When you check into a hotel room, there are a few things you can rely on: the bed will be made; there will be two or three glasses by the sink, wrapped in plastic; and in the bathroom and shower, you’ll be able to find a selection of hand soaps, shampoos, and conditioners. You’ll use most or all of these things, check out at the end of your stay, and likely forget about them. But in 2009, Shawn Seipler and Paul Till didn’t forget about them. When they found out that the unused soaps and soap bottles were simply being carted off to a landfill, the duo decided to do something about it. They founded Clean the World to gather the unused hospitality items and convert them into useful items in high demand across the world.
Since its founding, Clean the World has distributed more than ten million bars of soap to almost fifty different countries. Not only does ordinary hand soap help to treat and prevent hygiene-related diseases, more than 1.4 million pounds of waste will avoid the landfill. Its facilities can manufacture more than fifty thousand bars of soap a day. Clean the World gets its steady stream of new material from more than one hundred and fifty hotels across the globe, each of which pays roughly seventy cents per week per room to have their soap reused. From Haiti to Kentucky, the reclaimed soap is already making a difference thanks to Clean the World’s local distribution centers.
In addition to soap, the organization also helps more plastic from piling into landfills. For example, shampoo bottles can be turned into decks or roofs. Additionally, Clean the World has set its targets on the organic waste produced by hotels; and hopes to one day soon do something useful with grease and liquid sludge.
For a long time, Chris and Robin Sorenson couldn’t get a break. The former firefighters had tried a number of ventures — including a Christmas tree company that could boast a whopping zero sales — without success. After many disappointments and false starts, they came up with Firehouse Subs, a specialty lunch and dinner sub sandwich company.
Since its founding in 1992, Firehouse Subs has grown to encompass almost five hundred locations across the United States. The brothers have gone from struggling to successful, with $285 million in sales in 2011 alone. Their sandwiches are big and toasted, their franchise locations are strictly controlled, with firefighting decorations and Dalmatian-patterned tabletops. And unlike many other companies during the financial crisis of 2008, Firehouse Subs did not retrench its business but instead invested in advertising, which paid off handsomely.
The Sorenson brothers also launched the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation in 2005, which has given around $4 million to public service organizations.
Since its founding in 1849, Pfizer, Inc. has seen remarkable success mixed with a number of missteps and, in 2009, plead guilty to the largest health care fraud in United States history. Its first major success in U.S. came in 1980 with the release of its prescription anti-inflammatory medication Feldene. What followed was the company’s largest period of growth, with the release of such medications as Zoloft, Lipitor, and Viagra.
Thanks to mergers and acquisitions over the years, many led by President and Chief Executive Officer Adam Read, Pfizer is now comprised of four divisions: Human Health, Consumer Healthcare, Animal Health, and Corporate Groups. Through these four divisions, Pfizer stays on top of the pharmaceutical game with a constant stream of innovative research. It has been critical of policies the drug price freezes in Europe, saying that innovation cannot occur without the revenue the drugs’ high prices produce.
However, even with the price freezes, Pfizer’s profit earnings continue to rise, earning $3.74 billion in the third quarter of 2011.
When Jane Wurwand founded Dermalogica in 1986 she had spent the previous three years trying to fill what she saw as a void in American dermatology training: a lack of serious body and skin therapy education in the esthetician industry. What began as a small classroom in Marina del Rey has grown to thirty-seven worldwide locations operating under the banner of the International Dermal Institute. Wurwand founded Dermalogica to manufacture skin care products that matched her teaching by treating skin care as a health issue rather than simply a cosmetic one.
Dermalogica made waves by removing irritants from its products’ ingredients and by committing early on to only using ingredients that have not been animal-tested. Each and every Dermalogica product is overseen by a specialized skin therapist, which helps the company retain the high quality that is its hallmark. Today the company creates and manufactures everything from targeted topical treatments to spa-styled body therapy products.
