Cynthia Koenig Fellow 2011
Living in: NYC, India, airplanes — United States
Wello is a social venture with a bold mission: to effectively deliver clean water to a thirsty world
Operating in: South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Global
Impact Area: Community Development, Disaster Recovery, Enterprise...
"committed. passionate. thirsty."
Describe yourself briefly.
Cynthia is an entrepreneur whose career focuses on incubating mission-based businesses designed to alleviate poverty in the developing world. She spent the last decade living and working throughout Central America, Southern Africa, South and Southeast Asia, where she became intimately familiar with the challenges associated with the lack of access to clean water.
Cynthia launched Wello with a bold vision – to effectively deliver clean water to a thirsty world. By reframing the water crisis as an opportunity, Wello reinvented the wheel, and developed an innovative business model that empowers individuals to use the WaterWheel as an income-generating tool to lift their families out of poverty.
Cynthia holds a BA in anthropology from Trinity College and dual MBA/MS degrees from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and School of Natural Resources and Environment. She believes that the sky is the limit, that every cloud has a silver lining, and that the glass is always half full.
Describe your Unreasonable Venture in 100 words or less.
By reframing the water crisis as an opportunity, Wello has reinvented the wheel and developed an innovative business model that empowers individuals to use the WaterWheel as an income-generating tool to lift their families out of poverty.
Describe your relevant experience (especially entrepreneurial).
Cynthia is a serial entrepreneur whose career has focused on incubating mission-based businesses designed to alleviate poverty in the developing world. She has spent the last decade living and working in the fields of international and sustainable development throughout Central America, Southeast Asia, Southern Africa, India and China. She has incubated and consulted on the launch of ventures of all shapes and sizes, ranging from community-run ecotourism businesses in Mexico and Guatemala to a national strategy for sustainable tourism development in Bhutan.
Cynthia holds a BA in Anthropology from Trinity College and is pursuing a dual MBA/MS from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and School of Natural Resources and Environment.
Why is your team uniquely qualified to run this venture?
The vision for Wello was born out of years of personal experience in water scarce environments. Wello’s management team pairs our business acumen with practical field experience in emerging markets and international development. Our team has significant experience in developing market-based solutions to environmental and social problems and deep understanding of the key cultural and socio-economic challenges that Wello will face in its target markets. We have drawn upon the varied talents of our diverse team and board of advisors to complement the simple design of the WaterWheel with an innovative business plan.
What is the urgent social or environmental need you're addressing?
The problems of poverty are inextricably linked with the availability, proximity, quantity and quality of water. For most of us, clean water comes with the twist of a faucet. But for 1 in 6 people, access to water requires hours of walking, waiting in line, and heavy lifting. Furthermore, the majority of the poor have access to only one or two gallons of water per day, far less than the minimum daily amount (~5 gallons per person) recommended by the United Nations. Water collection places a tremendous burden on women and girls, who spend an average of 26% of their time per day making multiple trips to collect water, covering 6-8 miles a day in this fashion.
What is your solution to this need? Describe your business strategy.
By pairing a simple product design with an innovative business model, Wello aims to improve global access to water and reduce the physical and time burdens of water collection. Our business model results in better health, female empowerment, access to education and sustainable income generation.
Wello is a hybrid social venture. Our for-profit entity will generate revenue through sales of the WaterWheel and the sale of advertising space on the outside of the unit. An individual unit will accommodate 2-4 advertising surfaces for appropriate products, brands or public service / social marketing messages (e.g. sanitation, preventative healthcare). The role of Wello’s non-profit arm is to raise awareness about the global clean water crisis and educate end-users about the benefits of clean water.
Convince us it will work. What milestones have you achieved?
Wello is at an exciting point in our history. We recently concluded several months of field work in India, where we tested our WaterWheel prototype, assessed consumer demand and willingness to pay, and evaluated a variety of distribution strategies and partnership options. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and we’re poised to launch a pilot in India in Summer 2012. We are currently seeking advisors who can share their expertise and funders and investors who can help us make our vision a reality.