Empowering Maasai WomenAccording to recent statistics, Kenya’s poverty rate has declined sharply to 36.1 percent within a decade. New and improved entrepreneurship practices appear to directly correlate with this significant drop as they provide employment opportunities. Specifically, there has been an increase in female entrepreneurship in Kenya, as well as across sub-Saharan Africa. The Leakey Collection has proved to be a remarkable organization through its support and empowerment of Maasai women in Kenya.

Empowerment through Business

In 2001, a massive drought struck the Rift Valley in Kenya where Philip Leakey and his wife Katy lived. Their Maasai neighbors suffered due to the drought’s impacts on cattle, their main source of income. Many families lost up to three-quarters of their cattle, resulting in the absence of men in search of water for long periods of time. The women stayed home to support their children. Philip and Katy Leakey responded by creating a project allowing women to sustain themselves, and their families while working at home and maintaining their responsibilities.

The project helps Maasai women design and produce a range of jewelry for overseas markets. The Leakeys designed kits for the women consisting of ten strands and an array of colorful beads. The women pick their kits, spread the beads and create strings of jewelry that are checked for quality before export. This allows the women to work flexibly with their schedules. The Leakeys designed this system to avoid interrupting the traditional Maasai lifestyle, empowering Maasai women and cultivating pride and stability in the community. The production morphed from women creating eight strands of jewelry per day to over one hundred in recent years. The project also fosters a stronger community spirit as the Maasai women create their pieces together.

The jewelry is made primarily of zulugrass, a readily available and sustainable resource, and brightly colored Czech glass beads to attract overseas markets. The collection began in Kenya but has now spread to Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Uganda, South Sudan, Mali, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal to reflect a wide array of crafting traditions. The women raise about $100 per month per person for the pieces they craft. Rina Maini came across the collection while vacationing in Kenya. She purchased a significant number of strands to sell and send proceeds to the Maasai women, and still supports the Collection today. “The business is empowering Maasai women by increasing their self-esteem, giving them financial independence and a sense of pride. It is progressive and makes a significant positive difference in their lives,” she told The Borgen Project.

Fair Trade to Combat Poverty

The collection functions by following Fair Trade policies. Fair Trade is a strategy for poverty alleviation and sustainable development that promotes a fair and consistent relationship between companies and workers. The policies aim to develop producers’ independence, security for workers and their families, safe working conditions and justice in the global economic system. Fair Trade offers current generations the ability to meet their needs environmentally, without compromising the needs of future generations through sustainable measures. More importantly, this strategy aims to help empower people to combat poverty and take control of their own lives. More than 1.66 million farmers and workers around the world belong to Fair Trade-certified organizations, and 23 percent of all Fair Trade farmers and workers are women.

Economic Mobility for Women

Fair Trade organizations such as the Leakey Collection reveal a trend of female entrepreneurs rising through the ranks in Kenya. Women have low levels of education compared to men, and they consistently face unemployment and the adverse effects of environmental conditions. However, the number of women who have participated in new levels of economic activity has steadily increased in recent years while the poverty rate of Kenya has declined. One in four adult women is engaged in entrepreneurial activity in sub-Saharan Africa. The majority of these women have low-income backgrounds and live in slums. Such an increase in entrepreneurial activity has exposed a need for increased business education, especially for women who actively participate in the economic and business world.

The Leakeys’ long-term goal is to create a business school in Kenya. They hope to educate women about local and sustainable materials and teach them to create a business and expand to larger markets. In turn, Maasai women can support their families and educate their children to thrive in the global economy. The rise in female entrepreneurship, paired with Kenya’s declining poverty rate, are visceral proof that despite the prevalence of poverty in Kenya, steps are being taken in empowering Maasai women and improving the lives, and futures, of all Kenyans.

– Adya Khosla
Photo: U.N. Multimedia

Social Entrepreneurship in Developing CountriesToday, social entrepreneurship is growing rapidly in size, scope and support. An unprecedented number of organizations are using entrepreneurship as a strategy to address social problems like poverty, at-risk youth and hunger. Social entrepreneurs are developing creative and innovative organizations that give people the tools, education and resources to become an entrepreneur. As entrepreneurs, they can serve their own communities, improving health, decreasing hunger, creating safer environments and accessing clean water. Here are five organizations using social entrepreneurship to help create jobs in developing countries.

