Nina Siemiatkowski is Swedish CEO and founder of Milkywire, (www.milkywire.com), a donation platform bridging the gap between people and companies who want to take action for the environment, to carefully screened nonprofit organisations in the field working to protect and restore our planet.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
Early in my career I landed my dream job as a marketing executive at a top 100 Swedish company. Realizing this role wasn’t making me happy I returned to photography school aged 31, and embarked on a documentary project following the lives of a pride of lions in Kenya. This gave way to my first solo exhibition, ‘Book of Leon’. Seeing the lions’ situation first hand and understanding the dramatic population decline, I soon found myself increasingly concerned by the wider issues affecting our planet. As a result I started working with a number of environmental grassroots organisations. This experience opened my eyes to the difficulties these organisations faced, many times even risking their lives for the planet and future generations. This fuelled my desire to change the system and offer these groups a solution. Following my return to Stockholm, after much research and many conversations later, I founded Milkywire – a tech platform offering an alternative to charitable giving. We’re offering a more transparent and engaging solution connecting people who want to make a difference, with organisations working to solve the most pressing planetary problems facing humanity.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
I founded Milkywire in 2018, after an eye-opening experience following the lives of a pride of lions in Kenya.During this time, I was struck by the realities of the situation facing the planet. While following this pride of lions, I discovered that the world’s lion population had halved in number in just 20 years, to 20,000. Keen to help, I became involved with nonprofit organisations that were addressing the lion extinction, as well as other pressing planetary problems. I began to see the difficulties that local organisations faced; threatened by a lack of funding and a lack of resources.
In my dialogues with friends and family back home in Sweden, it was clear that there were an abundance of people wanting to support these causes, but many were unsure of where to start or whom to trust. In light of the digital revolution we’re in I knew there had to be a way to close this gap. I set up Milkywire with the goal to better connect those keen to contribute to fighting the environmental crisis with the organisations in the field doing just that. It was so important to me that donating through the Milkywire platform was engaging and transparent. Allowing users to follow the progress through photo and video updates to see proof of their impact is so unique. Watching with your own eyes a group of baby sea turtles be released back into the ocean, thanks to the money you have donated, is pretty special.
What are the key successes?
Despite being so young, Milkywire has already proven that it is bringing about real change for both donors and people in the field. We now work alongside several partners, such as the sustainable fashion brand, PANGAIA, helping them donate to causes they care about. We have found a model that works and we are growing as a company, meaning we can better support the organisations on our platform, working to save the ocean, protect forests, fight pollution, and more.
The Climate Transformation Portfolio set up late last year is another great accomplishment for us. The portfolio involved experts collating an extensive list of the most long-term effective climate projects to assist companies in their climate contributions. Carbon offsetting has caused problems for our planet as there have been many companies who choose the cheapest way to offset their emissions, meaning money is channelled to a project or scheme and does very little. Our portfolio aims to redress this and guide companies towards the right places to ensure their actions are sustainable and impactful.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
A significant problem, not just for Milkywire, is that many of us are so distant to where the real problems are. People’s first thought in the morning is rarely ‘Today is the day I’m going to protect our rainforests.’ People wake up and are thinking about their first caffeine boost. One of the biggest challenges is to make it easy and attractive enough for people to engage and take action. Pushing people to not just think about the problem, but to actually do something about it is the difficult part. Ensuring people connect emotionally with a cause is so important if you want them to get involved in it.
Milkywire is also trying to use technology to make the sector more efficient and transparent. We are, in many ways, the pioneers in this space as we are one of the first platforms addressing these issues. This can be difficult as we have to be innovative and learn constantly on the job.
Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?
- Be agile and ready to learn all the time. The speed at which you learn new things as an organization is key.
- Fall in love with the problem and not the solution
- Hire great people
- Be prepared to work hard
What are your Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn social handles and also website links so our readers can connect with you?
Nina’s social handles:
Milkywire’s social handles:
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