Editor’s Note: Soapbox Project has been named to The Story Exchange’s 2023 list of 10 Brilliant Business Ideas.
Like many, Nivi Achanta is concerned about our warming planet. At the height of the Covid pandemic, Achanta noticed her friends disengaging from the news, finding it to be far too depressing. But after volunteering in a California community devastated by a wildfire, she saw firsthand how average people have the power to make a difference in what feels like an insurmountable disaster. In 2020, she founded The Soapbox Project, an online community that provides accessible steps folks can take in their daily lives to help combat climate change. Today, the Seattle entrepreneur is proud to have built a virtual space that allows people to get involved in social and environmental justice – so that together, they can help make the world a better place.
Here’s our lightly edited Q&A with Achanta.
How is your business different from others in your industry?
At Soapbox, we want all our incentives to center on joy. We believe that climate goals and life goals are the same thing — we all want good health, safety, and meaningful connections for ourselves and our loved ones. Climate action is a part of that.
Tell us about your biggest success so far.
We have raised $98,000 since launching, which is put toward social and environmental justice causes.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
We struggle with recruitment and getting the word out about Soapbox Project, beyond our email newsletter of 7,000 readers. We’ve leaned into partnerships to help with this. For example, we have an upcoming event with Rewiring America, an organization that’s widely recognized in this space and also has a subscriber list 10 times our own. It’s still an ongoing challenge, but I have confidence that partnerships will improve our outreach.
Tell us more about how the California wildfire – known as Camp Fire – in 2018 affected your business decisions.?
My fiancé’s home burned to the ground, along with the homes of many of his friends and family members. Despite only being a year into my career at professional services company Accenture, I was able to push senior leadership to fund a project enabling me and a team of eight to go to the area, volunteer, and learn about resilient community responses. That was the first time I saw how much power an ordinary person like me could wield.
What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?
Hours worked does not necessarily equal productivity or creativity. It can be easy to feel ashamed for not working 60-plus-hour work weeks, but research has shown that peak creativity comes from 5 hours of work, daily. Find a schedule that works for you, prioritize your personal routines and health, and don’t listen to “thought leaders” who are not living your life.
How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
I go outside, say hello to a flower, and remember the reason I’m doing this in the first place: This planet is amazing, and life can be so magical when we have a healthy environment, happy people and resilient communities.
What is your go-to song to get motivated on tough days?
“Decide to Be Happy” by MisterWives.
Who is your most important role model?
My mom, who knows how to be patient and calm amid all the chaos. ◼