How I Became an Activist Entrepreneur

A firsthand account of how a depressed and anxious 23-year-old managed to create a genuinely impactful career.

Deanna Pratt
May 3 · 7 min read
Me at my desk! This is where the magic happens ✨

Two years ago, I began my journey into activist entrepreneurship. Today, at 25, I’m working for myself and have the resources I need to make a real difference in my community and for our planet. Here’s how I did it!

Why I started eco ally and became an “activist entrepreneur”

My story begins during the spring semester of 2016 at Arizona State University.

It was hot out on my first day of “Sustainable Cities” taught by Professor Bjoern Hagen at ASU’s School of Sustainability. I needed a 3-credit elective to fulfill a requirement for my Philosophy degree, and wanted to choose something that would be fun and interesting to attend with my friends.

I left that class with a minor in Sustainability added to my degree and an entirely new direction in life.

At the time, I was a full-time student while working as a talent coordinator and marketing team lead with a local concert promoter in Phoenix. Up until that point, it was my dream to create a name for myself in the music industry. (To be honest, I just wanted to be cool and to party for free!)

I spent the next three years until graduation learning everything I could about sustainability, the climate crisis, and potential career paths that could help make a positive difference. Environmental news like the 2019 biodiversity report drove me into climate anxiety, while the prospect of a career in corporate sustainability made me feel hopeless and depressed.

The worst part of climate anxiety and depression is that nobody wants to talk to you about it. It’s extremely isolating. And, at the time, there were basically no resources online to help me or give me a clear path forward to actually making a difference.

So, I came up with the idea of starting a blog to hopefully be there for other people who might be feeling the same way. I purchased the Eco Ally domain in January 2019 and hit “publish” on my first blog post in April (after months of procrastination).

I originally intended for Eco Ally to be centered around three things: the way we live, the way we work, and the way we interact with our communities. I thought these were the most important parts of life to focus on if we really wanted to make a difference. I wrote a few posts about sustainable living, climate activism, and eco entrepreneurship.

On Nov 18, 2019, I published a blog post titled “The Definitive Guide to Becoming an Eco Entrepreneur” — a 4281 word blog post detailing exactly how to, well, become an eco-entrepreneur. I published it feeling so proud of my work… except for one thing. I felt like a complete fraud because I hadn’t actually done it myself.

The process of writing that blog post made me feel so confident that eco entrepreneurship + activism was the best path (for me) to make a difference. By the end of it, I felt like I had basically built a complete roadmap for myself by writing that blog post. So, I followed it.

Now, it’s a year and a half later, and I’m back to tell you what happened!

How I built my business

I’m going to share with you exactly how I built my business with the intention of creating the time and financial freedom I needed to actually make a difference.

The first thing I did was research a shit ton. Like, way more than I needed to. I procrastinated so much.. Hours grueling over a website or business strategy only to completely replace it days later. But again, I eventually took action.

Here was my rough plan:

  1. Choose a business type — I chose a service-based business. I had experience in marketing and sustainability, so I put that together into an idea to do freelance marketing for sustainable businesses remotely.
  2. Draft a business plan — I did this more times than I care to admit
  3. Spend some money — I spent about $300 between everything (web hosting, my WordPress theme, an email list service, etc.)
  4. Create some content, so I had social proof online — I wrote a few posts on my Medium account.
  5. Find 2–3 clients to give me testimonials in exchange for free/discounted work — I found them on Reddit and CoFoundersLab.
  6. Make money doing something that actually feels good — I had my first paying client in January of 2020!

The most difficult part of all of this was:

  • Figuring out exactly what services I was offering
  • Figuring out how to price those services
  • How/where to find people who I can genuinely help and who can pay me for my services
  • How to do it “right” — contracts, invoices, etc.

(I can write more details about all of this in later posts!)

Four months after writing “The Definitive Guide to Becoming an Eco Entrepreneur, “I had my first freelancing client send me $75 for some work on a blog.

