Christianna Paul
Christianna Paul

An 18-year-old social entrepreneur is taking the country's tech world by storm through the development of an eco-friendly app with her team Eco Defenders.

Christianna Paul graduated from the Convent High School (CHS) in 2020 and went straight to the University of the West Indies, UWI, Open Campus where she is currently pursuing a Bachelor's degree in Entrepreneurial Studies.

Speaking to The Sun, Paul described a social entrepreneur as someone who "wants to make a real difference, make a change, something that is long-lasting: a legacy."

This changemaker got her introduction to entrepreneurship while attending the St. Martin Primary School.

"It was Valentine's Day and I decided to make little Valentine's gifts to sell at school," she reminisced. "Just the feeling of being able to make something and share it with somebody else and see how it impacted them."

From that young age, Paul knew she had a deep love for developing things – innovative, digital, technological ideas and solutions - that can help make someone's life easier or better. She believes entrepreneurship provided her the opportunity to express her creativity without the constraints of other people's rules or limitations.

"I think that is what entrepreneurship is about, seeing problems, and even seeing problems that do not yet exist, and having a solution for that problem," she said.

In 2016 Paul created her own company, Island Appreneur, and participated in the JA Make Something to Sell Challenge, where she won the Green Award for her creation.

"I noticed that there was the issue of the overuse and misuse of non-biodegradable items in our environment and I decided to develop an app and so I developed IsleTapp," Paul said. The main concept of IsleTapp was to award people for doing small, eco-friendly actions. Unfortunately, due to Hurricane Maria, this app never got off the ground. However, there is a silver lining to this story.

"Flash forward to 2020, I participated in the Caribbean Science Foundation Workshop, where I met my now Eco Defenders, [four other CHS girls who graduated in the same year] and I brought up the idea to them," she said. "And there was this global challenge for girls in technology innovation and they wanted us to take part in it with that idea. And us coming together to partake in this challenge, that is where WePlanet started to bloom."

The app, WePlanet, led the Eco Defenders to emerged semifinalists in that competition. The team won the OECS Island Challenge and were finalists in the Youth Innovation Challenge. Paul says the recognition locally, regionally, and internationally gives the Eco Defenders the reassurance they are on the right path.

To further develop the app, the Eco Defenders signed up for the Dominica Youth Business Trust's (DYBT) Social Entrepreneurship Enterprise Incubator in April of 2020 where the team got critical feedback and support to push the app forward.

The Eco Defenders put the app through a rigorous beta testing phase with the aim of rolling out WePlanet to the wider Dominican public in the first quarter of this year. Paul describes the app as an action-oriented solution.

"Really it's a change-maker, a community builder, a collaborator because the beauty of WePlanet is it's not competing with anyone," she said. "Our success is based on collaboration within the community, the private sector, and the public sector. We are rewarding people for doing eco actions."

During her entrepreneurial journey, Christianna has been the youngest at several seminars and workshops. She admits her age made it difficult for people to take her seriously, but this did not deter her from following her passion. Her advice to other youth who have a strong interest they'd like to pursue: don't let age define the impact that you want to make.

For Christianna and the Eco Defenders the sky is the limit when it comes to WePlanet and app development to provide solutions to existing, and yet to be discovered, problems.