This fall we invited our audience to nominate people they know who are dedicating time to solving problems effecting their communities. We received over 300 applications that brought our attention to some amazing design thinkers who have dedicated their lives to being active problem solvers. Our brand store teams narrowed down their top three nominees to celebrate during in-store events, where the Problem Solvers presented their cause to a live audience and were rewarded for their hard work. Celebrate and find inspiration in the list of finalists below.
Julia Haried (MakerGirl)
Julia is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of MakerGirl. MakerGirl is a not for profit organization working to bridge the gender gap in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) by educating girls aged 7-10 about STEM through 3D printing. MakerGirl’s vision is for all girls to live as unstoppable forces that say “Yes!” to the challenges of tomorrow. Sessions foster creativity, spark enthusiasm and ignite passion for STEM education and careers. MakerGirl host sessions in Chicago and all across the nation with #MakerGirlGoesMobile. “At MakerGirl, we want all girls to be active in STEM and pursuing what they want.”
Learn more about MakerGirl.
Karol Szacilowski (Haiti Project)
Karol is a true Chicagoan, born and raised on the south side neighbourhood of Bridgeport with humble beginnings. During the height of the Zika outbreak of 2017, Caribbean Islands such as Jamaica, Dominican Republic and Haiti were heavily affected. Karol and his team travelled to a Haitian clinic in Cite Soleil. Their project involved setting up a netting system on all entry points of a household to study the effectiveness of netting dynamic entrances vs. the classic bed nets. These nets were then treated with permethrin; a naturally derived chemical compound found in various plants such as chrysanthemums and also used for military uniforms to ward off insects.
Max Rivest and Arnaud Petitvallet (Wize Monkey)
Max, a 31 year-old Vancouver native, and Arnaud, a 29 year-old from France, met while studying in their Master’s program. While working on one of their Business Plan projects, they discovered a series of research papers and articles suggesting that arabica coffee leaves, a typical by-product of the coffee harvest, actually pack a lot of antioxidants along with various rare polyphenols that could help with inflammation reduction and high blood pressure. They quickly realized that those leaves, usually trimmed in the off-season by coffee farmers, could instead be harvested and processed into tea in the 9 months long off-season, creating an additional revenue stream for farmers and their families while reducing seasonal migration present in the coffee regions.
They have since created a tea with those arabica coffee leaves that has earned Best New Product from the World Tea Expo and took the coffee and tea world by storm. Starting with their third founder Enrique’s coffee farm in Nicaragua, they have generated over 100 jobs in the off-season and thousands of work hours, while creating value for the farmers. Their goal is to spread this impact to all 25 million coffee farmers worldwide and to create a new industry made from an environmentally friendly, healthy and delicious by-product.
Learn more about Wize Monkey.
Mitali Bhowmick (FoliumWare)
“Water changes the way we see the world”
Mitali wanted to be involved in trying to turn back the clock, even if by a few milliseconds and hopefully urge others to follow suit. She researched and then partly redesigned products which have the potential to transform our “disposable” culture. Disposable products that would be backyard compostable, sustainable and affordable. Something that will return to earth to enrich it when eventually disposed.
Her project is called Folium Ware, and all of their products are made using only 3-4 layers of leaves which is briefly heat pressed and molded into a plate/bowl. No chemicals, adhesives or paper is used in the construction. The leaves are harvested from prolifically growing creeper plants which make it easy to harvest and remain nourishing for the earth when sent to compost.
Learn more about Folium Ware.
Brianne Miller (Nada)
Brianne is a marine biologist turned social entrepreneur with a passion for driving positive change through inspiring individual action. Having seen firsthand the impacts of our current food system on the oceans, Brianne became committed to revolutionizing the food system from the ground up so that future generations can continue to enjoy and benefit from the world’s oceans. Brianne is the founder of Nada, a certified B-Corporation and package-free grocery store on a mission to inspire people to change the way we shop for groceries. She also founded the Just Food Foundation, a non-profit bringing climate and food policy action to life. Brianne is a United Nations #notwasting ambassador, sits on the Vancouver Food Policy Council and is a 2018 SheEO venture winner. Nada’s food system work has been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Forbes. It was also most recently recognized as 1% for the Planet’s Business Changemaker of the Year.
Learn more about Nada.
Adam Babuka (The ŪKA System)
Adam Babuka is the Founder of TrailHungry LLC and Inventor of a multi-functional device called the ŪKA (YOU-KA) System. Adam worked in relief and development in 30 countries (Nepal, China, India, Afghanistan, Sudan, Uganda, etc) for over 10 years – where he lived and worked out of a hiking backpack. His inspiration came from the challenges associated with current backpacking equipment that could not hold up to real-world-use of living remotely for a prolong period of time.
