Toby Hammond, Director of The Moneygrower, spots new opportunities for eco-entrepreneurship, including a solar irrigation pump which could make a huge difference to smallholder farmers.
Class of: 2000 – 01
Currently: Director of The Moneygrower
Why I chose the MProf
It seemed such an obvious step. I had studied biology for my undergraduate degree and was heavily involved in green politics at Manchester University, as the leader of the green group and as the President of the Student Union. So when I heard about this Masters in Leadership through a friend, I just thought, “Yeah, that’s what I want to do.” There was never any debate in my mind.
What I learnt
The work placements at The Co-operative in Manchester and the RSPB were particularly rewarding, as I had the chance to spend time with really senior people. The RSPB also gave me a tour of its parliamentary lobbying for conservation in Northern Ireland – targeting (veteran Unionist leader) Ian Paisley in particular – which was great, given my background in student politics. I’m not sure how much I contributed, but I learnt a lot. I also made friends with Seb Wood, a fellow scholar with an entrepreneurial streak that matched my own, and we started to bounce around various ideas for our own business.
Career to date
Straight after the Masters, I cycled to the 2002 Earth Summit in Johannesburg with fellow scholar Ruth Hollinger, covering about 8,500 miles. We did it in support of Water Aid: access to safe water and sanitation was a major theme at the Summit that year. Returning to the UK, I joined Environmental Resources Management, a corporate consultancy. Then, after a couple of years, I left to set up Better Generation with Seb. Our (rather lofty) aim was to demystify home renewable energy. The core product is The Power Predictor, which makes it easy to assess the potential of a site for small-scale wind or solar installations.
What I plan to do next
I’d like to stay in the renewables space, but apply what I’ve learnt through my first business venture to developing markets. I am setting up a company called The Moneygrower to commercialise a solar irrigation pump, which could make a huge difference to smallholder farmers. The potential for renewables in Africa, where a big grid may never be put in place, makes the UK renewables industry look like a sideshow!
Advice for future leaders
Focus and believe in yourself. I think the perception in mainstream business is still that environmentalists are a bit naïve and don’t have a good business head on them. Whereas, actually, the instinct that most people have in this sector is to do the right thing – and that makes for good business, as well.
Toby Hammond was in conversation with Katie Shaw.