Archive for Innovation

BURN Stoves

        Peter Scott noticed an issue back in 2010. During his trip around the sub-Sahara Desert area in Africa, he observed that often in the thousands of remote villages, in order for the women to be able to cook food for their families they would need to walk miles to find suitable wood. When they burned this wood back in the villages, the smoke would often get into the lungs of the children and women around. Scott found a need and created BURN Stoves, cooking stoves that required 50% less wood to produce the needed amount of heat for cooking. In doing so, they were able to greatly reduce the amount of smoke released and cut the time for the women to gather the wood.

As a side note, the Scott also made the decision to sell the stoves to the African people. While this may seem money-hungry, they did it for a purpose. If the African people invested in the product, then they would take better care of it, repair it when needed, and put more stock into it lasting, thus extending the life span of it. It also stimulates the economy of these countries as the stoves themselves are made in the same countries.

Due to the fact that this stove also helps the environment, BURN Stoves have also received grants from the government as well as investments from large corporations looking to show that they are taking moves to themselves help the environment.

Better Life Bags

What started as a personal craft project grew to an Etsy store, to a Pinterest phenomenon, and then to a full-scale business- helping people all along the way.

Rebecca Smith made herself a diaper bag, posting the images on Facebook; she was very unaware of what an impact those images going public would have. She received many compliments suggesting and inspiring her to start an Etsy shop selling these bags. The shop is called Better Life Bags, in reference to 10% of profits being donated to people in third world countries helping them start their own businesses. The bags, in addition to being practical and cute, allow the customer to pick from a wide variety of fabrics and leathers letting one totally customize the accessory.


BLB allows you to chooses the leather and fabric colors to create a bag perfectly matching your style. [via]

When a well-known blogger, and then her  many followers, saw the brilliance of this customization and pinned one of her bags, orders flooded in. The number of orders far exceeded what Rachel’s one-woman operation could fill.  Faced with the decision to either quit the business or expand, she rejected the idea of moving production overseas reaching out instead to women in her neighborhood. Smith lives in a neighborhood swirling with diversity and filled with women who have “various barriers to employment,” whether they be cultural or religious. A neighbor from Yemen, Nadia, who is unable to leave her home to work, became Rachel’s first employee. As the business has grown, Rachel has been able to hire many other local women allowing them to provide simple necessities like food and furniture for their families.

These charming bags with cute, customizable colors & choice craftsmanship really live up to their name. Not only will they make your life better, they help Rachel Smith employee those in her community with barriers to employment.

Are You Thinking of the Children?

Alain Nteff was, and he was thinking about the mothers too when he created his lifesaving app Gifted Mom.

In 2012, at a twenty years of age, Alain Nteff visited a rural hospital to see his friend Conrad Tankou at a medical practice. At this hospital, Nteff was shocked to learn about the high number of deaths of both mothers and children during the process of birth. Many of these tragedies would be preventable with proper antenatal care. Both Nteff and Tankou set out to see how they could to minimize this affliction in their community.

“The problem of maternal and infant death is not a woman issue — it’s a humanitarian issue. Everybody should take seriously. We all have mothers, we all have sisters, and it’s not just a problem for women or girls.” – Alain Nteff

Nteff and Tankou’s part in solving this problem is an app called Gifted Mom. Gifted Mom offers the following services to women in Cameroon and Nigeria:

– Weekly Antenatal care guide and notifications for pregnant women.
– Vaccination guide and notifications for mothers with children under 5 years.
– Breastfeeding guide for mothers and Career Women.
– Pregnancy Calculator for calculating the expected date of delivery.
– Guide for first time pregnancy and teenage mothers
– Send your concerns to a Doctor and get instant reply.
– Journal your journey

This is a free app and the information it offers is crucial in minimizing unnecessary deaths of mothers and children. If moms have a question, all they have to do is text it to Gifted Mom and they will receive immediate, reliable information. This app also tracks vaccinations in an effort to minimize the 4,000 deaths babies suffer from vaccine-preventable diseases. So far 13,300 mothers and children have been registered through this app. That day trip to the hospital turned into a project that’s give life and hope to many.