Now in its twenty-fifth year of operation, Wurwand and Dermalogica are helping other woman entrepreneurs through a one-day Kiva promotion and every day with the Dermalogica Foundation. In partnership with Kiva, the San Francisco-based micro-loan site, Dermalogica funded four thousand loans to celebrate International Women’s Day. More significantly, Jane Wurwand created the Dermalogica Foundation in 1999 specifically to give women entrepreneurs the opportunity for growth.
The company does this not only through Kiva loans but through its Financial Independence Through Entrepreneurship (FITE) program. FITE operates under the belief that the best way to improve the world is to improve the lives of the millions of marginalized women. It hopes to help more than 25,000 women in the next two years.
From changing the skin care industry to giving women entrepreneurs a hand up in the world, Dermalogica and Jane Wurwand remain leaders in the field.
Cloud computing is the way of the future. And for good reason. Not only does it make things like your software and documents more readily accessible on virtually any machine, it goes a long way to removing hardware restrictions altogether. But a new company, Numecent, is poised to take cloud computing one step further by taking it offline. Current cloud models require an internet connection while you are accessing your data; but Numecent’s innovation splits data into “pages” that can be stored for later viewing.
There are many different applications for Numecent’s technology, and the company plans to cover them all. For instance, gaming applications like giving consumers the ability to instantly play demos instantly rather than waiting through a lengthy download, will operate under the banner of Approxy. But Numecent’s impact will be felt far beyond gaming; it makes any app a web app, and will likely revolutionize how we use our personal computers, tablets, and mobile phones.
When she was conducting research at the University of California, Merced, Michelle Khine improvised into an innovative nanotechnology business. Finding herself without the materials or equipment she needed to make tiny chips with fluid-filled cavities, Khine turned to a childhood plaything and printed the designs on Shrinky Dinks. When the plastic shrunk down, the ink thickened and made a mold for the chips. She founded Shrink Nanotechnologies to make nanotechnology affordable and more accessible.
Before Khine’s stroke of genius, creating the microfluidic chips took days, thousands to millions of dollars, and a completely sterile environment. Today, the plastic sheeting used by Shrink Nanotechnologies is one Khine created herself, not the common Shrinky Dink kind, but it remains inexpensive and quick to use. The “labs on a chip” are used to perform experiments on and diagnostic tests for cancer and infectious diseases. Thanks to Shrink and Khine, the technology can now be used in developing countries, where a lack of resources and trained staff had made it prohibitively expensive before.
In 2011, Shrink announced that its first commercial chip would be made available starting at the low price of $19.99. The StemDisc 450 is used for the development and study of spheroid cells and tissues. Available as both an insert and a plate, the StemDisc 450 is fast becoming the standard for anyone researching spheroid cells. With the acquisition of Nanopoint, a biomedical instrumentation and microfluidics company, Shrink is gearing up to expand its offered technology. In fact, with the licensing of its proprietary “electric glue” technology, Shrink has already begun to make waves outside of its field.
From its modest beginnings in a toaster oven at the University of California to its current innovations in the nanotechnology field, Shrink Nanotechnologies will likely be altering the technological landscape for years to come.
If you only know Red Bull as the yellowy, caffeine-enhanced energy drink, you’re only getting part of the picture. Perhaps, at this stage in Red Bull’s twenty-five year history, the energy drink is the smallest part. With music, film, and web-content production, sports and athlete sponsorships, and a whole marketing arm targeted squarely at their ideal 18-to-34 male demographic, Red Bull has become a full-fledged multimedia company.
One of Red Bull’s most comprehensive endeavours is the snowboarding documentary, The Art of Flight. Produced by Red Bull Media House for $2 million and starring Travis Rice, a Red Bull-sponsored snowboarder, and a cadre of Rice’s colleagues, the film toured the world and sat on top of the iTunes charts for weeks after its release. It’s all part of the brand’s dedication to its branding. Rather than simply slap a logo on an athlete or on the side of a racecar, Red Bull engages with its sponsored person or product, entwine itself — as with The Art of Flight — so, for example, you see “snowboarding” and think “Red Bull.”
