Ani and David spent last week in Seattle competing in the University of Washington’s Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition (GSEC). The competition, in its 7th year, brought together 13 teams from all over the world, such as Bangladesh, Peru and Ukraine.  They lavished us with trips to Microsoft HQ, grilled us with tough questions about our business plan, and celebrated social enterprise through an impressive closing banquet.  Sanergy took home gold in the event – winning $12,500 for the Grand Prize and $1,000 from the Seattle #4 Rotary Club for greatest potential social impact!

Ani and David at the GSEC Trade Show. (Source: GSEC)

Building Sanergy is not just about raising funds (although that’s really important), but also building great relationships. Through GSEC, we were connected with Tim Elliott and Jody Garcia on the sanitation team at PATH, an NGO that addresses global health challenges through appropriate technologies. Jody and Tim provided us with incredible mentorship – constructively critiquing our business plan, challenging us to think harder about how we define our social impact and defend our financial projections, and then setting up a host of meetings with the rest of their team at PATH.

Similarly, we were only eligible for the Rotary Club of Seattle’s prize if we received a letter of support from another Rotary Club chapter.  On the day that we left Nairobi in January, we found that one chapter was having its weekly breakfast. We showed up unannounced and, as luck would have it, they welcomed us with open arms. The leader of that chapter also runs Athi River Mining (ARM), one of Kenya’s largest distributors of cement! Given that Sanergy’s toilets are made of thin-shell cement, we are excited to have found a way to get to know ARM better!

Once back in the US, we also had the pleasure of meeting Randy Lindel, a vice president of the Rotary Club of Cambridge, who also endorsed our entry for the Rotary Prize for Social Impact. Without Rotary #4’s initiative led by Steve Crane, Bill Center and Jim Moore back in Seattle, we would never have made these connections.

Finally, the competition was an incredible chance to get extensive feedback from a variety of stakeholders – leading foundations, the established NGO community, other social enterprises, and potential investors. Ani and David must have given the Sanergy pitch to over 500 people when all was said and done!

Thank you to all the folks at GSEC for putting on a great week and for believing in Sanergy!