Who: Lisa Curtis
Her company: Kuli Kuli (kulikulifoods.com)
Problem: Widespread vitamin deficiencies and malnutrition.
Solution: As a Peace Corps volunteer in Niger, Curtis learned about moringa from local nurses, who “pulled leaves off moringa trees and mixed them with a peanut snack called kuli-kuli,” she says. The leaves—rich in calcium, iron, and vitamin B—inspired her company, which sources moringa from family farms and women-owned cooperatives. After four years on the market, Kuli Kuli products are sold in over 6,000 U.S. stores (as a bar, tea, powder, or energy shot); the company has planted more than a million moringa trees and brought profits exceeding $1.5 million to rural farmers.
Who: Ashley Edwards
Her company: MindRight (getmindright.org)
Problem: Chronic stress in low-income communities.
Solution: MindRight’s texting service pairs teenagers with adult volunteer coaches, who send daily supportive text messages. “We saw untreated trauma as the root cause of the achievement gap,” Edwards says. Coaches are supervised by licensed mental-health professionals, who intervene if a teen voices distress or suicide ideation. The company, which partners with schools, community groups, and government agencies, aims to reach 10,000 students by June 2019. Edwards won the SheaMoisture Community Commerce Emerging Entrepreneur Award and its $10,000 grant.
Who: Danya Sherman
Her company: KnoNap (knonap.com)
Problem: One out of 13 college-aged individuals suspects receiving a drug-laced drink.
Solution: KnoNap napkins change color upon contact with Rohypnol (aka roofies). Ultimately, the inexpensive napkins will test for additional drugs and, Sherman hopes, be the industry standard. Next month, she’s launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund the company’s first round of production, which follows 750-plus interviews and focus groups. What’s more: Since lacing a drink is a Class III felony in some states, the napkin could be used as evidence—a gender-inclusive approach to combating sexual assault.
Who: Tinia Pina
Her company: Re-Nuble (re-nuble.com)
Problem: Each year, New York City produces 1.5 million tons of food waste and spends $180 million exporting it to landfills.
Solution: Every day in the South Bronx, Re-Nuble converts 1,200 pounds of local food waste into 275 gallons of certified-organic liquid fertilizer and plant boosters. (Chemical fertilizers can run off and infiltrate waterways, endangering fish and wildlife.) The products, currently meant for conventional gardening, will ultimately be suitable for hydroponics as well. Pina won the ELLE & INCO International Award for Female Entrepreneurship and competed in Paris’s global competition in March.
This article originally appeared in the June 2018 issue of ELLE.