After her husband passed away from AIDS in 1997, Janet Ondiek was left to care for her family’s Kenyan vegetable farm all by herself. Using bucket irrigation, she made just a $115 profit per season that year—clearly not enough income to put food on the table or clothes on the backs of her nine children. But in 1999 Ondiek happened upon an invention that would change her life: the Super MoneyMaker, a pressure pump invented by Kickstart in response to demand by farmers for a pump that could be used to irrigate steep land where the water source may be at the bottom. “In the first year, she made $3,200 profit,” says Martin Fisher, cofounder of KickStart, a company that designs, develops, and mass markets low-cost tools used by entrepreneurs in the developing world to get small businesses off the ground. “It completely transformed her life—she’s managed to send her kids to good schools and open a shop in town,” says Fisher. As of 2010, KickStart has sold 140,000 pumps, which have been used to create 91,000 profitable businesses. These, in turn, have generated $92 million in profits, thereby lifting 455,000 out of poverty. “We really need to create that entrepreneurial middle class and give people an opportunity to create family businesses,” says Fisher. “That’s really what we’re about.”
TakePart travelled to the Skoll World Forum in Oxford, England, to pick the brains of the world’s biggest thinkers. These Innovators in Action are changing the face of the future with bold new ideas and profound enthusiasm. Motivated by personal experience and fueled by the hope that things can get better, these innovators—each of them true social entrepreneurs—are improving our world, one brilliant business idea at a time.