Those of us who stockpiled all manner of perishables in anticipation of Hurricane Sandy and then lost power for days know the futility of the exercise. After the lights went out we likely wondered if there were some better way to protect our food supplies long enough to actually use them. Somehow these inconveniences seem slight when compared to the urgency of 1.6 billion people in the developing world living with no refrigeration and the prevailing threat that hunger presents, the world’s number one health risk. As much as an astounding 30% of the world’s food supply is lost to spoilage each year.
Use It or Lose It
Enter an American, modern-day Renaissance girl, Kavita Shukla, who is the brainchild of FreshPaper, a five-inch square sheet infused with edible ingredients can be dropped into a crisper bin, fruit bowl, or anywhere you store produce (no wrapping necessary) to inhibit bacterial and fungal growth as well as the enzymes that cause over-ripening. The result, a way to keep produce fresh for up to four times longer than has so far been possible. With the potential to revolutionize the food industry, it’s also safe, organic, biodegradable, and low-cost.
Massachusetts-based Fenugreen, founded by Shukla and a doctor friend, produces FreshPaper, named after its key ingredient, fenugreek—a spice used in Asia and the Mid-East. It all started when Kavita was a 13-year-old Maryland student visiting family in India. She accidentally gulped a mouthful of questionable tap water while brushing her teeth. Her grandma then mixed a generations-old medicinal brew of herbs and spices for Kavita to drink to ward off any ill side effects. It worked, and she didn’t get sick. But when she returned home to the U.S., the keenly inquisitive Kavita decided to think of other applications for the concoction. She tried coating paper with the botanical mixture. Placing it alongside a crate of Clementines in the fridge drawer, she learned that the treated inserts only needed to be in the general vicinity of produce to work their magic. By age 17, Kavita was awarded her patent for FreshPaper, reinforcing the hope that she might be capable of inventing simple things that could improve people’s lives.
A year and a half ago four tornadoes cut a forty-mile swath through central Massachusetts taking a sorely unprepared region by storm. Lives were lost, and homes, businesses, and schools were reduced to rubble. The small town of Monson witnessed the biggest twister of the pack, an EF3 tornado with 160 mph wind gusts, leaving the town with no power, no running water, no answers. The damaged Monson home of two college-aged sisters, rendered unlivable, would displace their family for a year.
In the immediate days that followed, Caitria O’Neill a recent Harvard grad, and Morgan O’Neill an MIT undergrad, were blown away by more than the destruction to their community of 8,500. Monson, like many cities and towns facing for the first time Mother’s Nature withering wrath, was caught flat-footed. “We were waiting for the large organizations to rush in to save the day with capes on, and that’s not actually what happens,” said Morgan O’Neill. “They’re good at specific things and no one else can do what they do.” Like figuring out insurance, where to find resources, and how to notify your family you’re okay. But it wasn’t everything that needed to be done. Like, say, tarping an exposed roof. In search of a hot meal, her family went to Monson’s Protestant church-cum-community center. Organizational structure was nonexistent, and the sisters stood eager to harness locals, donations, and resources in a way that might help.
See how these two enterprising young women have created a worldwide support system that has given girls and women around the world a chance to collaborate and fund their entrepreneurial projects. Mothers of Invention is sponsored by Toyota.
The idea for an innovative virtual community, known as girltank, is rooted in a story of two enterprising young American women. One is a former magazine editor and the other, a Yale University senior. They met and created a support system to give girls and women worldwide a chance to incubate entrepreneurial projects addressing global issues.
While still a teen, Bay Area-based activist Sejal Hathi founded the non-profit, Girls Helping Girls. Encouraging social change, the NGO raised money for scholarships, shared curricula across borders, and combated sex trafficking. In her short years, she’s also garnered a U.S. Presidential scholar award, addressed TED conferences and World Bank members, mingled with heads of state, and was dubbed one of CNN’s “Young People Who Rock” and one of Newsweek’s “150 Women Who Shake the World.”