5 Examples of Social Entrepreneurship in Developing Countries

  1. The Adventure Project
    The Adventure Project works in developing countries seeking out partnerships with organizations creating jobs for their communities. Some organizations include KickStart, LifeLine, Living Goods, Water for People, and WaterAid. The organization chooses partners based on their measurable social impact, a proven track record of success, and readiness to scale. Since its inception, the Adventure Project has empowered 798 people to find a job. This has led to thriving local economies, improved environmental conditions and even reduced mortality rates. In Kenya, cooking over an open fire posed a huge health risk to both people and the environment. Now, stoves are made and sold locally. Masons create stoves and vendors earn commissions for their sales. And because they’re using 50 percent less charcoal, families are saving 20 percent of daily expenses. In other countries, villagers have been trained as health care agents, selling more than 60 products at affordable prices. These health care agents also care for more than 800 people in their communities.
  2. Indego Africa
    Indego Africa is a nonprofit social enterprise that supports women in Rwanda through economic empowerment and education. This enterprise aims to break intergenerational cycles of poverty. To do so, Indego Africa provides female artisans with the tools and support necessary to become independent businesswomen and drive local development.Partnering with 18 cooperatives of female artisans, Indego Africa sells handcrafted products through an e-commerce site, collaborations with designers and brands and at boutiques worldwide. To develop their entrepreneurial skills, Indego Africa provides artisans with training in quality control, design and product management. Indego currently employs over 600 women, 58 percent of whom make over $2 a day. According to the World Bank, $2 a day marks the entry point into Africa’s growing middle class.
  3. Mercardo Global
    Mercardo Global is a social enterprise organization that links indigenous artisans in rural Latin American communities to international sales opportunities. As a result, this organization helps provide sustainable income-earning opportunities, access to business training and community-based education programs. Mercado Global also increases access to microloans for technology, such as sewing machines and floor looms. Mercado Global believes income alone cannot solve long-term problems. Therefore, the organization focuses on both business education and leadership training. In doing so, Mercado Global enables artisans to address systemic problems within their communities. Artisans are given microloans, ideally to purchase equipment that allows them to work more efficiently. They then pay back their loans, allowing another artisan to attain one. Forty-four percent of Mercado Global entrepreneurs held a leadership position within their cooperatives in the last three years. Ninety-six percent participate in the finances of their households. And 77 percent of women voted in their last community election.
  4. Solar Sister
    Everyone should have access to clean energy. And the team behind Solar Sister believes women are a key part of the solution to the clean energy challenge. In sub-Saharan Africa, more than 600 million people have no access to electricity. Moreover, more than 700 million must rely on harmful fuels. However, women bear the majority burden of this energy poverty and disproportionately shoulder the harmful effects. In order to address this issue and create more equity around clean energy and economic opportunities, Solar Sister invests in women’s enterprises in off-grid communities. By doing so, the Solar Sister team builds networks of women entrepreneurs. Women are first given access to clean, renewable energy. Then, they participate in a direct sales network to build sustainable businesses. Centering local women in a rapidly growing clean energy sector is essential to eradicating poverty. This allows helps achieve sustainable solutions to climate change and a host of development issues. Evidence shows the income of self-employed rural women with access to energy is more than double the income of those without access to energy. For rural female wage or salary workers, access to energy is correlated with 59 percent higher wages. Solar Sister is currently helping over 1,200 entrepreneurs. The team is also partnering with Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, Sustainable Energy for All, U.N. Women and Women in Solar Energy.
  5. United Prosperity
    United Prosperity is a nonprofit organization providing an online lending platform connecting lenders to poor entrepreneurs across the globe. A Kiva-like peer-to-peer loaning system allows anyone with spare cash to guarantee loans to entrepreneurs in need. Lenders select the entrepreneur they want to support and lend any amount they wish. United Prosperity then consolidates the loan amount and passes it on to the entrepreneur through a local bank. For every $1 given by the lender, the bank makes a nearly $2 loan to the entrepreneur through a partner Microfinance Institution (MFI). Once a loan or a loan guarantee has been made, the entrepreneur’s progress is tracked online. When loans are repaid, lenders get their money back. They then have the opportunity to recycle it by lending or guaranteeing the loan to another entrepreneur. These microloans aim to help entrepreneurs, mostly women, grow their small businesses. United Prosperity has transferred more than $280,000 in loans to 1,300 entrepreneurs. Moreover, MFI helps build entrepreneurs’ credit history with local banking systems, thus encouraging more banks to lend to them.

