Conservation Consulting
Why EcoNiche Came To Be

February 2021

The Before

In August 2018, at the tail end of graduating with an MPhil. from the University of Cambridge and equipped with new perspectives on conservation and leadership skills, I was terribly lost.

 

  1. Should I go back to a full-time job? After 8 long years (pretty much my entire 20s) of working with conservation organisations, this somehow felt like a step backwards. I left my job for systemically embedded reasons (such as projects being donor-driven and not needs based) that were unlikely to have disappeared over the single year in which I lived in an academic bubble. Nonetheless, I applied for jobs, interviewed, was rejected, and did some rejecting of my own, because this was what I thought was expected of me.

  2.  Should I take a break and travel? I did do this in a manner of speaking. I traveled around Europe, eventually abusing the hospitality of a dear friend and parking myself in Italy for seven weeks. 200 odd gelatos later, I was rapidly eating through my savings and realised I couldn’t financially sustain all the unplanned travel. So, I retreated to India to do some thinking.

  3. Should I continue consulting? I did several short-term consultancies to sustain myself. As uncertain and little as the income was, I enjoyed being in control of my own time. Importantly, I realised that often I was being given the freedom to collaboratively shape the work in ways that could be more impactful. 

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EcoNiche is currently located in the beautiful coastal of Goa © Nisha DSouza

Strategic risk-taking

I learned from my father to write down my thoughts in order to work through big decisions. Below is a snapshot of my thought process.

 

The Cost of Inaction

  • Returning to a job cycle I dislike

  • 3 weeks of vacation a year (the timing of which often doesn’t coincide with family & friends’ time off)

  • Always wondering “what if?”

The Reward of Inaction

  • The safety of a pay-check

  • Nobody will judge me for staying

  • My life will remain relatively comfortable

The Cost of Action

  • Reduced income (for an unknown period)

  • Inability to build my savings in the short to medium-term

  • If I fail, I’ll need to find a new job to support myself

 

The Reward of Action

  • Much higher earning potential

  • Ability to choose what I work on

  • Align work with my passions, and creativity

  • Ability to develop a better work/life balance

Enabling Factors 

Eventually I decided to start my own consultancy (I won't lie part of it was the "punny" name my brother came up with, i.e., EcoNiche!). There were some key factors that enabled me to act on this decision.

 

  • Networks

Working in the conservation sector for years prior to starting EcoNiche allowed me to build my networks within and outside of India. These connections were the reason that I was able to get the first consultancies that established the foundation on which EcoNiche was built. Many former colleagues and associates are now key EcoNiche advisors and partners. 

  • Community

Starting your own organisation can feel isolating. To my great fortune I had several colleagues and friends who had already walked down that road. Talking through the challenges and decisions provided much needed advice,  reassurance and validation of my decisions. 

 

  • Financial Safety Nets

Since I started my professional career, at least 30% of my monthly income (if not more) has gone into savings. When I decided to start EcoNiche I had sufficient funds to keep me going for 12 months, in case things went south and I was unable to get consultancies. This allowed me to focus on building EcoNiche, without the stress of wondering how I would  finance my daily needs.

 

  • Staying Power

When I first started EcoNiche, it was difficult to get used to the inconsistent pay, and I felt compelled to agree to less than appealing consultancies. In the end however, the frustration was worth it. Not only was it short-lived but once I had established the credibility and dependability of EcoNiche, I am now able to choose our work (and more!).

 

If you're thinking of starting your own conservation consultancy (or becoming a consultant), and want to talk it thought, don't hesitate to get in touch! 

 

(by Nisha DSouza)