For her part, Tara Roberts authored two critically acclaimed young adult books, What Your Mama Never Told You and Am I the Last Virgin? exploring social issues facing today’s black youth. And as an editor for the likes of Essence and CosmoGirl, one of her job responsibilities was to track down and nominate candidates for an annual magazine award acknowledging the outstanding social accomplishments of teens. That’s where Tara first connected with Sejal. Once print publishing began downsizing in 2008, Tara decided to take her considerable skills on the road and find “amazing girls doing amazing things” in places like Africa, Asia, and Europe whose stories she could chronicle. And thus the notion for girltank began to take shape.
Last year, Jessica O. Matthews and Julia Silverman gave social enterprise a new spin that would show the planet how doing good and doing good business didn’t have to be mutually exclusive.
Jessica O. Matthews and Julia Silverman, Co-Founders, Uncharted Play, Inc.
The young women met three years earlier as juniors at Harvard University. Aspiring social scientists with no engineering know-how, they teamed up on a class project that ultimately morphed into a useful invention—a soccer ball that’s also a portable, eco-friendly energy generator. Called the “sOccket,” the ball harnesses energy from rotating in play with technology that converts motion into power. The unique ball stores three hours of electricity after just thirty minutes of use. Small appliances like LED lamps, cell phones, mini refrigerators, and water sterilization devices can be plugged in and recharged. The world of play, they realized, was truly uncharted territory. Their innovation could address real issues facing developing countries like the fact that twenty-five percent of the world’s population is living without reliable electricity.
After graduation, Matthews and Silverman set up shop in New York City for their fledgling company, Uncharted Play, to further develop the sOccket and other functional products. Earlier this year they were awarded a ‘Toyota Driving Solutions’ philanthropic grant at the third annual Newsweek Daily Beast Women in the World Summit. They’ve also garnered kudos from a former president, educators, and high-ranking government officials for having taken a beloved worldwide sport and using it to achieve good. Happy with their progress, the twenty-four-year-olds are even more excited about where they’re going.
Last year, Jessica O. Matthews and Julia Silverman gave social enterprise a new spin with the creation of the sOccket, a soccer ball that’s also a portable, eco-friendly energy generator. Now, they are raising the bar again with their new invention, the Ludo.
Talia Leman came up with an effective business model that empowers kids to solve global problems when she was only 10 years old.
At Newsweek / Daily Beast’s Women in the World summit.
Toyota honored female innovators at Newsweek and the Daily Beast’s third annual Women in the World Summit on Saturday, pledging $50,000 in grants. The grants will to go a principal of a Detroit high school for pregnant teens, the 17-year-old founder of Randomkid.org, and to two Harvard graduates who invented a soccer ball that converts play into energy. Asenath Andrews, founder and principal of the Catherine Ferguson Academy for Young Women in Detroit—whose school helps pregnant teens graduate and succeed at college—received the "Mother of Invention" award alongside Talia Leman, founder of a website that engages kids with social causes, and Jessica O. Matthews and Julie Silverman, whose "Soccket" ball serves as both a toy and an electricity source for kids in rural Africa.
Talia Leman came up with the basis for RandomKid, an organization that enables children to solve problems across the globe, when she was only 10 years old. Eight years later, she’s one of the world’s most effective philanthropists.
At 10 years old, Talia Leman already had the business acumen of a self-made billionaire. After being struck by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, she decided to help the storm’s victims by trick-or-treating for coins instead of candy during Halloween—but coins from one kid wouldn’t be enough. She realized that by harnessing the fundraising power of kids across the country, she’d raise more than she could on her own. At that moment, the basis for RandomKid was born. With the help of her parents, Leman mobilized a national network of concerned kids ultimately raising $10 million for hurricane relief almost overnight, putting them in the same league as some of the country’s biggest corporations.
CEO and a Founder of RandomKid, Talia Leman.