Today, I’m balancing my weekdays between client work, mentoring entrepreneurs, and taking action on sustainable development goals in my community. And I’m making enough money to pay for all of my bills; my vegan takeout habit, my anime, book club, gaming, music, Crunchyroll, etc. subscriptions, and for my blog’s expenses. And I made it all happen during Covid. 😌

If you’re curious to see what I built…

The difference I’ve made

I’m writing this section with the intention of sharing with you the difference I’ve been able to make, so I can give more details than just vaguely saying “making a difference.” Anybody can do this, and I hope you will too. This is just the beginning for me!

As of today:

  • I’ve helped 11 sustainable businesses use marketing to grow their influence and positive impact (including one which just raised $3.25 Million in funding!)
  • I’ve mentored 30+ sustainability entrepreneurs (locally and internationally) through SEED SPOT, YLAI, or them reaching out to me from my posts online.
  • I’ve organized several climate actions in Phoenix and have volunteered countless hours of time to taking action on SDGs.
  • I’ve gotten involved in engagement opportunities with the City of Phoenix and our elected representatives on sustainability issues.
  • I was invited to speak at a university event next month (in Canada!) about the importance of sustainability in a capitalist society.
  • I hope my writing helps people too!

I used to think that the only way to make a difference was to wait for a climate strike to be planned by someone else and to show up with a sign. Or to sign one of those online petitions. Or to email/call my senators. But there are so many different opportunities to make a difference! You don’t need to wait for anyone else. We don’t have time!

What’s next for me

I’m at a point in my business where I have two options ahead of me:

  • Focus on growing my marketing agency
  • Return to my mission of being there for others who want to use their time to make a difference too

It’s pretty clear to me that the second option is the right one for me and that I’m going to need to shoot video content for TikTok and YouTube to do that. If I’ve been able to make enough money (doing awesome things) to support myself and my activism, I know other people can too. And I am dreaming of what it would look like if a whole bunch of us cooperated and led sustainability efforts online and in our cities.

If we want a sustainable future, we have to build it ourselves. That work needs to be done in our communities. We need to demand sustainable cities and healthy, biodiverse communities. We need to build coalitions in our communities. Independently, but with a common goal.

I’ve joined a ton of different activist groups at this point, hoping to create change in Phoenix. I was an organizing member of the Phoenix Extinction Rebellion chapter and joined the Citizens Climate Lobby, AZ Climate Strike, Sunrise Movement, Climate Reality Project, Fridays for Future, Fight4Her, and the Arizona Sustainability Alliance. What I’ve learned from them is that direct actions and calls to local representatives only work when a lot of people show up.

Every time I joined one of these groups, I felt boxed into the brand of the group and ended up doing a lot of waiting for top-down planning of actions (instead of actually taking action). What if instead of joining these organizations, I just showed up at their actions and otherwise did my own thing?

Here are some things I’d like to do:

  • Create content on Eco Ally, YouTube, and TikTok that gives people what they need to become activist entrepreneurs too
  • Create a QR code that I leave at local shops that creates a recurring event every Friday to call local representatives demanding sustainable development
  • Purchase a billboard off of the I-10 in Phoenix with local art on it imagining what sustainable development and healthy biodiversity would look like in our city

To be honest, I’m nervous about all of these ideas and have been putting it off for months. Especially creating video content. I made a post on Instagram back in October or November saying that I was taking time off of social media to start a YouTube channel.. That post is gone, and I’m back on Instagram. But if the track record I’ve shared here has anything to say about me, it’s that I’ll do it eventually! I’m hoping this post will be the first step.

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Deanna Pratt

Written by

sustainable brand strategist and growth marketing expert 💫 on a mission to help help shift the U.S. economy towards sustainability 🌎

Climate Conscious

Building a collective vision for a better tomorrow

Deanna Pratt

Written by

sustainable brand strategist and growth marketing expert 💫 on a mission to help help shift the U.S. economy towards sustainability 🌎

Climate Conscious

Building a collective vision for a better tomorrow

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