Richael Young - Turning Sustainability into Profitability
We recently introduced a video project highlighting four Cooke Scholar Entrepreneurs, which included the story of Cooke Scholar Richael Young, co founder and CEO of Mammoth Water (formerly Mammoth Trading). In her work there, she has helped create a smart water market where farmers who have a surplus can trade their water rights to those facing shortages and looking to buy. It’s a way to remedy the growing problem of water scarcity in the American West, and she is working to change the larger narrative around water resources stewardship. Richael wants to help people understand that “environmental sustainability is not in conflict with profitability but that rather, they’re complementary and even codependent,” she told us. “This is what we’re about, helping people identify ways in which they can improve their profitability while also reducing their use of natural resources.”
Oddly enough, in her youth Richael was quite convinced that the one thing she did not want to be when she grew up was an entrepreneur. She saw the challenging times her parents went through trying to build their business; but a confluence of circumstances and interests led her to where she is today.
Richael attended University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as both a Cooke Transfer Scholar and a Cooke Graduate Scholar. As part of her work as a grad student, she participated in the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps. It was during this 8-week program where she and her colleague talked to more than 100 farmers that they realized the opportunity they had before them. The trick would be to figure out a way to navigate the challenging legal landscape of water rights and find the right blend of technological solutions and relationship building with their customer base, which is exactly what they’ve done.
Reflecting on her career path and how it’s differed from some of her peers who were not Cooke Scholars, Richael said, “I look at so many of my friends who were just crippled with student debt and who have to make different professional decisions, different financial decisions because of that student debt. I am completely free to do whatever I want to and that I don’t have those kinds of financial constraints,” she said. “I absolutely attribute my financial freedom to the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. There’s no way that I could be an entrepreneur if I had not have that scholarship.”
Mammoth is currently one of ten companies nationwide that have been invited to take part in the TechStars Sustainability Accelerator, where they will receive in-depth training and mentorship that will prepare them for the next stage in the company’s growth. In the video below, Richael talks about her work and the lessons she’s already learned on her entrepreneurial journey.
Explore the interactive stories of more Cooke Scholar Entrepreneurs here.
Find out more about and how you can apply to be a Cooke Transfer Scholar here.