We interviewed Renata Burns to see what drives her to pursue her venture, AdNature:
What’s your why?
I grew up in Blue Mountain near Collingwood, which is an area with lots of outdoor recreation opportunities. When I came to UWaterloo to do an Environment and Business degree, I really didn’t know where to go to hike or what to do for recreation. I would hear about places like Snyder’s Bush, for instance, which is a great area for hiking and cross-country skiing, but no one knew about it and it isn’t somewhere you can get by bus. As I started discovering such places, I realized that there actually were a ton of opportunities for outdoor recreation in this area, and that I wanted to develop a way to let people know about them.
Another source of inspiration for me is the book, The Secret Garden. In this book, there is a boy who is always sick and whose parents want him to stay indoors because of his illness. Eventually a friend takes him outside into this secret garden, and being outdoors played a huge role in his health improving. There are so many mental and physical benefits to being outside and active in nature.
What’s the problem you are solving?
I joined St. Paul's GreenHouse in the fall of 2015 with the thought of a different project, but as my own interest in outdoor recreation emerged, I began to think about how I could make it easier for people to find outdoor recreation activities in their area, and to encourage ways for people to connect to nature and to increase their physical activity. All of these ideas came together and I began to pursue the idea of developing a website that would allow people in the Waterloo Region to know about outdoor recreation opportunities and locations.
In the winter term, I did an e-coop and got funding to hire a team of engineering students to help with the web development, while I worked on customer verification to understand better the need for such a site. I got a lot of feedback from our prototype website. This summer, the website is almost ready to launch and I’m working on making changes to the design and content.
What keeps you up at night?
Right now, I am looking to develop a team who shares my interest in this site. My strengths aren’t in web development so I would love to have team mates who would take this aspect on.
I’m also looking to develop partnerships with the Region of Waterloo and local businesses. Many of them have expressed an interest in working with me on this but want to see a fully developed prototype before they commit, so that’s why my priority is launching the site.
I’m also trying to decide whether this is something I should keep working on for the next three years while I’m in university, even if I work on it slowly, or whether I should put it on hold until I graduate.
- by Susan Fish