Helping Companies Become Carbon Neutral With John James David Munn

Helping Companies Become Carbon Neutral With John James David Munn

Last Updated on December 23, 2020

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About John James David Munn

I am from a small town in Lincolnshire, England, called Grantham. I am from a working-class background and went to state schools. When I am back in town I always do a bit to try and make the place just a little better, such as running ‘soup’ style microfunding events or trying to attract people to the town by placing interesting Geocaches. A desire to make my town a little better coupled with the ambition to make my family more comfortable has driven much of what I have done.

I am a multiple-award winning serial entrepreneur currently helping people become carbon neutral. I started my first business at 16 but I was always that kid at school who sold sweets and things. I have run a music management business, a worlds-first brewery, an ecom business, a social enterprise, and I currently work as a business coach alongside setting up another social enterprise that helps people become carbon neutral.

I started a brewery that specialised in ancient alcoholic drinks when I was 20. After successfully exiting that, I started Global Digital Week when I was 22. We ran digital education events at universities across 7 countries and delivered online training to universities, governments, and businesses across 97 countries. We worked with SMEs as well as companies like LEGO and Google.

I am an expert contributor to the UK government’s ‘remote working’ courses that were released earlier this year that have been incredibly popular for teaching people how to work during these Covid times. I have been a finalist for numerous awards, 3 in 2019 alone including the Great British Entrepreneur of the Year awards and Social Entrepreneur of the Year for the entire EU at the All Digital Awards.

Alongside state school, I studied Management and Marketing at the University of Leeds and Chinese Business Culture and Mandarin at Zhejiang University in China as part of the British Council. Leeds is one of my favourite cities in the world and I miss it dearly. I recently moved to Valencia, Spain, for a relatively short period (in the middle of corona, without having ever been to Valencia, and with hardly any knowledge of Spanish) in order to develop my Spanish to a respectable level and broaden my world view.

I am now aged 25 and helping people become carbon neutral via my social enterprise, ZeroSmart. We make people and pets carbon neutral via carbon offsetting, planting trees for the long term and funding quality climate-positive projects to immediately remove more carbon than you contribute to the atmosphere. We are on track to remove 250,000 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere this year alone.

About ZeroSmart

My life partner, Eliana, and I set up ZeroSmart in 2020 after looking for ways to do more for the environment and finding it incredibly difficult. My partner is a vegetarian and I am low-meat, we both recycle everything, are very conscious consumers, use eco-energy suppliers, and regularly get involved in initiatives to plant trees etc. However, the more we looked into it the more we realised our carbon footprint was still enormous, popular eco-friendly small changes that have quite a big impact on your lifestyle actually have very little impact on your carbon footprint. They do more to make people feel good, and although every little certainly helps, we felt we could and should do more. After some research we came across carbon offsetting, but in order to get involved you either had to have near PhD level understanding of climate science or £5k+ per person to invest in the initiatives. It wasn’t that the initiatives were too expensive, just that the minimum orders were too high. Although we understand the science so got involved it dawned on us that it would be incredibly difficult for other individuals to do the same. So, we set up ZeroSmart to make it easy for people to become carbon neutral and climate positive via carbon offsetting. It is a way people can actually have a huge, positive, environmental impact without hugely compromising their lifestyle, which encourages more people to take that first step. We use the co-op mentality of membership in order to reach the minimum order requirements for the top-level carbon offsetting initiatives and all projects are verified by independent third-parties such as the UN, Gold Standard (by WWF) and Verra. We thought it was a great way for us to do more and wanted to make the option more accessible to other people across the UK so set up ZeroSmart to make it easy for individuals to become carbon neutral too.

How Did You Get Your First Several Customers Or Users? How Many Users Or Customers Do You Have Now?

We get almost all of our customers, including our initial customers, via word of mouth. Everybody who hears about the idea loves it – and what’s not to love? You can become carbon neutral in the click of a button but the price of one coffee a week. It’s a no-brainer really. We told our friends and families about it, they told their friends, their friends told their friends and so on. It’s going great at the moment, we are doubling our use numbers every few weeks or so. We are hoping to utilise social a little more to capitalise more on the word of mouth/sharing element of things so hopefully that will help us grow even quicker!

How Does Your Company Grow And Acquire New Customers?

We get almost all of our customers, including our initial customers, via word of mouth. Everybody who hears about the idea loves it – and what’s not to love? You can become carbon neutral in the click of a button but the price of one coffee a week. It’s a no-brainer really. We told our friends and families about it, they told their friends, their friends told their friends and so on. It’s going great at the moment, we are doubling our use numbers every few weeks or so. We are hoping to utilise social a little more to capitalise more on the word of mouth/sharing element of things so hopefully that will help us grow even quicker!

What Actionable Tips And Tricks Do You Have For New Founders Who Are Looking To Get Their First Thousand Users Or Dollars?

