Impact Beacon’s 1st birthday is coming up (it’s February 17th and yes, we are planning to make a big deal out of it). With almost a year behind us, we’ve been thinking back on the 30+ social entrepreneur spotlights we’ve published since joining the world of blogging. While every spotlight was a privilege to develop, Chipsafer, Al-Tareeq, and EarthEnable were our favorites from Year 1. Here’s why.
Chrissy Barnum, Creator of Impact Beacon
My 2016 Top Pick: Chipsafer
Founder: Victoria Alonsoperez
Location: South America (Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina)
Founded In: 2013
About Chipsafer: Chipsafer is a wearable device for livestock. Reminiscent of a device like the FitBit, it is equipped with a sensor that tracks the animal’s GPS location and movement. Cattle wear the sensor in a collar, and data on their movement and location is sent remotely from the device to a farmer’s mobile phone or computer. A custom-designed software analyzes the sensor’s data and provides insight into the animal’s health based on the nature of its movement. With the product, farmers receive live information on animals that have strayed beyond their borders, show signs of being ill, and more.
Victoria needed to ensure that the wearable device could regularly self-charge. In her previous experience within the aerospace industry, she worked with CubeSat, which is a small satellite that contains the technology to self-recharge. Victoria applied this self-recharging capability to build a collar that can collect information, transmit it remotely, and self-charge as needed.
The Impact: The possibility ahead of a product like Chipsafer is enormous. A 2013 report by the U.S. National Institutes of Health estimates that the annual impact of Foot and Mouth Disease in terms of production losses and vaccination in endemic regions alone amount to between US$6.5 and $21 billion. Chipsafer may totally overhaul and replace traditional methods for managing livestock, a change that would impact agriculture all over the globe.
Why I Love It: Chipsafer is my top pick for 2016 for so many reasons. Primarily, it is a perfect case study for what happens when someone takes an innovative technology and repurposes it to tackle a different problem. Wearable devices like the FitBit have transformed the fitness and wellness world, and now Victoria is leveraging that technology to overhaul the world of agriculture. Innovation can be as simple as thinking outside of the box, and stretching the boundaries of how a technology is applied.
Beyond that, I love Chipsafer because Victoria, a woman in an emerging South American market, is the start-up’s sole Founder and current Director. She is a woman working in both business and technology and, as a result, exemplary of what happens when women have access to education and professional opportunities. Victoria is by no means the only female founder we highlighted on Impact Beacon this year–we’ve spotlighted many women. However, the innovation behind Victoria’s idea, its huge global potential, and Victoria’s ability to serve as a role model for girls makes Chipsafer my Year 1 top pick.
Aaron Bartnick, Contributing Editor
My 2016 Top Pick: Al-Tareeq
Founders: Aboudi Al-Qattan and Frederik Rading
Location: Middle East (Jordan)
Founded In: 2016
About Al-Tareeq: Al-Tareeq, Arabic for “The Path,” is a nonprofit working to implement summer entrepreneurship courses for high school students across the Levant in order to inspire the region’s youth to create socioeconomic growth. Founded by two Babson College undergraduates, Al-Tareeq was originally just a college club. But this summer, Aboudi and Frederik partnered with the International Medical Corps and a Jordanian aid organization to successfully complete a two-week pilot program teaching entrepreneurship to twenty 14-18 year-old refugees.
The students learned basic principles of entrepreneurship, like ideation and how to then convert their ideas into a business plan, then set to work on their own ideas like recruiting volunteers to clean up their neighborhoods and connecting unemployed men with community improvement projects.
The Impact: After helping 20 teenage refugees through their pilot program, Al-Tareeq is planning to launch three 3-4 week courses for 40 students each, and have already begun reaching out to schools in Jordan, Lebanon, and Dubai to act as hosts. But after already receiving commitments from three schools in Jordan alone, the co-founders admit that they may need to set their sights higher. Their biggest challenge as they seek to scale will be recruiting qualified teachers whom they can trust to run the courses on their own.
To finance this growth, Al-Tareeq will also be expanding its target audience: “The refugee focus is what got us involved,” said Aboudi, “but to be sustainable we’re going to start offering the program to private school students and charge them, so that refugees never have to pay for our services.”
Why I Love It: I love seeing young people who don’t let their age prevent them from doing big things. Aboudi and Frederik are still in college, but they’re trying to tackle a problem–the global refugee crisis–that’s bedeviled generals, presidents, and the United Nations. And they’re actually making a difference. It’s pretty incredible, and I can tell from just my brief conversations with Aboudi that he and his team are just getting started. I can’t wait to watch their organization grow and see what they do next.
Sarah Rogers, Contributing Editor
My 2016 Top Pick: EarthEnable
Founder: Gayatri Datar
Location: East Africa (Rwanda)
Founded In: 2014
About EarthEnable: EarthEnable is a social enterprise that focuses on improved health and living conditions by targeting the ubiquitous problem of dirt floors, which exist in the majority of rural Rwandan homes. EarthEnable provides clean, durable, and affordable earthen floors to low income Rwandans. These floors are made from tightly compressed layers of natural materials such as sand, clay, finely chopped straw, and/or other fibers. Once the layers are packed down and dry, they are coated with treatments of a drying oil to make the floor waterproof. This proven technology is very environmentally sustainable, especially since the EarthEnable team has developed their own form of finishing varnish using locally sourced Rwandan oil.
Although the product is fairly simple, it provides a flooring option that never before existed on the Rwandan market. Gaya has also worked very hard to develop a business model that makes the product more affordable for low income Rwandans. This means that families who never had a feasible alternative to their dirt floor now have the opportunity for a cleaner and healthier floor that will last them many years.
The Impact: About 80% of Rwandans currently live in homes with dirt floors. Dirt floors are the cause of numerous living difficulties, particularly related to health and sanitation. According to the World Health Organization, diarrheal disease is the second leading cause of death in children under five years old. And some studies show a 50% reduction in diarrhea and a 78% reduction in parasitic infection just from having a clean floor. EarthEnable’s floors are directly tackling these health and sanitation challenges.
Furthermore, since the company launched its first product in November 2014, they have installed floors for over 1600 Rwandans. EarthEnable charges USD 4 per square meter, which is 70% less than the traditional cement floor, and they recently launched a new do-it-yourself (DIY) product that they offer to customers at half the cost!
Why I Love It: I think that EarthEnable is among the more rare social enterprises that actually targets the poorest of the poor, the true bottom of the pyramid, as their direct customers. Many other companies “target” the poor, but through a client base of larger NGOs who then supply the product or service to the lower income population. What Gaya has done with EarthEnable really inspires me. She and her team focused on an issue that is truly socially impactful, and then created a product that the Rwandan communities actually want and can afford. I think it is very economically empowering for a low income individual to be able to save and pay for something that is of true value to them. I have a fair amount of experience working in low income communities in Africa, and it’s not often that I have seen businesses do this successfully.
I also love that Gaya cares so much about her customers and providing high quality customer service. She chose to focus more on the long term social impact, and creating an ethical business model for these low income customers, than the short term payout. Once EarthEnable becomes fully self-sustaining, I know that they will do even more amazing things in Rwanda and beyond!
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