These organizations are wonderful examples of how social enterprises have effectively empowered locals in the social entrepreneurship space. Through innovation, investment in local resources and talent, and measurement practices, these organizations have helped social entrepreneurs around the world to scale and grow. In doing so, they also address social problems like poverty, at-risk youth and hunger in their community. The results have been improved health, increased economic opportunities, safer environments and increased access to clean water and energy.

Leroy Adams
Photo: Flickr

Clean Water to KenyaIt all began with a friend and a teammate. In 2008, while running for the University of West Florida, Chris Hough noticed one of his teammates wore a small beaded bracelet customized with the Kenyan national flag. The bracelet sparked Hough’s interest, and that teammate promised to bring Hough a bracelet when he next returned to Kenya. Unfortunately, that never happened.

Flash forward to 2015. Hough, who worked at Nike, was out on a run when he crossed paths with Paul Chelimo and Shadrack Kipchirchir, two notable faces among Nike runners. Both are members of the military’s World Class Athlete Program and went on to compete in the 2016 Olympics, where Chelimo earned a silver medal in the 5,000 and Kipchirchir finished 19th in the 10,000. On that day, both men were wearing beaded bracelets with the Kenyan flag, the same one that Hough’s teammate wore eight years prior. Hough stopped them, inquiring about the bracelets and eventually striking up a valuable friendship. From that friendship, ArtiKen was born. Now, ArtiKen connects passion with passion, tieing the running community with philanthropic change.

ArtiKen’s Impact on the Ground

Thanks to the notoriety of Chelimo and Kipchirchir, ArtiKen bracelets quickly became popular amongst runners of all ages and skill sets. Olympians, elite athletes and high schoolers alike wear ArtiKen bracelets. However, ArtiKen is more than just a popular brand in the world of running. It is also a company driving positive change by bringing clean water to Kenya.

Currently, 41 percent of Kenyans still rely on unimproved water sources, which are ponds, shallow wells or rivers. Accordingly, 19 million people lack access to clean water, and 27 million people lack access to improved sanitation. Only 9 of the 55 water suppliers in Kenya have the ability to supply clean water on a regular basis. In short, many Kenyans still struggle to find clean water on a regular basis, especially those in rural areas or urban slums.

ArtiKen is striving to help solve the water crisis by bringing clean water to Kenya. The company donates 10 percent of every purchase to clean water initiatives throughout Kenya. The idea was to give back to those who in Kenyan communities because, without them, the company would have never existed. ArtiKen also employs members of the Massai tribe, helping these artists earn a steady income and provide for their families.

ArtiKen Connects Multiple Passions for One Cause

On Medium, Hough writes, “…giving those athletes the opportunity to show support and love through our jewelry is exciting, but more importantly, the ability to provide clean water to those in need is the foundation to our company’s mission— to help eradicate poverty and provide clean water in Kenya one day at a time.”

ArtiKen allows for runners to change the world through a single purchase. The company strives to create a positive impact on both local Kenyan and running communities. Through their simple, yet elegant bracelets, ArtiKen connects passion with passion, by bringing distant communities closer to one another to celebrate both art and athletics and by bringing clean water to Kenya.

– Andrew Edwards
Photo: Google Images

Landmine CrisisLandmines are a destructive weapon of war that often times outlive the conflict they had been implemented for. Today, civilians around the world are inheriting the landmine crisis from both current wars and earlier conflicts. An estimated 110 million landmines are active in the ground right now, killing and maiming more than 5,000 people every year.