Seven years later, Leman is the CEO and Founder of RandomKid, a nonprofit based on the fundraising power of children, having raised more than $11 million for different philanthropic projects across the globe. The objective of RandomKid is to give children the seed money and resources to turn their fundraising ideas into reality. From clean drinking water to building a school in Cambodia, 90 percent of the money RandomKid raises goes toward their projects, while 10 percent is reinvested in a seed pool devoted to developing more ideas from more random kids around the world. Leman, who just reached voting age, describes her organization’s process as microloaning with huge return–between 500 and 1,000 percent.
“I love the business side of things … that’s my favorite part,” she says. To hear her speak is to hear that passion combined with the heart of a do-gooder and the simplicity of a child.
When Asenath Andrews saw that pregnant teens in Detroit were being tossed to the side, she created the Catherine Ferguson Academy—a school, home, farm, and safe house rolled into one.
Principal Asenath Andrews has been like a surrogate mother to thousands of teen moms in Detroit. When she first started working with pregnant teens, Andrews taught in a school that was more a space where girls waited to give birth rather than an institution of learning. Dismayed by an early education program that consisted of a giant crib for the babies who weren’t given up for adoption, she decided to create a healthy environment for teen moms and their children by founding the Catherine Ferguson Academy in 1986.
Today, students drop their children off at the on-site nursery before going to class. Throughout the day, Andrews, an ever-present authority, peppers the girls with sayings like, “When you had a baby only the baby came out, your brain didn’t.”
Principal Andrews built the Academy through pure innovation, designing unorthodox curricula when necessary. She aims to rebuild the girls’ self-esteem in order to show them their lives aren’t over because they’re teen moms. In fact, she tells her students they’re even more responsible now for educating themselves, so they pass along the value of education to their children. A unique requirement of the school, for example, is that each girl must be moving on to higher education before graduation.
When she founded the Catherine Ferguson Academy for teen moms, Principal Asenath Andrews created a haven for pregnant teens who would otherwise be ostracized. Mothers of Invention is sponsored by Toyota.
Through pure innovation, two Harvard undergrads created an energy-harvesting soccer ball that quite literally empowers communities by converting motion into energy. Meet these young mothers of invention, who will be highlighted by Toyota and The Daily Beast, at the Women in the World Summit.
As undergraduates at Harvard, Jessica O. Matthews, Julia Silverman and two of their classmates brainstormed an idea for their engineering class while blaring Britney Spears. Neither of them were engineering majors, but through pure innovation, they created an energy harvesting soccer ball that quite literally empowers communities. Thirty minutes of play with the sOccket powers up to three hours of an LED light.
“If ever there was an innovator, she’s it,” affect their own environments,” said former president Bill Clinton, when he introduced Matthews, at the Clinton Global Initiative in 2011, where she held her own on a stage with bigwigs who confront global power issues.
The girls, who are in their early 20s, invented the sOccket specifically with developing nations in mind. Twenty-five percent of the world’s kids do not have access to electricity, but most of them do play soccer. The young inventors put two and two together and created a ball that uses technology similar to a self-winding watch. As the ball rolls, the mechanism inside rolls with it, harnessing energy and storing it in a battery. A child can play until dusk, and then use that same ball to power a reading lamp throughout the night.
When coming up with the idea, the girls knew they wanted to make something that would have a global impact. They heard stories of children who studied under street lamps, or went to school with ash under their noses from toxic kerosene lamps and decided to do something about it. The statistics were abysmal. The fumes the children inhaled from these lamps, diesel generators, and other energy sources were the equivalent of smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. Standard soccer balls donated to these communities have a lifespan of 4-6 weeks because the pin is lost or they are punctured on the rough terrain. As a result, kids play with makeshift balls constructed of littered plastic bags and bottles, which last a fraction of the time.
Two young entrepreneurs from Harvard share the story of their incredible “sOccket” invention, which is bringing electricity to impoverished nations throughout the world.
Kavita Shukla, co-founder of Fenugreen, has developed a product that has the potential to revolutionize the food industry. FreshPaper, a five-inch square sheet of paper infused with edible ingredients, proves you can keep produce fresh for up to four times longer than has so far been possible. Mothers of Invention is sponsored by Toyota.