Unconventional Advice for Emerging Ecopreneurs

diplomaA Tufts senior e-mailed me the other day, attaching her resume and asking for career advice. While that play of events seems typical, her ambitions probably didn’t fit the cookie-cutter mold of most of her class peers. She wanted to run her own eco-retreat center one day, felt passion for the green movement and embraced her ecopreneurial passions.

In short, she blew away the goals and mindset I had back in my twenty-something days, when the only “green” in my world came out of an ATM machine. And frankly, as I’ve been off the mainstream career path for nearly two decades now, I don’t typically have seniors knocking on my e-mail door for advice. So I felt compelled to launch a dash of the unconventional her way — a dose of out-of-the-box career advice for someone heading down ecopreneurial career paths at a young age. Here’s what I sent to her:

* Ditch common career paths. For too many people, careers are looked at as a linear path: point A leads to B and so on. It sounds like you are embarking on a much more personal, passionate, creative journey (kudos to you). While many of your peers (and perhaps family expectation) are doing the “expected,” embrace the road less traveled. Having an ecopreneurial mindset is not something garnered in the classroom — it is build on passion and experience. It sounds like you have the passion — think about what experience you need to feel confident in making the ultimate move to running your own business. Perhaps it is experience in non-profit management, the tourism industry, whatever — jump around and create a bank of experiences that means something to you and you alone. You’re not trying to impress the plug and play recruiter anymore. Be true to yourself.

* Keep lean and green. The first thing my husband and business partner, John Ivanko, and I did in our 20s when we knew we didn’t want to swim the expected corporate career path was to learn to live as lean as possible. The less we needed to live on financially — the more we didn’t need to depend on a “job” to survive — the greater our freedom to truly do what we wanted to do. While your friends may be racking up credit cards and gear, be focused on your bigger prize: working with passion and being independent and true to your values. This approach will also help you bank some savings so you’ll have a downpayment on your first venture — whatever that may be. Hopefully our upcoming book, Ecopreneuring: Putting Purpose and the Planet Before Profits, will serve as a strong resource in your planning.

* Role play travel. Grab the backpack and get out there — somewhere, anywhere. It is amazing how much you can learn from the road, especially if you “role play.” Where are you — who are you with — when you feel amazingly alive? Where do you feel both that tingle of excitement yet at the same time feel incredible relaxed and at ease, like you were destined to be there? That’s how John and I felt when we traveled to New Zealand and visited some farms across the globe. For us, the rural based lifestyle, bucolic setting, community focus — right down to the fresh breakfasts with homegrown ingredients — felt just like the type of life we wanted to lead someday. Eventually we created that life, from our own perspective, at Inn Serendipity B&B, which we write about in Rural Renaissance: Renewing the Quest for the Good Life.

Any other unconventional advice for budding young ecopreneurs?

About the Author

Lisa Kivirist embodies the growing “ecopreneuring” movement: innovative entrepreneurs who successfully blend business with making the world a better place. Lisa is co-author, with her husband, John Ivanko, of Rural Renaissance: Renewing the Quest for the Good Life, capturing the American dream of farm living for contemporary times. Her latest release, ECOpreneuring: Putting Purpose and the Planet Before Profits is a compact, dynamic tool kit for a fresh approach to entrepreneurial thinking, blending passion for protecting and preserving the planet with small business pragmatics. As a W.K. Kellogg Food & Society Policy Fellow and Director of the Rural Women's Project, Lisa champions a voice for women farmers and rural ecopreneurs through media, speaking and advocacy work. Lisa runs the award-winning Inn Serendipity Bed and Breakfast in southwest Wisconsin, completely powered by renewable energy and considered amongst the “Top Ten Eco-Destinations in North America.” Her culinary focus on local and seasonal cuisine – with most ingredients traveling less than 100 feet from her organic gardens to B&B plates – earned recognition in publications from Vegetarian Times to Country Woman and inspired her cookbook, Edible Earth: Savoring the Good Life with Vegetarian Recipes from Inn Serendipity. In addition to feature writing for publications such as Hobby Farm Home, Mother Earth News and Wisconsin Trails, Lisa is the lead writer for Renewing the Countryside, a non-profit organization showcasing rural entrepreneurial and agricultural success stories. Lisa also penned Kiss Off Corporate America: A Young Professional’s Guide to Independence. Lisa shares her farm with her husband, their young son, a 10kw wind turbine and a colony of honeybees.