The Difficulties of Landmine Removal

Although landmines are an urgent global issue, removing them is painstakingly difficult for three main reasons:

  1. Time—the detection and demining of landmines take a good deal of time. In fact, it is estimated that if landmines continue to be removed at the current rate (with no new mines added), it would take approximately 1,100 years to completely rid the world of them.
  2. Cost—mines only cost between $3 and $30, making them effective tools for combat in both cost and casualty effectiveness. Removing them, however, can cost between $300 to $1,000. Removing all landmines would cost anywhere between $50 to $100 billion. Since most countries affected tend to be poorer, the cost of mine removal can be extremely detrimental.
  3. Risk—most minefields are unmarked. It is not unusual to find mines laid in agricultural fields, around irrigation systems and in forests that provide villages with firewood. (That is if they are not inside the villages themselves). Civilians and professionals alike are at risk of death or severe injuries; for every 5,000 mines successfully removed, one deminer is killed and two more are wounded.

Instead of becoming discouraged by how problematic the landmine crisis actually is, one Indian teen rose to the challenge of innovating smarter landmine removal.

The Inventor of the Mine-Detecting Air Drones

One day, now 15-year-old techie Harshwardhansinh Zala came across a YouTube video of military men who were detecting landmines in an active minefield. While soldiers explained the landmine crisis to their viewers, one landmine exploded. Consequently, the blast killed and injured many of the soldiers present. The video horrified Zala, who felt like he could be doing more to aid in the demining efforts. This spurred him and a few of his friends to begin a startup electronics company named Aerobotics7. Their primary task? To create a prototypical air drone to replace human deminers. Hypothetically, the drone could detect and mark buried landmines while being remotely controlled by an operator at a safe distance.

Zala explains how the drone would work: “Our drone will go on to the field, survey the whole ground, send the real-time signals to the army base station, and our drone will also drop a package to mark the location. The army can detonate the landmines with our wireless detonator, without any human risk.”

Zala plans on giving the finished product to his government to help them safely detect mines.

Although his drone may not decrease the cost of removing mines or speed up the process of demining, it would help spot and mark landmines across the globe, potentially saving the lives of those who might have accidentally stumbled upon an unmarked minefield otherwise. Warning civilians of the dangers around them is the most time-sensitive aspect of the landmine crisis, after all, and though removing all landmines may take centuries, Zala’s air drone could be helping people stay safe today.

Haley Hiday
Photo: Sumit Baruh for Forbes India

Generous Billionaires
The most generous billionaires prefer to start charitable institutes or foundations with experts to distribute their money to worthy causes. Some accept applications for grants; others prefer to seek out organizations. Keep reading to learn more about the top seven most generous billionaires.

Top 7 Most Generous Billionaires

  1. Bill Gates
    The co-founder of Microsoft is now the co-chairman and trustee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, currently the wealthiest foundation in the world. Since 2000, the foundation has spent $36 billion on global health, disaster relief, poverty relief and more. It offers grants to a variety of nonprofits for-profits, and government agencies to carry out data-driven programs. The organization focuses on issues such as global health, such as vaccinations, malaria eradication and safe disposal of human waste.
  2. Chuck Feeney
    This entrepreneur and real estate mogul has earned the nickname “James Bond of Philanthropy.” He is an Irish-American who became a billionaire in the 60s and 70s. But in 1984, he agreed to sign away everything to his foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies. In 2003, he decided to spend his entire fortune in his lifetime, or, as he puts it, “giving while living.” Atlantic Philanthropies is currently in eight countries and has given away $8 billion to “promote fairness and equity for all.” Chuck Feeney’s generosity index (amount given versus current net worth) is 420,000 percent. The foundation is expected to close its doors in 2020 when he achieves his goal of giving everything away.
  3. Warren Buffett
    Warren Buffett is the most charitable billionaire in America, outranking even Bill Gates. He has given away $46 billion since 2000, about 71 percent of his fortune. The Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, named in honor of his late wife, pledged $150 million a year in grants to help disadvantaged women by making reproductive healthcare accessible, in addition to other social causes. He has created the now-famous Giving Pledge, in which he calls on generous billionaires to donate half their wealth.
  4. Azim Premji
    The chairman of information technology company Wipro, Azim Premji, dedicates his wealth to improving India’s primary education. Rather than distributing grants, Premji’s foundation, the Azim Premji Foundation, chooses to work with state and local governments to build schools, write curriculum, buy supplies and many other tasks.  He has given away $21 billion and reached 3.5 billion schools. When the foundation could not find enough teachers, Premji created the Azim Premji University to focus on education and development. His donations make him the most generous man in Indian history.
  5. Michael Bloomberg
    The founder and CEO of Bloomberg Media, Michael Bloomberg has given $6 billion through his foundation Bloomberg Philanthropies and has promised half his wealth to the Giving Pledge. His philanthropy is focused on five areas he is passionate about: the environment, public health, the arts, government innovation and education. He is particularly drawn to global warming and other issues, where others might refuse to act due to controversy.
  6. Sheikh Sulaiman bin Abdulaziz bin Saleh Al Rajhi
    Al Rajhi began his career in 1939 at age 10 as a kerosene seller. In 1957, he and his three brothers co-founded the Al Rajhi Bank. The bank saw great success during the oil boom of the 1970s. The family is currently Saudi Arabia’s richest non-royal family. His charitable institution currently funds 1,200 projects across the kingdom. He has given approximately $5.7 billion toward educational, health and religious causes.
  7. George Soros
    After nine years as a successful hedge fund manager, George Soros created his charitable Open Source Foundations. “Open society is based on the recognition that our understanding of the world is inherently imperfect…what is imperfect can be improved,” says Soros on the name of his foundation. His first venture started by offering scholarships to black South Africans and Eastern European dissidents at the University of Cape Town to study abroad. It is now the second-largest American charity, behind the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Soros has given $8 billion to Open Source Foundations.