When a startup is finding its bearings, it needs funding. But during that early stage, startups also need advice from experienced people, and to cultivate social and business connections for future funding; the venture capital company Y Combinator (YC) provides all three elements. Named for the program in computer science that runs programs, Y Combinator is a company that starts companies.
Founded in 2005 by Paul Graham with Robert Morris, Trevor Blackwell, and Jessica Livingston, Y Combinator has funded more than three hundred startups. Unlike most seed funding companies, YC funds startups in batches twice a year. Also unlike most seed funding companies, YC provides only $11,000 to $20,000; Graham believes that such an amount is usually enough to create a prototype to secure future funding. They also require that at least one founding member move to the Bay Area for the duration of the three month program. Once a week, YC hosts a dinner featuring a speaker in a specialized startup aspect; these speakers, along with YC’s extensive alumni network, form the long-term benefits of the program.
In return for funding, Y Combinator asks for only two to six percent of the stock in the company, nothing more. During the program, the staff at YC offers only advice and guidance without angling for more power in the company. The guiding philosophy is that the landscape of startup funding is shifting, from the investors to the founders, and that by giving startups as much flexibility as possible they will be in a position to make the best possible choice for their long-term goals. It’s hard to argue with the results of Y Combinator. Though not all of their funded companies succeed, many of them do; alumni of the program include the social site Reddit, revolutionary travel company, Airbnb, and the blogging platform Posterous.
Since its founding in 1881, the Sealy Mattress Company has become synonymous with comfortable, well-crafted mattresses. But its line of Posturepedic mattresses, designed especially to help people in need of back support, has long been in the grips of faltering sales since is 1950s glory days; in a mattress showroom, the more expensive Posturepedic model simply failed to stand out. Which is why Sealy brought in Ideo to revitalize and reinvigorate the brand.
Ideo focused on two main areas when it approached the Posturepedic: the design, and the features of the mattress. They made the mattress stand out among the others in a showroom by making the foundation light blue and the top white. Ideo added extra support to the hip area of the mattress, making it even more beneficial for people with back issues. And with the addition of a lightly-gripping rubber layer to keep sheets in place, and a set of handles along the sides for easy transport, Ideo took the mattress to the next level.
It’s just the thing to help Sealy move its Posturepedic mattresses, and after a disastrous fourth quarter in 2011, it may be just the thing to make the company profitable again.
Formed in 1986 by Arkansas government and business leaders, Southern Bancorp has been instrumental in addressing the problem of rural poverty. By focusing on development within fifty miles of each Southern branch, the bank ensures that its investments are going to help the communities it serves. With forty-five branches in Arkansas and Mississippi, and more than $1 billion in assets, Southern Bancorp is often the only banking option in rural areas as more and more banks desert small towns and other under-served areas. Every Southern branch, meanwhile, is locally managed and serves a town or county with fewer than 15,000 people.
The relationship forged between Southern Bancorp and its communities is invaluable in the bank’s goal for rural development. Not only does such a relationship create trust, it makes the foundation for economic development that much more solid and secure. Southern works to build on that foundation by encouraging tighter community development, in leadership as well as in infrastructure.
Beyond banking, Southern has a number of projects to help rural communities. The Delta Bridge Project is dedicated to developing the struggling Phillips County through strategic community planning and investment. Of the $74 million already committed to the project, Southern Bancorp has invested over $9.3 million in grants and loans. Similar projects are underway in Clark County in Arkansas, and Drew and Ruleville Counties in Mississippi.
Additionally, Southern targets rural educational and health care needs. Because rural areas are some of the most-overlooked by health professionals, Southern Bancorp provides incentives for health care services to move into these areas. Thanks to Southern and its partners, Phillips County is now home to the Helena Health Foundation, a $4.5 million health care facility that provides its members not only with access to physicians, but also with exercise equipment, an exercise and wellness library, and other health resources.
As it continues to expand, Southern Bancorp’s positive influence will likely be felt in the Delta region for years to come.