What do bee farmers, deaf people, jewelry artists, mature women and cataract sufferers have in common? Their lives will be improved by budding social entrepreneurs who traveled from as far away as Rwanda and Bangladesh to compete in the 2012 Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition. Winners were announced at an award banquet on March 1, 2012.
Grand Prize $12,500 = Ruby Cup
Copenhagen Business School’s team of graduate students created low-cost, medical-grade, long-lasting silicon cups for women and young girls who menstruate to combat an environmental problem and social stigma in the developing world. They field tested their product in Kenya and are expanding, offering a cup that is reusable and affordable to a community of women who lose out on economic and social opportunities due to existing, sub-par menstrual products or no products at all.
Veronica D’Souza, Ruby Cup general manager says, “When we read about the issues that girls go through in developing countries, it was new to us. We think about clean water and other issues. We couldn’t believe it, as women. We just thought why has no one taken this product to the developing countries? And why does it have to be so expensive? So we made our own product. We found one acceptability study testing the acceptability of menstrual cups in Kenya. There was 90% acceptability.
“We went to Kenya, spoke to women, started our production. We just knew this is where we can make a difference as women and as business students.”
Technology Prize $10,000 = SasaAfrica
SasaAfrica empowers craftswomen in Africa to join the global ecommerce market. While working in the Nairobi slums for the past 2 years Ella Peinovich, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate student, witnessed the challenges women working at or near the poverty line face each day. She and Kate Mahugu, a computer science student at the University of Nairobi, joined forces to create a mobile business model that would provide greater economic opportunity for craftswomen, empowering them to become global entrepreneurs. This second plaze prize was sponsored by Microsoft.
Honorable Mention Prize $5,000 = Greenovation Technologies
Greenovation, founded by Bangladesh students, offers affordable, long-lasting, locally-sourced, patent-pending housing material, called Jutin®, to shelter the vast number of homeless and people living in sub-par housing. They will also create job opportunities for Bangladesh residents to build homes and Greenovations will work with numerous microfinance, non-profit and government organizations to help market and deploy their product. This honorable mention prize was sponsored by the University of Washington Department of Global Health.
Two $2,500 National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance awards went to teams – Dartmouth Humanitarian Engineering and SasaAfrica – that will use the prize money to attend a new venture workshop.
Seattle Rotary also gave $1,500 in prize money to Srujna, an Indian-based company that provides jewelry-making and entrepreneurship skills to women rescued from human trafficking in India.
Microsoft Senior Director of Global Community Affairs Akhtar Badshah served as a judge for the UW Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition and says, “We’ve been funding this competition since its inception. This is the only way we are able to learn and identify young innovators that we as a company can continue to invest in. This may not necessarily be financial investment, but there is a time investment, mentorship investment, technology investment. We are looking for innovative people and innovative ideas that are about to make change, and ways we can put them on an accelerated path.”
Starbucks VP of Global Responsibility Ben Packard (Foster MBA 1998) gave a keynote speech at the award banquet, emphasizing the significance of social justice, saying, “Social entrepreneurship is nothing more than the future of business. The purpose of business must be to provide shared value. This is the new norm. Consumers will punish brands perceived to be out of step with their world view.”
Learn more about the University of Washington Foster School of Business Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition. The 2012 event had record applicants thanks to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation travel grants.