For Josh Weingart, merely launching a company was not enough. His desires extended beyond money and success--he wanted to create a product with purpose.
Reflecting on his time abroad drilling clean water wells in Kenya’s remote Turkana District and learning about sustainability practices in Australia; Weingart conceived an idea. In September 2012 that idea became a reality when he founded the WaterDrop Shop.
Partnered with African manufacturer Maasai Treads, the seven-person company enlists Kenyan locals to produce sandals from recycled materials such as old tires that it then sells on the U.S. market. Knowing firsthand the need for clean water in Africa, Weingart plans to use WaterDrop’s profits to build water wells in African communities.
Watching the success of such companies as TOMS with its one for one model, the 22-year-old Weingart hopes to create a similar movement.
"Seeing how just one product with one purpose can go so far, I am excited about our potential," says Weingart, a senior majoring in Finance and Entrepreneurship at Illinois State University.
WaterDrop has teamed up with an organization that can build clean water wells for a fraction of the cost by relying on community members to help with the hand dug wells. Though a rough process--it will cost WaterDrop $2,500 per well--about one fourth of the cost to drill a big rig well, according to Weingart.
Hoping to have the first well in progress by the end of March, Weingart says providing these communities with clean water is the free-trade company’s primary goal.
"Clean drinking water in Africa is something we hear about all the time. It is a problem and WaterDrop has a viable solution," says Dr. Doan Winkel, assistant professor of entrepreneurship at Illinois State University. "Josh and his company are not trying to inject new products and materials and ideas into a community but are working to solve a critical problem using the resources and ingenuity of the local community and residents."
Weingart says the company has sold about 85 pairs of sandals since its September launch and he hopes to expand into other products and communities in time.
"I like to dream big," says Weingart. "My goal is to become the No. 1 place for people to come for products with purpose."
Coolest College Start-ups: Waterdrop
Drilling clean water wells abroad inspired Josh Weingart to employ Kenyan shoemakers to make sandals he can sell with the purpose of funding more wells.