According to Forbes, there are more than 2,000 billionaires in the world. Many only donate a nominal amount to charity. The generous billionaires on this list have been chosen not by the dollar amounts of their donations, but the percentage of their fortune they have given away.

In 2010, the Gates partnered with Warren Buffett to create the Giving Pledge, a commitment by wealthy individuals to give over half of their wealth away. The Pledge started with 40 individuals but has since grown to 190. Buffet stated, “More than 99 percent of my wealth will go to philanthropy during my lifetime or at death. Measured by dollars, this commitment is large. In a comparative sense, though, many individuals give more to others every day.”

Jackie Mead
Photo: Google Images

10 Innovations That Tackle World HungerOne of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals is the elimination of poverty. This is necessary to achieve worldwide prosperity. Billions of dollars have been spent on projects attempting to eradicate and reduce poverty. However, many of these projects have failed. The eradication of poverty has been an international focus for several years. While its causes are worrying, its effects are more damaging.

As poverty grows, individuals and communities around the world have been motivated to act. Private companies are growing socially responsible. Individuals are boycotting companies that exploit communities suffering from poverty. And nongovernmental organizations are establishing independent and unique projects. More significantly, entrepreneurs and innovators are inventing products to help reduce poverty. This article lists 10 innovations that tackle world hunger.

