City Manager Spotlight: Ally Dragozet

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Everyone knows that our program city managers are superstars. However, given the past few weeks, Ally Dragozet deserves an extra round of applause.

After our Summer 2018 Amsterdam program wrapped up, Ally - Founder & CEO of Sea Going Green - buckled down and headed to the TEDxAmsterdamWomen Startup Awards. How did it go? She weighed in to give us the inside scoop:

Can you explain what Sea Going Green does?

“Sea Going Green is a consulting firm that promotes sustainable tourism through sustainable business. Our mission is to alleviate the negative impacts tourism has on marine environments by helping companies implement sustainable practices into their operations without hindering customer experience. As research shows, 73% of Millennials and generation Z travelers are more likely to pay for sustainability and actually expect companies to take action to improve environmental factors. Tourism can cause harm, but doesn’t necessarily have to. It is in the tourism industry’s best interest to conserve the environment as a destination ultimately loses its profitability when it loses its beauty.  Sea Going Green develops and implements Green Transition Strategies for tourism operators that want to #GoGreenForTheBigBlue. Within the Green Transition Strategy is an environmental impact assessment, sustainable marine tourism plan, and best practices report. We develop strategies for tourism operators to qualify for relevant green awards and certificates which is a way for their achievements to be recognised. We also provide training and capacity development to promote ecological awareness and the value of responsible marine tourism throughout the tourism companies. This helps to strengthen and maintain knowledge, skills and experience set to achieve more sustainable tourism. We encourage tourism operators to contribute to the local economies of the countries they visit and to incorporate local communities.

We are also in the process of developing our new app which is going to be like the Google Maps for the marine environment to promote the sustainable use of the seas - more information on this will be released soon!”

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What inspired you to found Sea Going Green?

“As a Marine Biologist, environmental sustainability has always been at the heart of my work. Following my studies at the University of Amsterdam and research projects at WWF & Naturalis Research Institute, I realized that I wanted to offer something different than other consulting services, to really help create formative change in the tourism industry as a whole. Having traveled to many parts of the world and seeing plastic pollution in what would otherwise be beautiful blue waters or pristine mountains definitely was a wakeup call for action. I also used to work at a travel company and absolutely loved it. It allowed me to understand the travel industry from a different perspective.

This is what really inspired me to pursue marine & freshwater biology and look for ways to combine it with my love of travelling, so when the UNWTO (United Nations World Travel Organization) named 2017 the international year of sustainable tourism it clicked that this was the niche space I wanted to build my career in. I started looking for other consulting companies focusing on sustainable tourism but unfortunately could not find any, so I decided to try starting my own!

I did not want to be just another nonprofit waving the green flag for sustainability. Sustainability is a huge selling point and I believe companies should pay to become more sustainable. Of course, advocacy is a huge part of what we do to raise awareness, but we focus on this mainly through our social media channels and speaking events.”

How did you become involved with TEDxAmsterdamWomen?

“Someone from my team actually applied for me to pitch at the TEDxAmsterdamWomen’s Startup Award event in Amsterdam, but I had heard of it the year before when I just started Sea Going Green and I remember saying to myself that next year I would love to be on the TED stage telling my story.”

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What has your experience with the Startup Award process been? what WERE the qualifications for participation, and how DID you GEt to the semi-final phase?

“After Melissa from my team applied for me to pitch at the TEDxAmsterdamWomen’s Startup Awards, I was ecstatic to hear that out of 80 applications we were in the top 25, which meant we were going to pitch at the pre-selection event! Along with the other 24 start up founders, we all prepared and presented our 1 minute pitches to an audience and jury on September 3rd, and I made it through to the semi-finals along with 10 other startups! The qualifications to get into the award were that you were a female founder with an innovative business idea and model with a startup that was less than 2 years old. Once seeing the other semi-finalists, it seemed as though having a sustainability angle was also a qualification because almost everyone had some sort of sustainability angle.

The semi-finals then took place on September 24th, which was the first day of Amsterdam Capital Week - a huge week full of events for startups and investors to meet and mingle. Along with 10 other startups I presented my 5 minute pitch to another jury and audience, and received some great feedback.”

What was the outcome of the semi-finals? Will you be moving on to the final round?

“Unfortunately I was not part of the top 3 that went on to the finals which will take place in December 2018, but regardless enjoyed the ride and made some great connections.”

What has been your biggest takeaway from this experience?

“My biggest takeaway from this experience is that there is an amazing network of females supporting other females in Amsterdam that are part of the TEDxAmsterdamWomen's community! It was great to be part of it and get some great feedback on my pitch and business as well as making some fruitful connections to help us scale further. I will definitely be back next year!”

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Do you have any advice for aspiring female entrepreneurs?

“I would say to always follow your passion. There will be a lot of obstacles, and there will be days where you want to quit, but as long as you believe in your mission and are following your passion you will be able to push through. I always like to say fail forward; going from academia to entrepreneurship there was a lot of hiccups and a huge learning curve, but going through the experience is something I would never take back. I would also tell them to not be scared to ask for help! It is not a sign of weakness, and people are way more willing to help and open up their networks to you than you would think.”

Can you offer any wisdom about how to pitch a company, an idea, and yourself?

“Believe in what you are pitching, whether it be your business, idea or yourself.  People always tell me that I am a natural public speaker and I always have to laugh because this really isn’t the case. I actually have terrible stage fright; in elementary school I couldn’t audition for school plays because I was so nervous about singing in front of an audience, and this continued into my masters program where I would literally freeze mid sentence during a class presentation. I knew I wanted to work on this and I quickly learned that pitching would be a major part of my life founding a startup - so I started practising. A lot. It got easier, but I have to say, presenting about something I am so passionate about was what made me the most comfortable and I was able to get over my stage fright. Now pitching has become second nature to me.”


Congrats, Ally! We can’t wait to watch the continued success of Sea Going Green moving forward!