Wish for WASH Pilot: The Build

 

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After over a year in the making, creating partnerships, raising funds, developing a strong team, and manufacturing our SafiChoo 2.0 for testing, the Wish for WASH beta pilot has FINALLY begun! Coming out of 2014, with just a foam prototype, one of my best friends and incredible teammate, Katie, and other interested people who wanted to contribute, the prospect of moving forward was daunting as I felt like there was no foreseeable light at the end of the tunnel. Consequently, coming out of 2015 following a 100% funded Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, I was flooded with a host of emotions. I felt an overwhelming sense of social media burn out but was simultaneously filled with extreme joy to finally see that Wish for WASH, my baby, finally had the means– the funds, the product, the team and the partners— necessary to get a beta test started.

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Not to say that early 2016 was a cakewalk. Despite the Indiegogo exhaustion which was paralleled with an all-encompassing excitement that enabled Wish for WASH to hit the ground running in 2016, I had to quickly learn how to navigate customs regulations, international commerce fees, and transport logistics.  Once the toilet was in country, in addition to coordinating travel itineraries for the Wish for WASH team members who were willing and able to travel to start the build, I persevered each day to identify and follow up on the necessary steps to get approval for the pilot. This season of life was definitely proof to me that to be a social entrepreneur you must be willing to wear many hats, and often times, stacked on top of one another. From team visionary, to team travel agent, to team financial director, to team partnership relations developer, to team logistics officer, the past few months juxtaposed all of the skills that I have developed since the start of this Wish for WASH journey as a grand test of resilience, patience, and professionalism.

And by the grace of God, the Zambian toilet installation happened! 

Our incredible on the ground partners, Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WUSUP), have helped me so much in terms of navigating cultural nuances and requirements while being amazingly supportive of our intention to use iterative and rapid prototyping practices in order to gain a minimum viable product that best meets the end user’s needs. Our manufacturing and shipping partners have brought our designs to life and enabled them to get where they needed to be at rates that we could afford. Our Indiegogo backers are passionate supporters who have enabled us to finance this toilet test and it’s been awesome to see how happy people are to receive their campaign perks as tangible proof that they are a part of our story.

And lastly, my incredible Wish for WASH team has continued to amaze me. Seriously, I am so blessed by them! They have taken off time from work, used school scholarships to help support their time in Zambia, had business meetings across 3 different time zones at weird hours to work out logistics problems, graciously responded to my slew of weekly emails, and patiently worked with me in the field to install the toilet despite the crazy and random obstacles that came our way.

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It is incredible to see an idea transform into a reality, but for me it is more than that. Despite what happens from here, I have learned to deeply appreciate the fact that the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. As the founder of Wish for WASH, I am often the face of much of our work, but I am here to tell you that Wish for WASH is so much more than me; and for that, I am grateful. With my incredible team, partners and supporters, we created the 2.0 SafiChoo toilet, successfully fundraised for it, shipped it to Zambia (and have one also being built in Atlanta), installed it and now have amazing local people using and providing feedback on it. All I can say in retrospect is…Shit’s getting real and I couldn’t be more excited to see what happens next!

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Dispelling Awakwardness via a Jezebel Magazine Feature

I was super excited to receive a Facebook message earlier this summer from the Editor-In-Chief of the Jezebel Modern Luxury Magazine, Allison, saying that I was nominated to be featured as one of Atlanta’s 2015 Trailblazing 10 by one of my friends from high school. I was SO honored and excited about this experience that I scheduled my interview and photoshoot right away.

However, most people that know me know the following things: apparently I am a speaker that does decently well in interviews and I am perpetually awkward. With this said, the interview portion of this process was a breeze. Talking toilets is something I love and I have gotten to the point where I can translate it for others to understand why I care so much. On the other hand, I am absolutely, 100% NOT a model. Let alone a “sexy” model. I dont do sexy.  It is just out of the range of possibilities for me. As a photographer, I like being on the other side of the camera when it comes to things like this. It is just more natural. I love being in photos to document my life and experiences, but my adolescent attempts at sexy poses and smising just act as further proof that I can be cutesie/sassy/weird in posed photos-like reg smiling or face making or sorority squatting or hugging people or most famously, utilizing the skinny arm – and thats about it. 208674_1005799581670_2282_n

I know what you are thinking. Yes this is real life. 

Needless to say, I was petrified by the idea that I was supposed to be kinda sexy in a cocktail outfit in the beautiful W hotel. I brought like 20 different dresses to the shoot since I had no idea what they had in mind and that’s when I realized that I was the youngest person on this feature. Usually that makes me feel under-qualified or slightly nervous, but in this case, I was really just focusing on how I was going to get through this photoshoot.

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And then it happened. The photographer and JEZEBEL staff were so cool, helping me to chill a little bit, but I was still nervous that I would look constipated or something in the final images. I was literally SO RELIEVED in the end to see the final product (saved by that skinny arm pose) 

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Maybe talking about toilets makes me take more natural looking photos. Nevertheless, the power of Photoshop mystifies me. In the end, I am SO HONORED that I was featured in such an incredible publication alongside some of Atlanta’s biggest movers and shakers. JEZEBEL helped me silence the little birdie on my shoulder that makes me say and do some of the most painfully awkward things and I am hoping that that can be translated to my daily life. (will report out soon)

Thanks so much everyone for all of the support on this feature! To see the link, the magazine feature can be viewed here!

