Have you ever felt too young to create a business or have a significant impact on other people?
Or, are you quite confident but worry that your business lacks the strong social element necessary to make a real and direct impact on other people’s lives?
Maybe you also have a thousand questions about where and how to start, and how to find funding for your business, create a sustainable business model, and attract other talent to your business.
If so, you’re in the right place! Our purpose with this story is to show you examples of other young people who were confident enough to launch their social businesses and create an important impact on other people.
Paula is a mechanical engineering student and the cofounder of SWEET, a project working toward providing sustainable water to rural communities in Colombia. Like the others we’ll introduce you to today, Paula’s story highlights how social entrepreneurs are in a position to provide solutions to modern problems.
Paula realized that some rural Colombians faced huge everyday problems due to a lack of clean water. Initially, she started developing her solution with the help of her university’s start-up accelerator.
After some time, she knew that in order to move forward, she would need to focus her efforts on developing SWEET. She soon found out about the Watson Institute’s Semester Incubator for Social Ventures. This program is one of the best in the world, and encourages and supports young entrepreneurs taking on social problems around the world.
After, Paula called the Watson Institute’s Incubator program “the most enriching experience I’ve ever had.” Concretely, she said she gained these benefits, “I developed a significant part of a human-centered framework to develop water solutions with community input from start to finish, ready to be put to the test in the coming months. I participated in several pitching competitions, learning how to leverage particular angles depending on the audience, winning some funding, and making meaningful connections.’’
While Paula is on her way to positively impacting thousands of people in rural areas of Colombia, let’s move on to another inspiring young entrepreneur.
What is something you have in your home but no longer need after using its contents? You’ll probably first list the different types of plastics that producers use now to package almost everything including juice, milk, and even fruit.
Imagine if all those tons of plastic packaging that humans produce every day could be recycled and turned into beautiful construction products. We could not only clean up our environment but also enable affordable, quick construction.
This genius idea was invented by Kenyan entrepreneur Nzambi Matee.
Ms. Matee, a material scientist and graduate with a BSc. in Physics from JKUAT, is the founder of Gjenge Makers. The aim of the Nairobi-based social enterprise, she explains, is to tackle the ongoing problem of plastic waste pollution.
She does this through a process of recycling and upcycling plastic into durable construction products such as brick and tile.
With her innovative solution, Nzambi kills two birds with one stone: first, cleaning up one of the worst polluters of our environment (plastics) and second, producing durable construction products through plastic recycling.
In fact, she’s actually killing three birds with one stone, because her plastic waste construction products are also way more affordable and more easily assembled than traditional brick, for example.
She says, “After casting the columns, construction work becomes easy. Since bricks are already pre-molded and precast, it is only a matter of stacking them together using steel beams to reinforce them. This eliminates the need for mortar and makes the process less laborious.’’
Also, the resulting house is less costly and takes less time to build, since no time is spent mixing mortar and placing it between bricks.
This leads to a massive reduction in time and construction costs. Nzambi believes she and her team could build a two-bedroom house in one month, costing a little over $7,000.
Nzambi is also a graduate of the Watson Institute. You’ll remember from Paula’s story, the Watson Institute is known for helping young social entrepreneurs turn their ideas and early-stage projects into world-class innovations.
Nzambi is obviously on the right path to helping resolve two pressing global issues: increasing environmental pollution and increasing housing costs. We wish her the best of luck!
Our next featured student is working to tackle a major world health issue. We can probably all agree that good health is one of our most precious assets. But, did you know that iron deficiency is the world's most common micronutrient issue? This problem impacts the lives of half of the world's population, mainly women and children.
Meet Gavin, who has developed a simple solution to combat iron deficiency.
It’s called the Lucky Iron Fish and it’s a simple, at-home fortification tool.
Gavin and his team created a product that is boiled for ten minutes as part of food preparation. It releases around 40% of a person's daily required iron intake into the food being prepared.
As you saw with the other social enterprises, they usually don’t have just one positive impact. The same applies to Gavin’s invention.
The Lucky Iron Fish improves the health of people suffering from iron deficiency and also saves them a ton of money on iron supplements needed to maintain their health and wellness.
As you can see, everyday problems faced by ordinary people need simple solutions, which can translate into businesses that both employ new people and innovate to solve those problems.
If you’re feeling motivated to be a hero in your community and help it thrive but are unsure how to start, build a team, validate a product, and find funding, we highly advise you to join the Watson Institute’s next Incubator cohort.
Best of luck, and don’t forget to update us about your successes!