It’s Our 10th Anniversary! A Personal Reflection

It’s been an amazing 10 years in business. Zooniversity was launched on June 1, 2001, with a simple legal filing, a dream, a few thousand in savings, and the non-stop encouragement of family and friends. Way back then we had eight rescued animals (mostly of the pet store variety), one employee (me and maybe one of my kids if I could bribe them), and our marketing efforts consisted of a small classified ad and a simple printed brochure. We taught only 24 wildlife shows in that first year (some for free or for family) and each one was most definitely a humbling learning experience! There were many lessons to be learned in how to do this "right."

Flash ahead 10 years. We now have more than 100 rescued exotic animals (mostly of the zoo variety), five employees (thank goodness), and we market using all possible digital and social media — our website, blog, a very active Facebook page (we just hit 2,000 fans), Twitter tweats, a YouTube channel (just launched), and listings on dozens of web directories. And, we now proudly teach more than 700 wildlife shows each year. We’ve learned many tough lessons over 10 years and our loyal clients seem to genuinely "like us" — more than 70% of our programs are repeat or referral business, and there’s no higher compliment! And, we’ve earned numerous "Best of…" titles, which is very flattering public recognition for what we do.

Image from Zooniversity's first brochure, 2001.So, how’d we get from there to here? I’d like to brag that it all was part of a great master business plan. The truth is that a very tiny piece of our business success was carefully scripted, but mostly, Zooniversity had a mind and direction of its own and it all just happened — usually with me dragging and kicking along with it. I think of our growth as some great plan the Universe had written for us and we were just here for the ride. But, for what purpose?

TO RESCUE: Each of our animals has a story about how they came to us. Most were former pets. Some were ill, injured, orphaned, abandoned, or even abused. Our lives, and hopefully the lives of our audiences, have been touched by our animals’ stories. We’ve nursed back to health more animals than we can count — some survived, some thrived, and some did not. We are forever grateful to our staff of vet techs and zookeepers and to our team of on-call vets and specialists — your expertise provides our animal ambassadors with the finest of care and gives them the best possible shot at a quality life.

TO TEACH: In our 10 years, we estimate we’ve taught more than 350,000 students and adults about the animal kingdom. And our "teachers" are the finest on the planet — the animals themselves. We are wistful when we hear our students recall by name long-gone teachers like "Faith," the blind fox, "Camo," the chameleon, or "Sydney," "Boomerang," and "Sheila," our joey wallabies — great teachers are remembered!

TO INSPIRE A NEW GENERATION: It’s nearly too late for my generation to have a significant impact on our planet’s health, but we hope our programs help to spur a new generation of planet caregivers who have a healthy respect for the delicate balance of nature and the animals we share it with. Every animal, even those not so cute or cuddly, deserve our admiration…and they deserve our protection. Without their presence, our Earth would be a very different place, or perhaps it wouldn’t be here at all. We pray that in our all our efforts, we may instill just a smidgeon (or more) of curiosity in each child, that would inspire them to want to learn more.

Of course, Zooniversity wouldn’t be here at all without YOU and your undying support for the work that we do. Together, let’s celebrate our first 10 years and look forward to the future. What will the next 10 years bring? Whatever that crazy master plan has written in it! We hope you will join us for the continuing wild ride. 

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One Response to It’s Our 10th Anniversary! A Personal Reflection

  1. Lisa, Greta and Corinne Aufforth says:

    Thank you for the library visit. We attended at the Carrollton Josey-Ranch. It was a great end to our summer. Both girls can’t stop revisiting their experiences petting the armadillo and sloth. You do great work.

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