Hops N Johns

WE HAD OUR FIRST FUNDRAISER CALLED HOPS N JOHNS (beer + toilets)!

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So 8 months ago, I really had no concept about business or about finances. Luckily, we have been blessed by the incredible Georgia Tech community and have been financially supported through grants and competition winnings thus far in addition to in-kind donations from a series of incredible individuals! Seriously. We exist today because we stand on the shoulders of an amazingly supportive GT and Atlanta based network (also including people from around the world) that has made all of what we have accomplished thus far possible.

As we have advanced in our business development plan led by our incredible GT MBA grad, Alex Dorman, we have realized the need for understanding our long terms financial strategy. We currently exist as a for profit in the form of an LLC with the intention of being able to make greater impact faster and more sustainably. However, we are still very much in our research and design phase of development and are a social startup needing to sustain itself through our field tests in order to grow.

The reality of this “chicken or the egg” situation (where we needed money to continue proving our product but needed our product to qualify for more money) that we found ourselves came just as we were approached by our long time friends World Water Relief (I actually interned for them in 2012 and have grown to really love them) about having a joint fundraiser together tapping into our two different pools of supporters to help each other in our comparable missions. World Water Relief is committed to providing long-term sustainable water projects in the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

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This was an incredible opportunity for all of us to learn what is really takes to put on a fundraiser with the help of an incredible support team at World Water Relief. Between meeting all around the city to being flexible to student schedules and availability, it was such a great experience working with Donna and Christie. 

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After months of planning and advertising in press releases and koozies, April finally came and our event was a hit! We had a great food selection provided by Southbound Restaurant and drinks were sponsored by another Georgia Tech startup called Second Self. We had Miss Georgia 2014 and a GT male acapella group perform in addition to having a silent auction. I am so thankful for the incredible experience and for everyone that came out to support our WASH related missions.

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THANK YOU SO MUCH EVERYONE FOR MAKING OUR FIRST FUNDRAISER A SUCCESS!

TEDxAtlanta

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April 28th 2015- I, Jasmine Burton, had the distinct honor of speaking at the TEDxAtlanta 2015 event entitled Bold Moves.

As the only student and representation of GEN-Y, I felt that it was an opportunity to share my story- my truth- in a way that I had not before.

At this point, I had spoken at several conferences and at various community and school events all about the chronology of the SafiChoo toilet iterations and the trials + tribulations of being a young and ever aspiring social entrepreneur.

But for this I wanted more. More personal context. More relatability. Just more. Even though it was a short talk, 7ish minutes, I wanted to deliver a message the connected me and the Wish for WASH story with anyone–with everyone.

“No matter which tribe to which I subscribe, above all else I am a global citizen and I design toilets that matter to people. Ultimately I seek to use my creativity to make the world smile.”

Crawl in to my brain for a minute and experience my story below:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4pzFVspHIYQ

Wish for WASH,LLC

I’m a designer; therefore, for my whole life, I have always been described as pretty much strictly “artsy”, “creative”, “different”, “out-there”, or “weird” all of which have positive connotations in my book because weird is cool. However, among the words that people use to try to describe my perspective on life and on my journey to find my purpose, the words “business woman” or “entrepreneur” were not often used. That is until last year; 2014, the year I tasted what it was like to whole heartedly believe that an individual can make a real difference in this world.  IMG_2626

In March 2014, my senior design team was the first all female team to win the Georgia Tech InVenture Prize Competition, the largest undergraduate invention competition in the US, for our invention the SafiChoo toilet. This was a largely theoretical, academic based concept but was a mobile toilet intended for use in the Kakuma Refugee camp in Kenya. DSC_0169

The winnings from this competition enabled us to travel to Kakuma and pilot our original design under the auspices of Sanivation and in tandem with the CDC and the Norwegian Refugee Council. IT WAS SUCH A LIFE CHANGING EXPERIENCE.

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We had to iterate in the field and truly interface with the people for which we were designing in an effort to learn their pain points and witness their daily lives to fuel what we call the design process. 

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Fall 2014, was one of the most emotionally exhausting periods of my life both personally and professionally as the original SafiChoo team slowly and painfully evaporated and a new team-unsure of their roles on the team or their intended value- began to form. Months of working together and empowering this new team to have a voice has enabled Wish for WASH, a social impact organization that I founded to house the development of the SafiChoo toilet and other WASH related innovations, to blossom.

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I am strapped on to the roller coaster of social entrepreneurship, and it has proven to be the best and most growth-provoking ride of my life. It has expanded my list of identifying adjectives and taught me to truly fight for what I believe in. Designers have the power to  change the world for the better.

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So with that I invite you to crawl into my brain for a minute, to experience the emotionally wrenching and overwhelmingly exciting story that I call Wish for WASH, LLC.