Beverly Joubert is a world famous award-winning filmmaker, photographer, conservationist, and National Geographic Explorer. She co-founded the Big Cats Initiative with her husband Dereck and together they have produced over 35 films for National Geographic, with 22 Emmy nominations and 8 Emmy Awards. They have also published 14 books. She co-founded Great Plains Conservation that manages over 1.5 million acres of conservation land in Africa. Beverly has also been part of many important initiatives including: Rhinos without Borders, Project Ranger, Big Cat Initiative, Solar Mamas, and the Basadi Empowerment Trust to name but a few.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
I come from a photographic and filmmaking background for National Geographic and National Geographic Magazine, producing over 40 films, many, (22) receiving Emmy nominations and other awards. But it is as ‘a conservationist’ that I best describe myself and as a result with Dereck my husband and partner, started to think about how best to save big cats, elephants and other African wildlife maybe through piecing together land to protect them. Great Plains Conservation is that idea turned into a company.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
We hired the Big Cats Initiative post graduate team at Duke University to model how big cat populations were changing over time and how human encroachment was influencing that. It was clear that to save big cats we need to protect land in the pinch points, because if we lose corridors we will witness more rapid rates of extinction on either end. So, we started small, taking up leases and increasing that slowly. Today we have over 1.5 million acres of land under management to protect both land and all the wildlife in these areas.
How did you achieve awareness?
Well, we needed to fund this so we applied a tourism model establishing how much money we needed to fund conservation, how many guests we could accommodate and then charged a rate to cover that. This needed massive marketing and PR which continues today. Great Plains spends nearly 8% of its revenues on awareness.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
Dereck and I funded the first round personally. Once we had that locked up, we brought in like-minded shareholders to take part in protecting these environments, we also went to local for matching funding. Thereafter, paid off debt, and expanded off the balance sheet and income, and today we have no debt.
What are the key successes?
We count successes in our own currency, natural capital, where it’s all about how many animals we save, how much land we can convert to conservation. So, we look at land where wildlife has declined drastically like hunting lands and convert them to protected areas with no hunting. We immediately see the difference. Part and parcel of this is in how enduring our model can be. Once we took over the hunting areas that hired 12 people for 6 months of the year, and killed hundreds of animals, we started hiring tourism sector scaled staff and now have 140 staff, 12 months a year in each camp, no animals killed and benefits to over 4,500 people in local communities, as well as a 2,500% increase in financial benefit to government over what it was. We replicate that in different forms in different countries.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
Raising enough money is always a challenge or limiting factor. If we had $100M today we could advance our successful strategy and cover 20 million acres before we lose them altogether, but we must be realistic in our ambitions against what we can earn and raise. Hunting groups hate us because we show a model that is of more benefit to the economy of countries for each acre of land and so they are very threatened by this narrative. But we need to focus on our goals. This doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. We also cannot carry on doing business as usual as it was done in the old colonial era where wealthy white hunters flocked into Africa with guns to kill wildlife. We have lost 95% of African wildlife since I was born. Something has to change.
What are your plans now/for the future?
I spend a lot of time on our Foundation ensuring that we have integration between conservation and community drivers or influences with real partnerships. There are two good examples of this; the Solar Mamas initiative empowering local women in Botswana to improve their economic prospects while providing a much-needed service to their communities through solar-powered electrical systems.And the Basadi Empowerment Trust an equality shareholder in our business where a group of very smart and powerful local women sit with me on a board to come up with ways to fund projects, or businesses at a small cap investment level, and to teach women how to manage their own businesses. At the same time, we must balance nature and nurture: as we teach, it should be with a view to how we develop businesses that are environmentally friendly and be creative about that.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
Business for the reason of making money is a complete waste of time for me. It will lead to a hollow life. Using business to achieve success for the planet, for biodiversity, for social justice for the environment has meaning and will be more fulfilling to oneself as well as protecting the environment. We only have one life so fill it with good things.
Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?
1) Invest or work ONLY for something meaningful in life. 2) If you are a woman, be careful that your business, if it is designed to empower women does it without disempowering men. Let’s strive for a more respectful world not one where the balance of power shifts back and forth. 3) Hire great people who share your values and you won’t have to micro manage. 4) Be authentic. Everything else seems less important. 5) Don’t overlook love.
Try to spend less than you earn!
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?
1) Nelson Mandela we recently had a behind the scenes look through the Foundation and got to know his philosophies. 2) Great women business leaders like Jean Case, now Chairman of National Geographic Society, 3) Pat Mitchel author of Becoming a Dangerous Woman, and dear friend, 4) Jane Goodall, no introductions needed, 5) Dereck Joubert, my husband and partner in all our films and conservation work, his compassion is always there in all situations and projects we take on.
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
Rail against injustice, change what you can and laugh at the rest.
What are your Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn social handles and also website links so our readers can connect with you?
Wildlife Films: www.wildlifefilms.co
Beverly Joubert Fine Art Site: www.beverlyjoubert.com
Great Plains Conservation: www.greatplainsconservation.com
Great Plains Foundation: www.greatplainsfoundation.com
Project Ranger: www.projectranger.org
Joubert’s Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/TheLastLions
Twitter: (@dereckbeverly) www.twitter.com/dereckbeverly
You Tube Channel: www.youtube.com/user/GreatPlainsConserve
Great Plains Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/GreatPlainsConservation