It’s Really Quite Pinteresting

Co-founded in 2010, Pinterest is a relatively new company that revolutionized the discovery aspect of social media. With 176 million registered users, it’s clear that millennial founders Ben Silbermann, Evan Sharp, and Paul Sciarra (aka Cold Brew Labs) had a stellar idea in the concept of Pinterest.

Pinterest is a visually-driven website that allows users to collect and sort ideas, articles, pictures, and other inspirations. Every “pin” is a photo, and if you like what you see, you can double click to see the pin’s origin or click the repin button to save it to one of your boards. It’s like a virtual scrapbook or file folder- but beautifully designed and much simpler. Additionally, users can add their own content to the site to share their own ideas and work.


This wildly successful site was the phoenix that rose out of the founder’s previous app failure, Tote. Part of the reason Tote failed was people hadn’t really begun shopping through apps yet; the main way people used the app was to send product images to themselves. They were image collecting. The recognition of this behavioral trend was the key for Cold Brew Labs’ next innovation. They took this new insight and transferred it over to the web to avoid one of the big potholes Tote had, and voila, Pinterest was born. Its monstrous success is a testament to what can happen when failure is looked at as a learning experience rather than defeat.

Although some have call Pinterest’s CEO somewhat “socially awkward,” it’s clear that his creation is a work of social genius.

[Read more about Pinterest’s origins on Business Insider!]


Whilst looking for a way to be able to brainstorm on the walls of his dorm, John Goscha stumbled upon the concept for IdeaPaint, a product that turns any surface into a dry erase board. Through the help of several partners and friends and over the span of four years, IdeaPaint came into commercial existence and revolutionized the process of innovation.

IdeaPaint sells dry erase paint in both clear and white colors, as well as their product PULL, which is a magnetic wall covering that combines with the dry erase paint. The truly unique thing about the paint is it allows you to turn anything into a dry erase board; we’re talking table, doors, and even a camper!

Customers from all over are having IdeaPaint products infused into their offices, businesses, and even their homes. Wayfair, an online home furnishing company, has featured this innovative creation in some of their design creations. TED even had an IdeaPaint coated wall at their 2015 Vancouver Convention Center. It was a prominent place for the TEDsters to collaborate, reflect, and add to artist Cascio’s designs.

IdeaPaint calls their product “the ultimate idea tool” and they hope that they can be a part of their customer’s best ideas. Their innovations are centered around the idea of helping others be innovative, and that’s pretty neat.

Better Than a Lemonade Stand

When I was about 15 years old, the town of Falmouth in Cape Cod decided to replace an old train track with a biking trail that extended several miles to Woods Hole, a popular tourist hot spot. That summer I ventured from my family’s summer home to see what the new bike trail had to offer in places I had never seen due to overgrown weeds – and that was how I met Patrick. Patrick was only 14, yet already had a summer business that was raking in hundreds annually to go toward his future college tuition.

Patrick’s parents had made it clear at a young age that if he wanted to go to college, he was going to have to start saving early because they couldn’t afford the debt. His home was on an average Falmouth road – quiet and lazy, yet also bustling in the summer with people biking or walking to the beach. At the age of 12, he borrowed $1,000 to purchase a high quality shaved ice making machine and flavoring, and set up a table at the side of the road to sell shaved ice to the passerbys. It didn’t take long for the revenue to start flowing like water, and he gained regular customers who would specifically travel down his road to purchase his shaved ice. When Falmouth ripped out the railroad in favor of the trail, his business exploded. By the time I met him, his table had become a semi-permanent booth that boasted the shaved ice machine, dozens of flavors, fresh squeezed lemonade, other refreshments like Gatorade and Sprite, and even had a shady section off to the side with benches and tables. The bike trail brought a boom of tourists and natives from other towns, and he had already saved several thousand dollars when I first met him.

One thing I truly admired was his commitment to his original goal of saving the money for his future tuition. He was already a levelheaded businessman at the young age of 14, and the vast majority of his revenue went straight into his savings instead of his pockets. It was brilliant for him to realize at age 12 that virtually no one sold shaved ice in our area and in the surrounding towns, and he was able to capitalize on that advantage very quickly before others caught on and did the same. While I haven’t seen Patrick in a few years, I am quite confident that his business is still there, improving, and thriving during the hot Cape Cod summers.

