What is 30under30?
30under30 is an Anthill initiative that was launched in early 2008 to encourage and promote entrepreneurship among young Australians. Each year, we invite our readers to nominate young Australian entrepreneurs deserving of recognition for their outstanding entrepreneurial endeavours. Anthill’s editorial team then trawls through hundreds of applications and identifies and profiles the top 30 Australian entrepreneurs under the age of 30. The process culminates in an event held in Melbourne where the 30 winners network and celebrate. We’ve been releasing profiles of this year’s Anthill 30under30 winners via our Twitter account – youngest to oldest.
Age: 26 (b. 1983)
Industry: Science and Education
Company: Butterfly Skye
Girls are not known for having a natural predilection for insects and bugs. However, for Skye Blackburn, insects have been an obsession since childhood. She even built a butterfly release and insect education business, Butterfly Skye, around this passion.
“I am an entomologist and I breed butterflies for weddings and special events,” says Blackburn. In 2008 she won ‘Best New Product’ in the Suncorp Business Awards, sold more than 1,000 butterflies and has increased her educational presentation bookings to over 100.
That said, the business didn’t start off easily. In her first season breeding butterflies, Blackburn lost about 200 a day due to parasitic fly attacks.
“I changed my whole way of breeding butterflies, changed the enclosures so that nothing could get in or out and concentrated more on the quality of the butterflies that I was producing instead of the quantity.”
Soon, demand for Blackburn’s butterflies grew, but she had to knock back customers due to a lack of stock. She overcame this problem by contracting several butterfly breeders located in other states, which allowed her to have several sites breeding butterflies at once on different breeding cycles.
As the winter months are too cold for butterflies, Blackburn expanded her business to sell educational insect life-cycle kits and she conducts educational presentations at schools. During these presentations the children get to touch and hold giant burrowing cockroaches, praying mantids and other creepy crawlies.
Blackburn also runs another unusual business in conjunction with her partner – selling salt water to aquariums.
When asked why she should be featured in this year’s Anthill 30under30 award, Blackburn said, “My business is unique and this will inspire people to think of their own unique ideas for their own businesses. I have a passion for what I do – this has fuelled my success.”
ENTREPRENEURSHIP LESSONS ACCORDING TO SKYE
What motivates you as an entrepreneur?
“I love bugs!!! I am fascinated by them and I want to share this with others. Children are a blank slate and you would be very surprised just how “into” insects they can be. With my business running so well, I have an excuse to keep a lot of different types of insects in my living room and people don’t look at me so weird anymore!! It’s my work.”