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Meet Angela. Angela Nagy is the founder of GreenStep Solutions, a sustainability consulting business based in Kelowna. When Angela isn’t busy saving the world, you’ll find her hanging out with her husband and her two children, singing folk music or at the Hot Box Yoga on Bernard. We recently caught up with Angela to learn more about her passion for sustainability and why she started her business.
What is your role at Green Step Solutions, and what do you enjoy most about it?
“As the CEO of a small business, I have to be a bit of everything. When I really think about it, what I enjoy doing most, and what I see myself being able to do as my company grows, is really being the visionary. Developing new programs and services to solve the small and medium-sized business sustainability conundrum is really what I love to do because I understand it first hand being a small business owner myself. You are so busy just trying to run your own businesses that sometimes it’s difficult to focus on the sustainability stuff. But it is so important from a pure cost perspective and profitability perspective.”
What advice would you share with someone interested in a job like yours?
“I stepped into an industry where there aren’t a lot of examples of ‘here’s how to be successful in this space.’ For me, it’s been a lot of just learning as I go. In my 20s I attended as many sustainability-related conferences as I could and read a ton of books that really helped me to understand how to communicate sustainability from a business perspective. I also had the opportunity to get trained by Al Gore, and that was really the ultimate.”
[Editor’s Note: Two of the books that Angela read when learning about sustainability and business were “The Ecology of Commerce” and “Business Case for Sustainability”]
What’s something people don’t know about you?
“I like to play guitar and write songs. If I go to a bar and there is a band I will ask if I can sing a song with them almost every time. My purpose in life is to save the world through business, politics and music. I’ve got the business and politics part figured out, but I’m still working on the music part of it. My friend has been working on a musical recently, and I have been thinking that maybe a musical is the answer. It could bring art and science together in a cool way.”
[Editor’s Note: Where can I get a ticket?!]
What’s the best piece of advice you can share with entrepreneurs?
“Having borrowed money to finance the growth of my company, my piece of advice to entrepreneurs would be that until you have a money making system in place don’t borrow money. It’s so important to have a system where you’ve got the data, and you know that if you put $100 into this system, you’ll get out $100 or whatever your ROI is. I’m not necessarily saying don’t borrow money, but just be mindful of how much you’re borrowing and what you’re using it for.”
Can you speak to the importance of mentorship?
“I have always had mentors. Even when I was in my early 20s, I went out and sought mentorship. At one point in my life, I thought that I would start a chain of organic grocery stores, so I called up the CEO of a grocery store chain in California and I took him for lunch when I was down there for a conference. Being able to sit with someone who is doing the thing that you want to do and just asking them how they did it can be really helpful. Mentorship can also be so valuable when you’ve gotten yourself into a tough spot and knowing that you have somebody to call on makes a big difference. It can be a lonely place as an entrepreneur, and having a good mentor or mentors makes the journey at least easier.”
What is one word that describes you and why?
“Passionate. I am passionate and fully determined to figure out how to make a huge difference. I haven’t saved the world yet, but I’m going to die trying.”
What inspired you to get involved in sustainability?
“When I was 18 I got hired by the City of Kelowna as the grants co-ordinator for the Mission Creek Greenway project. In that role, I had to do a bunch of research into how human behaviour was affecting the ecosystem of our creek and why it was important to build this interpretive greenway to educate people but also to protect the habitat along the creek. It was at that time that I started realizing that government and policy—things that I just assumed were naturally in place to protect the environment—weren’t actually in place and didn’t exist. The fact that we knew that there were these problems but nobody was doing anything about them really made me angry. I remember I was camping with my dad that summer, and I was like ‘I need to do something about this. Maybe I can go work for Greenpeace, and I can become a professional activist. Or what if I could use my public speaking skills, my writing skills, and my research skills to start a business?’ And that’s when I had this epiphany that my purpose in life was to save the world through business, politics and music, and I knew from that moment on that I would start a company.”
Did you always know you’d start a business?
“I had a boss ask me one time ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ and I said, ‘I will be leaving to start a company that will save the world.’ I really was lucky to find my purpose. Knowing your purpose is a real gift.”
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