What drives you to get up every morning and want to give back?
Not going to lie, sometimes it's tough to be on your own, with no investors or partners but with tons of responsibilities and payments to be made. But at the same time - reading all the comments, and private messages and emails with the gratitude of people who've seen posts in our blog or social media communities or receiving a newsletter - that does feel so good. Leaves me with zero doubts - I am doing something right.
What are your thoughts and feelings on what makes a successful social enterprise?
The most important thing is the desire to help in the area where help is actually appreciated and making lots of smart choices guided by a clear vision. I know it sounds boring, but "never give up" - that's the way to go. When you are giving your soul and passion and energy away at some point to the right people, lucky accidents, and happy circumstances will start popping up.
When did you first fall in love with elephants?
I love all the animals (well most of them I guess): dogs, cats, horses, cows, foxes, tigers - you name it. And I love to work. I love business, self-development, and entrepreneurship. And I also like to do something that makes sense. So actually my love for elephants grew a lot from my different business venture where I had several products I was selling which were contributing to a vast variety of non-profit organizations, from dog shelters and giraffes conservations to clean water charities.
When I was coming up with the ideas for promoting those products I was trying different marketing tools. All the efforts resulted in my starting the elephant charity store initiative since there was definitely such a huge passion for them amongst all the people.
So I gave it a try, and since then I am learning something new about elephants almost every day. So, I must say I'm still in the stage of falling in love with them and feelings are getting stronger and stronger as I discover more about those fascinating animals :)
What initiatives do you want to put in place for people who want do more than just purchase a bracelet to help the elephants?
It is not necessary to buy anything to help - even spreading some informational posts about how cool and essential for our ecosystem elephants are, would be a huge deal. The more people will be aware of the fact that elephants are endangered and what might happen if they will disappear, the better.
One thing that is essential to know, for instance, is that they are crucial for maintaining the biodiversity in places where they live. During the dry season, elephants use their tusks to dig for water – this allows them to survive and also provides water for other animals that share harsh habitats with them (sometimes even people are taking advantage of those sources of water!). When forest elephants eat, they create gaps in the vegetation. These gaps allow new plants to grow and create pathways for other smaller animals to use, etc.
Any particular companies or small businesses that you are inspired by? If so, which ones and why?
There's one story that moves me (the company is not really well-known yet :)). An acquaintance of mine inherited a small factory somewhere in Siberia, in Russia. At some point, this factory was the only way for locals to work and earn. But for many years it wasn't really functioning, so the village, surrounding the facility went into complete desolation. My friend's advisors first thought was to try and sell the asset at a low value, but the girl decided to rebuild it into a honey production and give locals their jobs back. So that what she did. She completely restored the life of all the older people inhabiting that village and they are producing really sweet and cute products. I admire her passion and a desire to do something good for humanity. I've seen this business being built from zero to hero. Well, tiny hero yet; it's a long way to go, but it's truly inspiring.
Any advice you can give for others wanting to start their own small business and want to be successful?
If you feel that you can't live without your business idea and willing to work seven days per week, no holidays, no breaks, no matter what - to make it happen - then go for it. Everything else will fall into place.
What's next for you and How Much Do Elephants Weigh?
We are still in the beginning stages right now so we're trying to bring more attention to growing our community and creating more educational content. Later on, we're thinking about developing our own clothing line hosting exclusive designs. Follow us, and you'll find out for yourself. :)
Elephant Images (from top): Jason Briscoe, Jennifer Latuperisa-Andresen, Nashad Abdu, Casey Allen; Product images: Ana Blanche
Featured image: Jonathon W.
Interview: Copyright Rose Huet 2017