Business experts often warn against building a venture with your friends.
Dominique Souris (BES ’16, MA ’18) is glad she missed that lesson because now she’s leading a global organization fighting climate change with her longtime friend Ana González Guerrero (BES ’15).
The pair co-founded the Youth Climate Lab (YCL) in 2017 after González Guerrero responded to a Facebook call-out from Souris. That call-out turned into a conversation over drinks at a campus pub and now the friends are supporting projects that reach thousands of people in almost 80 countries.
YCL, which works to accelerate youth-led policy, projects and business, has collaborated with more than 30 partners around the world.
Co-founders inspired by co-op jobs
Both women credit their success to co-op education jobs in the private sector, academia, government and the non-profit sector. Participating in the United Nations’ Conference of the Parties (COP), an international gathering of leaders and young climate activists, was also a game-changer.
“That was a big moment for us,” González Guerrero says. “COP is super hectic. There are thousands of people in a tiny city with not a lot of accommodations, especially when you’re a non-profit with no budget staying in a small AirBnb, where Dominique and I were sharing a couch.”
Souris adds, “It was the first time we were travelling together; sleepdeprived together and hangry all of the time. You learn a lot about a person going through that. When we left COP, I thought, ‘This is my co-founder for life. I realized that we were building something really special.’”
Building a global venture has meant they’ve had to be agile problem-solvers. “At Waterloo, I learned that there are problems everywhere, at all scales, and you may want to solve all of those problems, but it won’t be feasible,” Souris says. "You have to decide what abilities, strengths and passions you bring to the table – and that’s where you direct your energy.
Future-Ready Talent Framework
Dominique Souris learned about systems thinking for the first time during her undergraduate studies in the Faculty of Environment. “Professor Dan McCarthy and Elder Peter Schuler from the Mississauga’s of the Credit First Nation helped me understand that the world is so much more complex than you think, and with different actors and relationships, you can really create better solutions.”