by Ada Ng

What happens when you take 25 entrepreneurs from all over the world and have them live and work together in Boulder, Colorado for 6 weeks? You get unreasonable.

These are 25 individuals that saw a social or environmental problem that they simply could not ignore. They also had an unreasonable idea: to create a solution to this prevalent issue that would also be a viable business. These businesses tackled issues such as poverty, lack of access to clean water, women’s independence, waste, energy, or education. These daring individuals have been successful: they are creating profit and they have a growing customer base. But to continue extending their reach and growing, they joined up with the Unreasonable Institute. For six weeks, they lived together, receiving skill training, mentorship, a network of support, access to seed capital, and international exposure. After the first five weeks, they held the Unreasonable Climax.

I attended the Unreasonable Climax at the University of Colorado at Boulder this summer, during which each of these entrepreneurs were given 5-minutes to tell the story about their venture. The audience was brought to laughter and tears with each presentation.

Jamila Abass of M-Farm spoke of farmers already living in poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa being undersold by middle-men. She had created a mobile app to allow farmers to directly connect to their market and get fair prices on their product. Ashley Murray spoke of turning human waste, a source of disease, into energy in Sub-Saharan Africa. Michael Wilkerson recalled the beginning of his friendship with a man in Uganda who became the inspiration for his business, Own Your Own Boda. In order to help boda boda drivers achieve financial independence, Wilkerson created a business that allowed them to rent-to-buy their own boda. Samanthi Ratnayake of Lili Dairy helps empower women in South Asia through promoting sustainable dairy farming. The creative Shalabh Ahuja of Trashion in South Asia showed a us photos of a man walking through shockingly large mounds of waste in a landfill. He found a way to utilize waste such as colorful plastic bags to create trendy fashion products while creating jobs. And this is just the surface.

Local and responsible food businesses from around Colorado came to campus during the intermission to share their product and inspiration as well. I had a chance to chat with Boulder Food Rescue, who partners with local businesses to identify food that will potentially be wasted and donate it to people in need. The deliveries are powered by volunteers on bikes, displaying their commitment to environmental responsibility.

I came full of curiosity about these entrepreneurs. Who are these daring folk who said they could no longer put up with the status quo?  What was the final straw that made them say “I am going to dedicate my life to eradicating this problem”? How will they express their pain, their efforts, and their successes in five minutes?

I found that they are just ordinary people, like you and me. They saw an issue, simply had an idea – and they had the audacity to make it happen. The students of Design for America can have the same impact. We, too, can challenge the status quo. We have the creativity and resources to develop a solution and carry it forth. With your Design for America team, you can dare to be unreasonable.

Design for America is proud to be a Pipeline Partner with Unreasonable Institute. Check out their latest venture with Unreasonable at Sea!