Debbie Dekleva is the CEO and Milkweed Maverick of Monarch Flyway, the longest running milkweed business in history. Second generation milkweed entrepreneur, she worked as an apprentice under her visionary and patent attorney father, learning about milkweed, its uses, the monarch butterfly, biodiversity and how to work with Nature rather than against it.
Debbie works with rural communities to stop struggling and start thriving using the renewable, natural resource of milkweed already growing in their area. Debbie works toward realizing the vision of a contiguous pathway for the monarch butterfly migration using market based conservation of milkweed and creating “Profitable Prairies”. These Prairies sequester carbon, protect soil from erosion and degradation, increase water quality and enhance biodiversity. Empowering communities to change lives and landscapes for the better, the goal is to create twenty unique milkweed businesses across the Monarch Flyway from Mexico to Canada and the western migration in California by 2030.
Turning Vision into Reality
July 23, 1941 - April 18, 2020
Pictured Above: Debbie Dekleva, Herb & Karen Knudsen
Herb Knudsen, Debbie's father, was Vice President of New Ventures for Standard Oil of Ohio (SOHIO). As a visionary, chemist and patent attorney, Herb had unique insight into what could be done with milkweed. What first started as a quest for biofuel made from milkweed, the exploratory work at SOHIO laid the foundation for our current products and the development of future offerings.
In 1986, British Petroleum bought SOHIO and eliminated all business functions that did not directly relate to petroleum. Having a passion for the new milkweed project, Herb chose to leave corporate America and continue the Milkweed Project on his own as an entrepreneur. Debbie was his first employee while she was still in High School. Her first responsibility was to file all the research that took place at SOHIO on milkweed, which was a lot. After a few months, it was decision time, how can we make money and stay in business. Herb chose the luxury bedding market for his first value-added milkweed company: Ogallala Comfort, and the rest of the vision is still a work in progress.
In order to fulfill the mission, Debbie is looking to collaborate with brands, entrepreneurs and social enterprises interested in protecting Nature and increasing the viability of rural communities.