Earn as an investor, share as a philanthropist. A deft touch and a great deal of passion are what allow Swiss entrepreneur Carolina Müller-Möhl to juggle her business obligations and social commitments. It’s an arrangement that’s working wonders for her latest acquaintance, too: a female elephant from Kenya.
You’re always on the go for your work and in your private life. Do you like to travel?
Of course! It’s one of my great loves in life. I spend around half of the year abroad. For work it’s mainly in Europe and the USA, while in my leisure time I go further afield. I love to take trips with a cultural angle to them, as they allow me to learn something new. I’m also a fan of adventure holidays. I like to dive, so exploring subterranean worlds is one of the most inspiring things I can do, as is going on safari to see wild animals up close.
Where is your favourite destination?
I’m very fond of Africa. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting a few countries on this fascinating continent, mainly as part of my activities as a philanthropist. I recently joined the board of Space for Giants, an international nature conservation agency that is committed to helping elephants survive and protecting their habitats. I’ve been to a few challenging locations in Africa too, like Kibera, the largest slum in the world, which is in the south of Nairobi. I went there to visit a few school projects.
Carolina is a female elephant who calls the Kenyan bush her home. This meditative mammal was named after you. How did that happen?
My love of elephants is rooted in my childhood. As a girl, there was nothing I wanted more than to have an elephant as a pet. I probably don’t need to mention that it wasn’t an option. I ended up amassing a huge collection of elephant knick-knacks instead. When I turned 50 last year, I wanted to go a step further, which is why I joined Space for Giants. Instead of a birthday present, I asked my family and friends to make a donation to this organisation. My call to arms proved to be a huge success, and to thank me the organisation “gave” me Carolina as a gift. I can now track the journeys she takes at any time thanks to a chip and an app.
You founded the Müller-Möhl Foundation in 2012. What kind of foundation is it and what does it focus on?
We are an operational charitable foundation, which means instead of accepting requests from third parties, we launch our own projects in Switzerland – sometimes in collaboration with partner organisations. Our focus is on education, reconciling work and family life, and libertarian economic and societal policies. These are topics that are hugely important if Switzerland is to have a sustainable future. We want to help female professionals tackle the labour market, whether entering it for the first time, consolidating their position or picking up where they left off after starting a family. Above all else, achieving a better balance between work life and family life requires investments to be made in early childhood care and learning.
You wear three hats yourself: philanthropist, businessperson and committed family woman. It sounds like you have a lot on your plate…
True, and I like to be closely involved in all three areas. I simply love to work. I’m driven by a desire to put things into practice, to move things forward. Whether as an entrepreneur or elected representative, whether I’m with my foundation or fulfilling the role of daughter, mother, partner or friend, I like to give 100 per cent in whatever I do.
So how could someone convince you to skip a business appointment?
It happens more and more often, actually. (laughs) I’d skip it to meet a loved one, have an in-depth conversation or go for a stroll with someone special – that’s what makes me truly happy.
Your husband Ernst Müller-Möhl was a very successful banker. He sadly passed away in a light aircraft accident in 2000. Your son was just two years old at the time. You showed him the world on your own…
We used to go on mother/son trips every year. Africa, China, Russia, you name it. My son is now studying in Los Angeles, which is very much in line with my wanderlust.
How do you recharge?
I do get tired from time to time. I’m happy fulfilling all my roles, though, so I don’t see them as wearing me down, per se. Lately, I’ve been learning to meditate with the help of an instructor.
At the World Peace Congress a decade ago, the Dalai Lama said this: “The world will be saved by the Western Woman.” How about that?
And everyone knows not to disagree with the Dalai Lama. (smiles) What’s clear is that we can’t keep living the way we have been up to now – and that starts with no longer exploiting people and the only planet we have. One important step is to bring about equality for women, create new corporate cultures and improve cooperation between social groups and countries. I’d find the Dalai Lama’s statement even more inspiring if “Western” wasn’t there.
The interview with Carolina Müller-Möhl was published in SWISS UNIVERSE on June 17, 2019.