Simply put – the ŪKA System is like a Swiss-Army Knife Container.
Learn more about The ŪKA System.
Lisa Shonberg (ATTA: Amplifying the Tropical Ants)
Lisa Schonberg is a percussionist, composer, field recordist, environmental artist and teacher with a background in entomology and ecology. Since July 2017 Lisa has been working with entomologists Fabricio Baccaro and Erica Valle to research ant acoustics in the Brazilian Amazon. Their research encompasses bioacoustics, behavioural ecology, taxonomy, music composition and field recording. Their goal is to draw attention to ecological research in the Brazilian Amazon and to the mysteries of insect behaviour and communication.
Learn more about ATTA.
New Dawn Foundation
New Dawn aims to redirect unwanted, used, and damaged outdoor gear and clothing from retail environments and provide them as donations to underprivileged community groups. With the goal of fostering a love and respect for the outdoors, New Dawn partners with local community based organizations supporting underprivileged groups by providing them with second-hand utilitarian gear and clothing.
Jeremy Wall (Lumenus)
Jeremy Wall is the Founder and CEO of Lumenus, a company using the IoT to help save lives, from cyclists to soldiers.
A near death experience led Jeremy to found the company Lumenus, which has received multiple awards and led to Wall being referred to as the “Steve Jobs of the Outdoor Industry” by Outside Magazine. Their next product, the ioLight, is a smart bike light set to launch in Spring 2020. Lumenus was recently awarded a contract from the US Coast Guard to create solutions for Search & Rescue and has worked with the Dept. of Homeland Security to create solutions for First Responders.
Learn more about Lumenus.
Sam Polk (Everytable)
Sam Polk is the co-founder and CEO of Everytable, an omni-channel fresh-prepared food business making healthy food affordable for all, and founder and Board Member of Feast, a national non-profit that advances wellness in underserved communities through the power of healthy food and human connection.
Learn more about Everytable.
New York City
Anthony Marinos (Charity: Water)
Since 2017, Anthony Marinos has served as Charity: Water’s Senior Manager of Business Development, crafting and executing various brand partnerships to help bring clean water to more people in need. Widely known by those close to him for his unshakeable optimism and endless energy, Anthony is excited to see the day when every person on the planet has access to clean water once and for all.
Learn more about Charity: Water.
Willis Elkins (Newtown Creek Alliance)
Willis Elkins is the Executive Director of the Newtown Creek, a non-profit organization with the mission to restore, reveal and revitalize Newtown Creek, a 3.8 mile Superfund waterway in Brooklyn and Queens. Their project, The Living Dock is a floating structure providing critical habitat for native salt marsh grasses and a variety of marine wildlife that have suffered from tremendous amounts of pollution and habitat loss in Newtown Creek over the past 150 years. Following the success of their initial 200 square foot dock (launched in 2015) They have created a second dock for the headwaters of the Creek and are collaborating with staff and students from LaGuardia College on new iterations to further improve ecological benefit and habitat.
Learn more about Newtown Creek Alliance.
Lydon Kersting (xPLOR)
Lydon Kersting is a 2018 Appalachian Trail thru-hiker, AMC 4000 Footer and aerospace engineer (hence her trail name “Rocket”). Lydon designed, prototyped, and rigorously field-tested xPLOR. xPLOR (an eXpandable Pack for Lightweight Outdoor Refuge) is an all-in-one, affordable, lightweight 55L backpack, 1-person tent, rain poncho and pack cover kit that satisfies the need for quality, affordable backpacking and camping gear.
Learn more about xPLOR.
Danae Keddie (ReRun)
Danae is an undergraduate Neuroscience student at the University of Alberta. Her goal is to pursue a career in Medicine and contribute through problem-solving to inspire innovation. Growing up in a running family, she quickly became aware of the excess running shoes a single athlete can accumulate! Her passion for running and desire to encourage an active lifestyle prompted her partner to with ReRUN (The Shoe Project). Established in Kingston in 2016, ReRun are a non-profit organization that have collected more than 1100 used running shoes to donate locally. Their mission is to get shoes in the hands (or on the feet) of locals in need!
Learn more about ReRun.
Trisha Vyse (Tri Region Pay Forward Kindness Society)
Trisha is a wife and Mother of three and residing in the City of Spruce Grove, Alberta. Having a Daughter struggling with mental illness, severe drug addiction and homelessness compelled her to become involved in various community initiatives in hopes to advocate for system change. Trisha is the Vice President of the Tri Region Pay Forward Kindness Society, which offers ongoing (barrier free) relief services for the vulnerable population. Their main objective is to connect with people on a deeper level, through a non-judgmental lens, while offering much needed support.