10 Innovations that Tackle World Hunger

  1. Safari Seat
    Access to wheelchairs in rural areas of developing countries is incredibly low. Safari Seat is one invention that tackles this issue. Its production is low cost and the company is located in Kenya. Safari Seat is made up of bicycle parts and controlled by hand levers and durable wheels.
  2. NIFTY Cup
    Child malnutrition in Africa is a major obstacle. Many infants struggle to nurse, which can ultimately lead to death. It costs as little as $1 to produce a NIFTY Cup, however, its impact is tremendous. The cup is designed to make milk more easily drinkable is also reusable.
  3. LifeStraw
    This innovation is one of the most important among the 10 innovations that tackle world hunger. LifeStraw addresses access to clean water. Eleven percent of the world’s population lacks access to drinkable water. And the effects of drinking contaminated water can be deadly. The straw-like product includes a filtration system that filters contaminated water as it is used.
  4. M-Farm
    M-Farm is a digital technology allowing Kenyan farmers to receive up-to-date pricing information on their products. This eliminates the corruption of middlemen who usually receive more profit than deserved. Kenyan farmers particularly suffer from issues with middlemen as they lack high levels of internet access.
  5. Wonderbag
    Areas where poverty is present usually lack basic needs, such as access to electricity. However, Wonderbag doesn’t let that stop anyone from cooking. Wonderbag is a slow cooker that requires no electricity to use, allowing those without electricity to still cook their food.
  6. Feedie
    Feedie is a project run by the Lunchbox Fund which allows you to donate a meal to a child somewhere in the world simply by sharing the picture you took off your food. This is significant as social media already encourages food bloggers to share pictures of food, making Feedie an easy way to help tackle world hunger.
  7. Mazzi
    Developing countries often lack methods for collecting food without spilling and wasting it. This occurs specifically in the collection of milk. Mazzi is a 10-liter plastic container that is designed for collecting and transporting milk safely with no losses.
  8. Eco-Cooler
    Eco-Cooler is a simple invention that cools down unbearably heated huts. It is made up of recycled bottles that are built up in a way that attracts cool air into homes, helping keep conditions cool for both people and their food without air conditioning or refrigeration.
  9. Lucky Iron Fish
    Lucky Iron Fish is an iron, fish-shaped object that can be placed in a pot of boiling water when cooking to enhance iron levels in the meal. Iron deficiency is the most widespread nutritional disorder in the world. Therefore, Lucky Iron Fish is a significant innovation in tackling world hunger because it helps those without access to iron-rich foods.
  10. Humanium Metal
    This initiative turns disarmed weapons from areas of conflict into “humanium” blocks by recycling metal from destructed guns. Humanium Metal then sells these blocks to companies, for instance, blocks sold to H&M are used for buttons. Violent conflicts are a major cause of poverty and world hunger. Therefore, this unique approach recycles destructive materials for a constructive cause.

Njoud Mashouka
Photo: Flickr

Three Companies that Are Creating Equal Opportunities
Entrepreneurship, the process of taking what seems like a simple idea and transforming it into a sustainable business model, may seem like a linear, almost formulaic path on the surface. 
Find a need, conduct market research, tailor a solution to that need, market your product, and just like that, a startup is underway.

And while there may seem to be a linear path for entrepreneurship, founders of startups often have to wear multiple hats, one of them being the investor hat. Startups need funding and need to raise capital in order to expand their business models. However, historically, funding and advice had only been given out to people who are already wealthy. Recently, there has been a global movement to fund startups from people of all different diverse backgrounds and ages.

In this article, three companies that are allowing everyone to have equal opportunities of succeeding, including people in developing countries, are presented.

Pioneer

Pioneer aims to bridge the talent opportunity gap. Pioneer is an experimental fund that aims to identify and nurture high-potential people. The group, comprised of three people, aims to use internet tools such as global communication and crowdsourcing to find talented candidates from a diverse range of fields.

Founder, Daniel Gross, was an 18-year-old student in a military school in Israel who sent in an idea to Y Combinator on a whim. After being accepted into the accelerator program, he was able to grow his company and eventually sell it to Apple. Now, Daniel Gross launched Pioneer, to identify talented people across the world who may not have equal opportunities.

Pioneer allows people to submit projects and have other candidates vote for each others’ projects in a leaderboard manner. The winners of these tournaments receive grants and flights to San Francisco, where they can meet with advisors, venture capitalists, and other idea makers.

Y Combinator

A slightly more established program is an American seed accelerator- Y Combinator. Y Combinator selects 120 companies every year and provides them with a seed funding amount of $120,000, along with access to an accelerator program that includes mentorship opportunities with successful entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.

Y Combinator provides seed funding to startups and nonprofits and has a special mission for social entrepreneurship. Additionally, Y Combinator is extending its global outreach, meeting with founders in Nigeria, Mexico, Israel, India and many other countries. Deemed as one of the world’s most powerful startup incubators, Y Combinator allows people from all over the world to bring their ideas to fruition.

The Thiel Foundation

Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal and early Facebook investor, founded the Thiel Foundation to fund breakthrough technologies and nonprofits that engage with human affairs, government and technology.

Within the Thiel Foundation, there are three projects that provide people with equal opportunities in capitalistic society. The Thiel Fellowship offers $100,000 to students under the age of 20 to drop out of school and pursue their work, whether that be a social movement, startup, or scientific research. The second project, Imitatio, funds research and education on philosophical theories. Finally, the third project is titled Breakout Labs. Breakout Labs distributes grants to early-stage scientific research.

