My Own Sheep is one of the projects entered into the Ajujaht pitching competition, to find the best new Estonian business and help it become a greater success. Project Manager Eve Arm explains what was going through the minds of her team.
This interview was first published by Stuart Garlick’s website Charm Offensive.
Describe your idea and how it works?
The idea is to create an online environment where people can own their own sheep – a real, live and happy sheep – over the internet. Owning a sheep will give them many possibilities to interact with the animal, to see what the sheep is doing at any time, have videos of it, see the route of the sheep on the map, provide extra food etc. Some of the distinctive options are also having a Skype call with your sheep or “pimp” your sheep up. The users can also compete with each other to see who has the cutest, happiest or fastest growing sheep.
The main target group for the virtual sheep farm is families with children and individuals who live in highly urbanised cities, who love animals, maybe dream about living in the countryside but who can’t do so or own any animals or even visit them. “My Own Sheep” is a project to build a bridge between city and farm life, offering an opportunity to own an animal in a farm and through that get a positive view of sheep farming through different modern technical solutions.
How did you come up with your idea – what inspired it?
For over five years I have been part of the CouchSurfing community which is a great thing for people who love to travel share their experience and also host travellers. I have met and talked to hundreds of people during this five years. Travelling and exploring new countries and getting to know new people is extremely enjoyable. There are a few downsides in being on the road all the time though – it appears many people regret having no pets at home but it is just not possible due to their lifestyle.
Some time ago I joined my family business – sheep farming. I moved back home to Murese farm – a sheep farm with 800 sheep. My role in the farm is being the PR Manager with duty of promoting farm life through social media.
During my stay in the farm, we have also had many volunteers and visitors who showed a high interest in the farm life generally. But this all wasn’t enough for me, I had to do something more. And one morning, the moment I woke up, I knew this was it! I knew that the solution was to connect those people with the possibilities that surrounded me.
This day was actually just couple of months ago, in the beginning of September. Right from there I signed up for a business course, started to talk to people about my idea, and looked for people who would share my idea. I travelled around Europe and talked about my idea, which gave me a lot of feedback about similar websites that are popular but not exactly what I had in mind, so I knew that I have to start realising the idea as soon as possible. I just couldn’t leave it, it felt so right!
Why do you believe there will be a demand for your idea?
In Western countries, and also in southeast Asia, virtual animal adoption pages are very popular. Who knows the exact reasons, but I personally think that the reason is somewhere between the fact that people are increasingly moving away from nature, but we are part of it, so we need to be close to it and from the other side, the fact that city people just think animals are cute.
There are loads of pages where you can adopt any animal – after payment, you get a certificate that says you are now an owner or a co-owner of an animal. Yet, there is no website to offer a direct connection with the animals, as our plan is to provide. So our plan is to make this specific market niche a bit more colourful by adding extra value. We have tested the idea on different people from different countries already and the feedback is very positive.
Therefore we have the confidence, the courage and the enthusiasm to enter the market.
How did you get together as a team, and what are your everyday jobs?
Everything started from CouchSurfing and so did the team building. We all met through the community and by chance. It happened when I started to talk about my idea, to spread the word about a new concept, when there were people who stood up, said they loved the idea and “let’s do it!”
We are all very different people, with our own specialities, but there is something we share – first it was the passion for CouchSurfing and now it is the idea of creating something unique and fun.
Photos: My Own Sheep.