Social and Environmental Innovation

Elevating environmental entrepreneurs

Drawing on strong business mentorship, 31-year-old entrepreneur Anton Hejibel is finding true north for his eco-friendly Arctic tour company.

To think of northern Norway is to imagine an enchanting wilderness of steep-sided fjords and snowy mountain peaks that get tickled by the northern lights—places like Tromsø, where 31-year-old Anton Hejibel, CEO and founder of eco-friendly tour company Pukka Travels, has based his business.

Hejibel’s fantastic product—the Arctic—and his lifelong passion for travel means designing tours for his company is a pleasure, but the diversity of operational processes and bureaucracy needed to run a tour operator business are a different story. “The landscape for such start-ups still needs a lot of innovation,” he says.

In 2016, the Foundation recognized the same gap in early-stage support to northern social enterprises and founded the Arctic Accelerator in partnership with Lundin Petroleum, which operates on the Norwegian Continental Shelf, and business incubator KUPA. The Accelerator’s mandate is to assist entrepreneurs under 35-years-old with innovative business ideas focused on sustainability within areas important to the Arctic environment and climate.

“The direct access to experienced business leaders was particularly valuable in enhancing our eco-friendly approach to business.”

The Accelerator takes a “teach a person to fish” approach in attracting and retaining promising young talent in the north. It provides training and mentoring for refining a business model, developing prototypes and initial market validation. Furthermore, it supports opportunities to obtain funding. For Pukka, the opportunity also made a significant difference in its environmental bottom line.

“The program lays out a systemic path for a start-up to take a concept and form a business model and to better formulate that model and communicate those plans and concepts to others. For us, the direct access to experienced business leaders was particularly valuable in enhancing our eco-friendly approach to business—everything from waste management to acquisition of boats and cars with the lowest possible emissions,” says Hejibel. “We got Eco Lighthouse certification (Miljøfyrtårn), which requires 180 points in upgrades and routines to be approved. We likely would not have taken that step so early in our development without the Accelerator.”

 

The program has also enabled Pukka to expand operations to the Lofoten Islands, says Hejibel, “It’s now possible that we can launch new destinations in 2020.”

“We got Eco Lighthouse certification (Miljøfyrtårn)… we likely would have not taken that step so early in our development without the Accelerator.”

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