The underlying theme in all three projects is that there are funding opportunities for just ideas, even if they are not fully formulated or show tangible proof of concepts. Programs like the Thiel Fellowship and Breakout Labs provide a platform for visionary people who may have a world-changing idea but do not have the means to pursue it.

Opportunities like the Thiel Foundation, Y Combinator and Pioneer are using their global network to bring together people with high talent, exceptional ideas, and daring visions. Regardless of their socioeconomic background, people from all over the world can apply for these equal opportunities, making an impact not just in their community, but around the world as well. These companies can be especially useful and beneficial for people in developing countries, allowing them to compete fairly easily in a global market.

– Shefali Kumar

Photo: Flickr

Female Entrepreneurs in Latin AmericaThe entrepreneurial spirit is catching in South America. According to the World Bank, 63 percent of Latin Americans believe they have what it takes to start a successful business. Meanwhile, local governments are offering support to local entrepreneurs. In Chile, the environment is so strong for startups that it has been dubbed “Chilecon Valley.”

Despite this, there is still widespread poverty in the region. An estimated 25 percent of the population lives below the poverty line of $4 a day. The situation is even worse for women, as only 53 percent participate in the labor force. Fortunately, three women are aiming to change that by helping their local communities and being role models for prospective female entrepreneurs in Latin America.

Leila Velez

Leila Velez is a Brazilian entrepreneur who is aiming to bring the efficiency of waste management in the fast food industry to beauty salons. She started her business, Beleza Natural, at 19 years old with the hope of bringing the accessibility of places like McDonald’s to the beauty industry. Now, her company has locations all over Brazil and employs 3,000 people, many of whom Velez says are single mothers in their early 20s.

While Velez may have modeled aspects of her salons after fast food, she did not want them to become another low paying job people take on temporarily. She wanted to provide career opportunities that give her employees sustainability in life. She says working at her salon is the first job of 90 percent of her employees and she wants her company to offer the opportunity to build a career rather than be a temporary stop.

Jimena Flórez

When Jimena Flórez began her initiative to educate rural farmers about sustainability, she had no idea it would lead to an international snack food company. Chaak Healthy Snacks, originally called Crispy Fruits, works closely with local Colombian farmers to provide healthy snack foods like low sugar brownies to 90,000 kids per month.

Flórez’s company started out trying to help out local Colombian farmers by helping them use organic techniques she learned from relatives in Germany. When she visited her family’s German brewery after college, she knew she could bring the information back to help Columbians. This led to a dry fruit company that later rebranded to healthy snack foods to appeal to an international audience.

In 2015, former President Barack Obama invited Florez to attend a Global Entrepreneurship Event where he thanked her for “helping to lift up his community.” As one of six young entrepreneurs invited, Florez is primed to expand and continue to provide healthy snacks all over the world as one of the many rising female entrepreneurs in Latin America.

Marian Villa Roldán

Being a female entrepreneur is difficult anywhere, but in Latin America, where a certain level of masculinity called “machismo” is integral to the culture, it is more difficult. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean found that 40 percent of Latin American women have been on the receiving end of violence in their lives. This negative attitude toward femininity goes all the way to the top, where only 17 percent of executive positions are held by women.

Marian Villa Roldan and her company Eversocial are out to change that. Eversocial, an online marketing and design company, has supported numerous initiatives that empower Latin American women, including PionerasDev, which helps teach young women how to code. Eversocial has also supported Geek Girls LatAm, a similar organization that helps Latin American women get into STEM fields.

Success for Female Entrepreneurs in Latin America

Latin American women pursuing careers in entrepreneurship are succeeding in a tough environment, but they do not let that stop them from giving back to their communities. Whether it be through providing employment, offering a helpful product, or supporting noble causes, these women fight poverty and serve as role models for the next generation of female entrepreneurs in Latin America.

– Jonathon Ayers
Photo: Flickr

Resourceful EntrepreneursThe contrast between Western and Indian approaches to entrepreneurship is striking. Western organizations spend lots of money on R&D, while Indian entrepreneurs specialize in creating something from extremely limited resources.

