Scaling Up Barefoot Conservation

An interview with the founder, Simon Barden, on growing the social enterprise with crowdfunding

Scaling Up Barefoot Conservation

20th March 2019

Barefoot Conservation is a not-for-profit organisation in the stunning Raja Ampat, Indonesia. Their mission is to apply the skills of volunteers to aid the community, scientific research, and preservation of the world's most bio-diverse region. In turn, trip-makers gain practical experience and the reward of making a difference to the island. 


We spoke with the founder, Simon Barden, about how he scaled his business with just over £100,000 from 345 Crowd2Fund investors. If you would like to help the business grow further, you can! They are back for a second round, which you can read about here (capital at risk).


What was your inspiration for starting Barefoot Conservation?


I had never really travelled much of the world, and really wanted to see more of it. I joined a marine conservation NGO in Honduras Central America, for 12 weeks having never dived before I loved it so much I ended up staying for 6 months. It was at this NGO that the seeds for Barefoot Conservation were sowed: I felt there was a need for a marine conservation NGO that focuses just as much on helping the poor communities that live by and depended on healthy coral reefs and marine life, than it did on the science/conservation research.


How did you know it was time to scale-up? And what steps are you taking to grow your business to the next level?


Before our raise with Crowd2Fund, we were running close to the maximum amount of customers we can take on the island basecamp at any one time. A second basecamp will allow us to take on even more customers while helping poor communities and protecting the marine ecosystem in another part of Indonesia.


What are some of your proudest achievements so far?


Each year our customer and revenue numbers have gone up. We have now been operating in Indonesia and as a business for over 5 years. We now have a Yayasan which is an Indonesian charity/Foundation, which allows us to do further scientific research and community outreach programmes.


What do you see in the future for your business and industry?


 I see Barefoot Conservation growing even more over the next 5 years, with the second basecamp site in Komodo Island, and a liveaboard boat. This will allow us to expand our market to higher-end customers that wish to spend time both on the island and seeing the more remote parts of Raja Ampat. It also helps us reach more remote villages/communities that are really in need of better education and health care.


Why did you choose crowdfunding? How did it benefit your business?


It was a good way to involve lots of smaller investors in the work our NGO was doing, and to spread the word about us. We chose Crowd2Fund as they were interested in working with organizations like ourselves that are involved in conservation and sustainability. They also offered a Revenue Loan option which works well for us as we often will have larger revenue months than others, and that would help us pay off the loan quicker.

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