Mimi Ausland’s unique and interactive approach to building her website is helping remove plastic from our oceans and educating all of us about pollution. Ausland’s company Free the Ocean shows us the power of constructing a well-organized, interactive platform in reaching our business goals. Ausland also posts daily ocean-related trivia on the monetized website, which funds the removal of plastic without having her audience pay a dime, while simultaneously providing fun facts and useful information. She is both running a successful business and creating positive change in our world, something all entrepreneurs should strive to achieve in unison.
Ahead, Ausland shares her business approach prioritizes sustainability and why other businesses should too.
Tell us about Trivia. What made you choose Trivia as the method by which people interact with your site?
Great question! Our daily ocean-related trivia is educational, fun, and fast (answering the trivia takes about 30-seconds) way you can you help remove plastic from our ocean and coastlines. Each time you answer the daily triviA you learn something new. Thanks to our advertisers and sponsors who fund the removal of plastic, this method of engagement allows busy people from all over the world to participate in helping make a difference in plastic pollution for FREE. At the time of writing this, we’ve funded the removal of over 32 MILLION pieces of plastic! Small actions, big impact.
Tell us a bit about your marketing approach, how do you pull people to your site?
We were lucky that we had a somewhat built-in audience coming from Freekibble, a separate trivia site I created years ago to help feed shelter animals. This community fed our initial traffic and since then, we’ve grown through traffic-sharing partnerships with other like-minded publishers, support from our cause partners, and lots of organic growth, which is cool. We’re excited to have recently launched our referral program, where people can refer their friends and family to the site in exchange for some awesome plastic-free prizes.
How do you connect with the brands you sell on your site?
We find many of the vendors we work with through word of mouth, online searches, or sometimes through social media. The products we sell on FTO’s sustainable marketplace are not only plastic-free, but unique, high-quality, long-lasting, and created with natural materials. This is why it’s so important to work with vendors who align with our company’s values. And fortunately, there are more and more vendors creating impressive plastic-free products.
What do you want people to know when it comes to shopping sustainably? Why does taking individual impact seriously matter?
I am a big believer in both individual and collective change, and that our small actions matter more than we think. One person switching to dryer balls instead of single-use dryer sheets or a bamboo toothbrush from a plastic toothbrush may not sound like it creates much impact, but multiply that person by hundreds of thousands, and all of a sudden, new sustainable shopping habits are forming that companies creating products that damage the planet must pay attention to – which challenges and incentivizes them to create eco-friendly products the new market is demanding.
By switching to more sustainable products in different areas of our lives, we can reduce our individual impact on the Earth and on ourselves, as all truly sustainable products are also good for you. (Unlike their plastic alternatives which are hard on the planet and our health).
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When did you translate your passion for sustainability and helping protect our oceans into a business, and what made you take this step?
The natural world has always been a centerpiece in my life. As I became more aware of the crises facing our planet, I became very passionate about trying to help. The issue of plastic pollution damaging our oceans, environment, and wildlife, really concerned me and demanded my attention, and I knew countless others must feel the same way. I set out to create a way for anyone, anywhere, to help be part of the solution. We launched Free the Ocean in August 2019.
For businesses not centered on conservation and environmentalism, what are some steps they should take to make sure the environment is a priority?
How business shifts to become more sustainable can take on many different forms. Overall, businesses should be making it a priority to consider how they can move forward on a more sustainable path, even if the only reason for the change is it’s good for business.
For businesses not centered on conservation and environmentalism, I’d say to look at the areas of the company that create the most negative impact on the environment: whether that’s energy usage, waste created, how products are manufactured and shipped, educating employees, creating incentives to change employee behavior, or something else. This gives the company a great starting place to address the areas that would have the most positive impact. ALL companies can make positive changes to lessen their impact on our planet.
Of course, the sustainable shifts need to be real and lasting, and not just greenwashing for short-term profits.
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Why kibble and ocean plastic? How are these causes/platforms related, and what are the biggest differences in terms of how you run these platforms?
Freekibble and Free the Ocean are both centered around a daily trivia question, which provides a free way for the communities to make a difference: either by helping feed homeless animals or helping remove plastic from the ocean and coastlines. Free the Ocean’s site design is a different aesthetic and the user experience is more current as it was created at a new time of tech opportunities.
What’s one shocking insight you gained from running your business?
That you can only control so much of what happens, so it’s best to loosen the reins a little and trust the process. I’ve found that things tend to work out best when you aren’t banking on one outcome of a situation but instead, are open to things unfolding in different ways.
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