Disruptive Women Entrepreneurs
I am in the midst of all these women with exciting, innovative business models that have social causes wrapped up into the core of their businesses. In the first hour that I met my other co-finalists for the Cartier Women's Initiative Awards here in Paris, I knew this experience would be a precious life memory to look back on. Sharing dinner with those seated next to me was proving me right about the diversity of ideas and enterprises that are out-of-the box and fresh, but with the eye to help fields such as disaster relief, sanitary solutions, medical progress and access to job markets.
Seated next to me was American Lindsay Stradley and her German business partner, who handles the technology side, engineer Laura. They had chosen Kenya as their home, and here their company Sanergy was in the midst of building pre-fab concrete Fresh Life toilets in the slums and shanty towns of the developing world. The product is a sanitation unit that is hygienic, yet inexpensive. Their product not only offers hygiene and privacy, but their company has stepped into the whole value chain: from the waste collection system, to the training of the community, to the re-use of the waste for biogas for electricity and fertilizer for crops. They have franchised their sanitation business to the local entrepreneurs so they can also have livelihood.
“What keeps you going, Laura?” I asked her partner, who narrated back that being in Kenya has only helped her see how another part of the world lives. Having grown up in Germany, where everything was within easy reach, in Africa she saw how she had taken so much for granted. “I wake up every morning with a purpose, knowing I am making a change in this place; so I will stay on in Kenya.” Lindsay, who has an upcoming wedding to her Indian engineer fiancé (who is another business partner), seconds the motion by saying, “We are building a sanitation business and here to stay!”