Author Archive for Rachel Smith

ReelFruit by Affiong Williams

If you’re looking for some great stories of innovation and successful start-ups, I would suggest looking for them in Africa. Recently, entrepreneurs in African nations have been realizing their potential at an astounding rate. A fantastic example of this is Affiong Williams and her company ReelFruit.

Williams, who was one of Forbes Africa’s 30 under 30 in 2015, founded her fruit processing company in Nigeria in 2012. The company sells dried fruit and nut snacks, but the impact is much larger. Williams has said that she founded the company because she saw a gap in the market and that “there is untapped opportunity in processing and value addition of raw materials.” She has also said, “I also believe it’s a very budding sector, there is a lot of opportunity as well as the job creation which I think is quite important to me as an entrepreneur to be able to play in an industry that would create a lot of jobs.”

Clearly, Williams is passionate about developing the agribusiness sector of the Nigerian economy as well as the the rural farmers themselves. This info-graphic can be found on their website:reelfruit-infographic

The company’s current product line includes dried mango, pineapple, cashew, banana and coconut snacks. As an ambitious individual, Williams is working on raising capital to open a new, larger factory to produce and package more product as well as expand the product line.

Williams has said, “I hope to be on the cover of FORBES AFRICA in five years’ time.” This company is going places. Look for ReelFruit to expand and to have an incredible impact on the agribusiness economy of Nigeria and beyond.

Gardens for Health International

First of all, I cannot even express how happy this organization makes me. Like, I can’t even.

Now that we’ve established my excitement, I can tell you about the actual organization. Julie Carney co-founded Gardens for Health in 2007 with her friend Emma Clippinger. The original idea was to work with people with HIV/AIDS in Rwanda to help them grow their own food for consumption and sale. However, after two years of living and working toward this goal in Rwanda, Julie realized that they were working on the wrong problem. Malnutrition was the bigger issue in Rwanda. So Gardens for Health developed accordingly. This is a fantastic example of reframing the problem and pivoting in your idea to address the problem more effectively and be more successful in your entrepreneurial endeavors.

Now Gardens for Health fights malnutrition in Rwanda by “partnering with local health centers to integrate agricultural support and comprehensive health education into the clinical treatment of malnutrition.” They work to include agriculture training for local families in the usual assistance provided by public health centers.

“Our agriculture team works to blend international innovations in sustainable agriculture with time-tested Rwandan farming practices in order to help every family with whom we work to make the most of their existing resources.

Through our work, we are changing the way that malnutrition is treated by moving away from short-term handouts and towards equipping families with the knowledge and resources to grow their own nutritious food and improve their health. We envision a future in which the key to lasting food and nutrient security for vulnerable families lies in their own backyards.”

Again, I LOVE the mission of this organization!!! This is innovation the world needs! Find out more about Gardens for Health at their website.


New Seed for Guatemala

Curt Bowen grew up on a small organic farm in Idaho, so he knows a thing or two about agriculture and social engagement. His first service experience in Central America was building a house for a widowed family in Nicaragua as a teenager. During this trip he realized that it was impossible to help everyone in the same way, and that the root causes of poverty need to be examined rather than simply attempting to alleviate its symptoms.

So in 2006 he started his first project in Latin America with the goal of educating locals on biodiesel technology. While he was able to open three research and training centers, Curt didn’t think he was making a big enough impact. Knowing that the majority of the world’s poor are farmers, Curt decided to use his agricultural  background to help the people of Guatemala.

Once he got to Guatemala, Curt and his partner Trinidad Recinos, who he had met during his biodiesel project, drove through the entire country to plant and harvest alongside local farmers in order to fully understand the problems and issues facing Guatemalan farmers. Then in 2010 Curt and Trinidad co-founded Semilla Nueva (New Seed) with the mission: “to develop locally-led farmer education programs that increase the income, rebuild the soils, and improve the food security of Guatemala’s rural poor.”

Semilla Nueva now develops and implements agricultural solutions through experimentation and collaboration with Guatemalan farmers. The organization’s research looks for ways to produce more food, generate more income, decrease agriculture’s negative effects, and increase nutrition for poor farmers.
A great example of the progress Semilla Nueva has made is pigeonpea. “Pigeonpea is a drought resistant bean bred to grow simultaneously with corn and other crops. It cuts fertilizer costs by fixing organic nitrogen, decreases soil compaction, provides high protein and nutrient rich food, and is open-pollinated, allowing farmers to save their own seed.” Simply giving farmers access to this seed can increase the health of the farmers’ soil, provide more nutritious food, and increase farmers’ incomes.

