Why did you create WildHearts?
I went on a climbing expedition in 2001 on K2 near the Kashmir region of Pakistan. The weather conditions were absolutely horrendous; I couldn’t feel my fingers or my toes. I was in a really bad state and thought I was going to die. Thankfully, I managed to reach a level of the mountain where plantlife could actually grow. A small Kashmiri girl saved me by welcoming me into her village where I was fed and given water. When I came back home to Scotland, I was a changed man.
In a few words, can you tell us what is WildHearts aim?
WildHearts is committed to launching companies that fight poverty in all its forms. Our first company, WildHearts Office Supplies, was created to give organisations the ability to fight economic injustice without having to “donate” a penny. All profits from WildHearts Office Supplies go straight to WildHearts projects. The company puts compassion at the heart of business and allows people to make a difference while they make a living. WildHearts’ aim is not to give a hand out but to give a hand up, which is hugely important nowadays.
What else does WildHearts do?
WildHearts proposes events aimed at promoting healthy and active lifestyles for the purpose of raising necessary funds. Activities include wolftreks, “weewalks” and Santa runs as well as Micro-Tyco and the sale of office supplies.
Why do microfinance in poor countries?
WildHearts provides banking to the unbanked, to the people who are excluded from the trading world. How can you set up a business when there isn’t a banking system in your country? This is why we offer the opportunity to set up a ‘WildHearts Trust Bank’, formed of 25-40 people, where they can guarantee each other’s loans. Reliability and trust are important to us and it allows us to give the unbanked a chance. Since we began, 98 percent of the recipients of microfinancing have repaid their loans, meaning the world’s poorest are some of the safest to lend to.
How many people have already benefited from the scheme?
Every year, more than 100,000 people benefit from WildHearts. We focus mainly on women (90 percent of our loans), as we believe that they will invest this money wisely and make their chosen business work. The approximate loan that they get is £150, which is enough for them to start setting up their own business.
What is Micro-Tyco?
Micro-Tyco is the exciting new enterprise challenge from WildHearts which brings together whole societies. Teams can ‘apply’ to WildHearts for ‘seed capital’; a micro-loan of £1. Once the clock starts they have one month to turn it into as much money as possible. On November 30 2012, the team with the most money wins.
Who can join? When? How?
Companies, universities, colleges and schools can enter as many teams of five as they wish. Micro-Tyco will run for four weeks every November.
Have you tried doing Micro-Tyco?
Of course, and on a regular basis. That’s just one of the challenges and thrills of being an entrepreneur. You start with nothing and little by little you start making money, building yourself a bit of a reputation. It takes time and a lot of effort.
What’s your biggest achievement so far?
I don’t think my biggest achievement has happened at this point in my career. I’m just getting started, and I’ve got big dreams. You never know what might happen in your life.
Why set up your own company?
When you are an entrepreneur you are the master of your destiny. No one can tell you what you have to do and how you have to do it. It’s a chance to experience something else, something that you’ve never tried before, but something that you’ve thought about for an extremely long time. It is a real challenge, but it’s worth a try.