This is a super common problem I deal with when acting as a business coach. There are only two things that really matter; your target audience research and the data. Every single decision you make should be based on your understanding of your target audience. The data is there to tell you why you’re wrong about your target audience and what they *actually* want so you can improve your understanding of your target audience. Spend the time at the start conducting good market research and target audience research. It should only take a day but it will save you literally thousands of hours and a ridiculous amount of money. If you aren’t sure which questions to ask or how to interpret the research then seek out some help, it will be the best money you ever spend. The data tracking is there so you know whether what you’re doing actually works so you can tweak your approach until you find the ‘winning formula’. The only other top tip here is to keep things simple. You don’t need to be active on every social media channel, you don’t need to run FB ads, you don’t need to make spammy posts or beggy videos if that isn’t your style. At the start you should keep things super simple, pick one channel to focus on and work to dominate it. Get feedback from your customers and their data and adapt until you get it right. Always prioritise places where you customer is already actively looking to buy your products. When you get that right and dominate one channel it becomes VERY easy to move into other channels and dominate them quickly.

What Is Something You’ve Learned That Would Not Be Obvious To Somebody Who Hasn’t Worked In Your Space Before?

It is actually incredibly cheap and incredibly easy to become carbon neutral. We can spend the next 100 years trying to convince governments and companies to reduce their carbon footprint and maybe shave 20% off total emissions. That isn’t nearly enough change nor is that route quick enough to avert the most catastrophic consequences. Alternatively, we can bring about positive change by shopping smart and by offsetting for immediate impact today. You don’t need to give up your entire life to become carbon neutral. Going vegan only reduces your footprint by 13%, recycling EVERYTHING reduces it by 3.7%, giving up your car can reduce your footprint by 20%. These are pretty big lifestyle changes that make comparatively little difference in an environmental sense. There is still ‘low-hanging fruit’ that makes it much easier to offset your footprint by 100% for less than the price of a coffee a week, such as by funding gas-capture technology at landfill sites or replacing incredibly inefficient stoves in developing countries with more fuel efficient ones. It doesn’t sound super sexy, but it works and that’s what really matters. It isn’t going to take 25 years to actually have an impact like all these tree-planting initiatives do, it is immediate.

What’s The Craziest Thing That’s Happened To You (Good Or Bad) On Your Founder Journey?

So many things. One things that comes to mind now because I spoke of it with a friend recently was the way I started the brewery. I heard there was an ultra-exclusive opportunity at my university for something called a ‘Year In Enterprise’ (YiE). They accepted 4 people per year on the programme out of the entire 35,000+ set of students, well over 3,000 people applied each year. I heard about the programme on Thursday while I was studying in China. I was due to go to Shanghai to watch the grand prix on Friday with my friends I met on that British Council programme but decided I would give the YiE a shot as I had been brewing alcohol in my student house basement for the year and had an idea for a business. To apply, I needed to submit a full business plan by Monday. I hadn’t ever written a business plan before. I stayed up literally the entire weekend living off of instant noodles and some weird Chinese super-sweet coffee with some random sexy bear icon on it (I hate coffee but it was the only thing that kept me awake, mostly because I hated the taste so much!). I slept about 4 hours the entire weekend and was totally dead by the end but I managed to submit a full 48 page business plan by the deadline.

A few days later I found out I was accepted for an interview. It turned out the interview was schedule for 0900 on the day after I was due back from China (which would have left me 11 hours to get back, sleep, and get to the interview) and they wouldn’t move it. I flew back from Shanghai into Newcastle but my flight was slightly late and only got in around midnight so I missed the last train the Leeds. The next one wasn’t until ~0630 the next day and would get in at ~0845. I didn’t know anybody in Newcastle so I ended up sleeping rough that night outside the train station. The police tried to move me on but I explained what was going on and they let me sleep there alone. I can’t say I managed to sleep very much with the party-goer people around who were less than pleasant towards me. I got the train, it was slightly late getting into Leeds, and I literally ran from the station to the interview location with my massive travel backpack on. I must have stank when I got there! They asked me why I was late and I explained I had literally just got back from China. I gave the 15 minute presentation and held up through the 45 minute intense questioning and went home and slept for 22 hours.

Luckily, I was one of the 4 accept onto the programme and got my chance to start the brewery. The programme wasn’t as useful as I had thought and hoped it would be, but the experience getting onto it showed me that when you really want something you can do a lot to make it happen. That lesson has been invaluable ever since.

What Are Your Favorite Books?

Fiction: The Death of Grass. Most books by Stephen King (I have never really allowed myself to read fiction before, I read a book of his for the first time this year and have gotten into his books a lot!)
Non-fiction: The 4 hour workweek (Ferris). Influence (Cialdini). Brewing up a business (Calagione)

Anything You’d Like To Plug?

ZeroSmart.co.uk for become carbon neutral the quick and easy way

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