Although I found out about Semilla Nueva only recently, I love what this organization is doing. They are using sustainable agriculture  and advances in agricultural technologies to lift the poor out of poverty and help them thrive. Semilla Nueva is one of only a handful of organizations focused on agricultural development. They are one-of-a-kind, and I love it!


Love Knows No Language

Image result for katie davisAlthough she didn’t attend Grove City College, Katie Davis is as much a Grover as any of us. She was her senior class president and homecoming queen; she had a fantastic group of friends and loving parents who supported her and wanted her to get a great education to prepare her for a successful career. Unlike most of us though, Katie did not attend college after she graduated high school. Instead, she moved to Uganda to teach kindergarten.

Many of her friends and family thought she was crazy, but Katie knew she was following God’s call. That doesn’t mean that there weren’t difficult days. Katie experienced numerous struggles and trials that first year, including a language barrier between her and her students. Although this was one of Katie’s biggest challenges initially, she found that even though people may not be able to understand each other through language, they understand a smile or a hug- they understand love. In her words, “love knows no language.”

But how is Katie an entrepreneur? Teaching kindergarten in Africa hardly seems entrepreneurial.

After learning that many children in Uganda are unable to attend school because of the fees that the schools require, Katie started a sponsorship program to connect orphaned and vulnerable children with sponsors. For $300 a year-less than $1 a day- a sponsor not only sends a child to school, but also provides school supplies, 3 hot meals every day, spiritual discipleship, and medical care for the child. Through this program alone, Katie has made a difference in the lives of over 700 children.

When the initial sponsorship program took off, Katie realized that she could help the Ugandan people in numerous other ways. In 2008 Katie founded Amazima Ministries International to “meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the people of Uganda who need it most.” Through this non-profit, Katie has started a feeding outreach to one of the slums in her area, a classical Christian secondary boarding school, a self-sustaining vocational program for women, a medical outreach, and a farming outreach all in addition to the initial education sponsorship program. Image result for kisses from katie book cover

Katie recorded her story in her book called Kisses From Katie. I first read this book four years ago at the suggestion of a missionary to Zambia, and Katie’s story and accomplishments continue to inspire me.

Oh, and did I mention that Katie also adopted 13 Ugandan children? But this blog post is already long enough, so just go check out the Amazima website to read more about Katie and everything that Amazima is accomplishing in Uganda!

Let Us Shine

Tiwale means “let us shine” in Chichewa, one of the national languages of Malawi. Tiwale is also the name of Ellen Chilemba’s for-profit social enterprise in Malawi. Tiwale’s mission is to empower women to develop sustainable ventures that transform  communities. Tiwale started with a team of five young people, including Ellen Chilemba, between 14 and 19 years old in January, 2012. Now the main team consists of  six Mount Holyoke students and four Malawian nationals.

Tiwale began an a business education program for women coupled with a micro-loan program. The first loan program enabled 12 women to start businesses. To date, Tiwale has trained 150 women in business education programs, guided 40 women to start businesses through micro-loans and trained 66 women with new vocation skills. 

These skills include dying tapestries (like this one)

and dying and crafting tote bags that are sold both online and in Malawi. The revenue from the sale of these items is used to fund other programs run by Tiwale. These programs include a  school grant program and the micro-finance loan program. Recently, Tiwale purchased land to build an education center that will offer secondary education classes as well as vocational training for women.

Tiwale is a fabulous example of an organization working to alleviate poverty in a sustainable way.

Who is Amanda Owens?

Amanda Owens is a classic American entrepreneur with a 21st century idea. While still in college, Amanda founded Future Female Leaders (originally Future First Lady). She initially went to Twitter in 2012 to express her concerns and opinions about current events and the political climate of our nation as well as the whirlwind that is the life of the young, conservative woman.

In the past four years, Amanda’s social media presence has grown tremendously through her organization. Through social media she has built a an energetic community of hundreds of thousands of women ready to make a difference in their country. Once she found her niche, Amanda started designing conservative themed apparel and gifts. She then began to process and package orders for her merchandise out of her apartment.

Now, Future Female Leaders is America’s leading social movement for young, conservative women. Their website now boasts a FFL store where all of Amanda’s apparel and gifts are sold. The Future Female Leaders website also contains a blog (one of the best!) and links to some of Amanda’s favorite websites as well as books she recommends. The organization not only supports young women in their conservative beliefs, it offers them leadership positions through its cabinet and contributor programs. The key to Amanda’s success has been her and the organization’s presence on social media and the inspiration and support they offer to young, conservative women.

To visit the Future Female Leaders website, click here.