“Jugaad” is the Hindi word for finding cheap solutions in a smart way. Indian entrepreneurs are frugal and have a knack for making the most of limited resources.

Their thinking is creative, and they are willing to consider nontraditional solutions. These resourceful entrepreneurs also tend to introduce people into the formal economy who could not previously access it.

In developed countries, customers will pay $3,000 for a fridge that talks to them, while a poor Indian can purchase a fridge for $30. This clay fridge uses the evaporation of water to keep produce fresh without electricity.

India’s method of innovation is worth considering for Western organizations who are trying to improve conditions in developing countries. Instead of pouring money into a structured innovation process, companies could attempt to formulate solutions based on the resources and materials available in a region.

The Raspberry Pi, an ultra-low-cost-computing device, is an example of a Western idea that has adopted the principles of resourceful entrepreneurs. The Raspberry Pi was created to address the lack of college computer science applicants who had experience tinkering with computers.

In the 1980s and 1990s, a computer user had to learn some programming to be able to interact with a computer, but modern computers can be used without any understanding of how computers work. Raspberry Pi was meant to allow kids to experiment with technology to gain a valuable understanding of its functioning. The low price was made possible by an open source method of designing the device, so anyone could analyze the device and contribute to its improvement online.

The Raspberry Pi is an exposed board computer, so users can literally see how the device works. Users must connect a mouse, keyboard and monitor to the device and load their own applications in order to use a word processor or browse the Internet.

The VS-Pi program has used the Raspberry Pi technology to increase access to educational materials in Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand. The fully assembled computer costs only $65 and comes with personalized educational materials in the local language and with relevant content.

The devices have content targeted to a specific community related to education, health, agriculture and finance. The system does not require Internet access and uses little electricity.

The Raspberry Pi’s successful use of cheap materials, creative design methods and expansion of economic opportunities illustrates the value of the methods of resourceful entrepreneurs. Especially in regions with limited access to resources, simple solutions that are “good enough” have the most impact.

Kristen Nixon

Photo: Flickr


Sixteen entrepreneurs had the chance to present their companies’ plans at the United States Institute of Peace this past month. These entrepreneurs from all around the globe have developed business ideas to help alleviate global poverty and meet the U.N’s Sustainable Development Goals. They had the opportunity to pitch these plans at the Unreasonable Goals Global Event Summit, an annual event hosted by the private holding company Unreasonable Group in Washington, D.C.

The Unreasonable Group brings together for-profit enterprises seeking social change and connects investors to their initiatives. The Group’s main goals in this endeavor are clearly stated, they are: to increase the flow of investment dollars to these initiatives, to accelerate the rapid-growth of effective entrepreneurial solutions, to establish public-private relationships between the world’s largest institutions and the most impactful entrepreneurs and to see a short and long term measurable impact for millions of people’s lives through these companies. The group’s goals are all framed around helping achieve the U.N’s Global Goals, signed two years ago, and which have a concrete deadline of 2030.

In 2015, 193 countries signed onto a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals at the United Nations which strive to achieve several ends. These include ending global poverty and global hunger, ensuring good health and wellbeing for all, fighting inequality and tackling climate change. Under these 17 goals, the U.N. outlines 169 concrete targets for the 193 signatories to be achieved by 2030; they are also actively keeping track of work done so far and further outlining what is still needed.

At the first Unreasonable Goals Global Event Summit this year, there were several presentations of business ideas to help alleviate poverty that ranged from mobile health applications to clean water start-ups. One notable pitch was that of CEO Emily Stone of Uncommon Cacao. In her presentation, she claimed that 90 percent of cacao farmers are locked in poverty, earning a mere $2 per day; the mass consumption of cheap chocolate bars across the world, especially developed nations, perpetuates this situation. Her company, then, seeks to combat the commodification of the cacao supply chain by paying more directly to the farmers for better quality chocolate and thus helping lift them out of poverty.

The Unreasonable Group is demonstrating how achieving the U.N’s goals and constructing a better world is not solely in the hands of governments. By empowering entrepreneurs with business ideas to help alleviate global poverty they are softening the burden on centralized authorities and helping to catalyze the achievement of the sustainable development goals.

Alan Garcia-Ramos

Photo: Flickr