Warby Parker

When picking a product, I often hear people toss around the words “fashion” and “function” to describe their purchasing priorities. For me, there’s a third category that warrants equal consideration: the fiscal element. Luckily, one brand that has a tremendous impact of my life discovered how to ace every single one of these divisions. Warby Parker literally affects how I see the world. Yes, literally- not figuratively. They are an eyewear brand whose goal is to provide modish, high-quality eyesight for significantly less than other brands and to impact the world positively while doing it. 

The problem that commenced the creation of this company was the outrageously high price of a crucial product: glasses. The co-CEOs discovered this issue when one of them lost his frames while backpacking, and due to the (previously) expensive nature of the product, had to complete his first semester of grad school in the haze bad vision creates [see the rest of the story here]. They identified that one company had a monopoly on the industry and was creating, “artificially high prices” for the public’s only option. Solving this problem, the team now offers designer eyewear at substantially lower prices whilst simultaneously providing eyewear for those in need with every purchase. Their process is a win for the customer, a win for those in need of eyewear, and- through the buzz it’s created- a win for the company.

Although their number of stores is increasing, online is still a large contributor to Warby Parker’s sales. Glasses, which must be looked at in correlation to each individual’s face, are difficult to pick without having them there in front of you. Warby has two ways to workaround this. The first is a virtual try-on system where you upload a photo and and get to see the glasses on you virtually. The second is Warby offers their customers (and even just potential customers) a service where they send five frames to your home to try them on in person. These innovative methods make online glasses shopping possible and a highly-effective alternative if there isn’t a Warby store near you.

Another key elements of their brand is the atmosphere and community they’ve built. Everything about the brand, whether it be their packaging, website, store, or social media feeds portrays a unique blend of hipness and innovation. The are frequently community events, such as button making parties and concert series, hosted in their quaint and quirky storefronts. It’s very obvious Warby Parker thinks that fun should be a part of the glasses buying process, and honestly, the promotion they do of these events makes me want to be best friends with every single one of their employees. And the community! When I see people in Warby frames I can’t asking about them which without fail has always led to a pleasant, friendly conversation. This cool company has a lot of cool customers.

The best part about Warby Parker’s is that they wrap up fashion, function, social consciousness, and fun, into one neat looking and fiscally-responsible package. What more could a girl with poor eyesight ask for?


TOK Project


“The fact that these girls were being trafficked set in as I realized this was not the type of entertainment we’d signed up for. I was shaken to the core by the dead look of despair in the young girls’ eyes, but from that moment of pain came hope and resolution: something must be done.”

 Micah List said this about an experience he encountered in Bankok. Founder of a new start-up by the name of “TOK Project”, Micah has become an inspirational example of combining personal passion for business with a passion to serve those God calls his servants to love. TOK project originated with hats but has since shifted towards unique men’s ties and bow ties for any and all occasions. Custom bowties, regular ties, or pocket squares can also be ordered. This company has two locations: one in Detroit, Michigan, and the other in Pittsburgh.

With a motto of “Do your Part”, TOK Project incorporates its foundational values through donating 25% of all profits to aid against the fight of sex trafficking in Riga, Latvia. People are sent to build healing relationships with the trafficked girls, educate orphanages and schools about trafficking, raise awareness,and the other in Pittsburgh. and even challenge the men taking advantage of these young women. TOK’s desire is to mobilize a young generation to end human trafficking.

Micah and the TOK Project represent true innovation. He shifted a paradigm by putting together fashion and social justice: a revolutionary and impactful blend. The company seems to target more fashion-oriented young men, but also those who desire to take part in the fight against human trafficking. There are very few companies specifically focused on making unique ties and bowties for men, which differentiates the TOK Project immensely. In addition, the drive of Micah and his team to aid in the social good as well as looking good is fundamental in any startup. To check out Micah’s and the TOK Project’s story and fashion line, check out