Learn more about the Tri Region Pay Forward Kindness Society.
Erica Jacobs (100% Skate Club)
Erica is the founder of 100% Skate Club, a skateboarding community for girls and women. Built to shred, share, laugh, grow and push women’s skateboarding in Canada. Since 2015, 100% has hosted 130 skate meet up sessions with over 400 local and international participants from: Berlin, Taiwan, and California. Club members are skater girls and women ages 2-62 offering diverse mentoring and inspiration.
Learn more about 100% Skate Club.
Christian Bagg (Bowhead Reach)
Christian is the founder and designer of Bowhead Reach an adaptive mountain bike/hiking vehicle that allows people with mobility impairments to independently access and thrive in the outdoors. Bowhead listens to their riders unique needs and uses engineering, innovation and communication to make sure that they can access the places they love.
Learn more about Bowhead Reach.
Drew Dougherty (Beelieve)
Drew is the founder of Beelieve a social enterprise dedicated to inspiring entrepreneurial development and environmental preservation in remote indigenous communities in Canada. Currently, Beelieve is operating on the Tsuut’ina Nation, and has trained 62 people in beekeeping, installed 45 beehives and planted an orchard containing 200 fruit bearing shrubs native to the area. Beelieve has plans to grow across Canada providing opportunities for beekeeping and orchard businesses.
Learn more about Beelieve.
Adrianos Souras (The Killer Net)
Adrianos Souras is a 16-year-old artist and social designer. He collected 9000 used straws and repurposed them into a massive net to raise awareness about plastic pollution in the ocean. The Killer Net has been exhibited at the Design Museum of Chicago and is currently on display at the Biosphere Environmental Museum in Montreal.
Learn more about The Killer Net.
Gemita Samarra (My Name is Human)
Gemita Samarra is a stunt woman, charity founder, athlete and artist. Her organization, My Name Is Human, is an international effort which works with homelessness in inner cities, refugees and environmentalist groups in locations ranging from London to the Syrian border of Turkey.
Learn more about My Name is Human.
Erin Falcone (Kitsap Food Co-op)
A marine biologist by day, Erin Falcone turned her frustration with our conventional food system into local food action. In 2014, like hundreds of Kitsap County residents before her, Erin purchased a $200 ownership share of a cooperatively owned grocery store that did not yet exist, in hopes it would one day improve access to healthy, low-waste food and support a struggling local food system. When it became clear that the mission was on the brink of failure in 2017, Erin doubled down on that investment and joined the Board of Directors as its president.
The Co-op’s Board, along with a handful of dedicated volunteers, drafted a risky, last-ditch plan to save the organization- one that went against everything they’d been told was possible in the modern food economy. Starting with a tiny pop-up natural food store inside another business, they gradually earned back the capital and community engagement they would need to succeed.
Learn more about Kitsap Food Co-op.
Daniela Ferdico (Sensory Access)
Daniela Ferdico, PsyD and her daughter Isabella Ferdico are the co-founders of Sensory Access, a Seattle-based non-profit that aims to increase accessibility for autistic individuals and others with sensory processing disabilities.
Learn more about Sensory Access.
Aura Payne (Jubilee Women’s Center)
Aura Payne is a volunteer services manager at Jubilee Women’s Center. Jubilee Women’s Center opened its doors in 1983 to offer Seattle-area women experiencing poverty and homelessness an alternative to emergency shelters. Jubilee’s transitional residential program gives women the time and support to stabilize, heal and make positive life changes so they can reclaim their self-sufficiency.
Learn more about Jubilee Women’s Center.
After noticing the need for a climbing shoe that could fit over an ankle foot orthosis (AFO), he set out to find a shoe that could help his fellow climbers. After realizing that there was nothing on the market, he set to solve this problem himself! This way his fellow climbers could maintain the ankle support they require, as well as reap the numerous benefits a good climbing shoe can offer.
Dan Bernstein (Safe Lane)
Dan is an applied researcher who uses data science to illustrate social issues and inform public policy. He is a co-founder of Safe Lane, a cloud-based application that applies deep learning to traffic video feeds to identify bike lane obstacles and analyze patterns to aid city planning and safety enforcement.
John Gannon (VetEx)
Veterans Expeditions (VetEx) is a veteran-run, veteran-led non-profit that uses outdoor challenges to connect veterans, create community, build self-esteem, and raise awareness about the issues facing veterans as they transition back to civilian life. Over the past year they have been cultivating an outdoor community fully committed to one another by leveraging veteran leadership skills that reconnects service members with the land they fought for. They use the outdoors to create a trusting veteran community that not only exists during trips, but also extends beyond the outdoors to provide support to veterans in their home communities.
Learn more about VetEx.