Since her arrival at EARTH University, Phenny Omondi (‘17, Kenya) has been clear about her goal. During her four years of study in Costa Rica, she had a successful fruit pulp production business project called Pulpasa, in which she oversaw the company’s finances.
In her third year at EARTH, she completed her internship at BIOGAS INTERNATIONAL in Kenya, where she played a crucial role in the production of hydroponic forage for rural producers. Her main objective was communicating the benefits of clean energies for the African continent. In addition, she participated in value-added projects for biogas, using it to heat commercial chicken farms – effectively replacing coal, gasoline and other non-renewable electricity sources.
Among her many other achievements during her university career, Phenny participated in the Hult Prize and the Wege Prize, where she won $10,000 in start-up capital for her project called KYCE. Additionally, she participated in the Social Venture Challenge, won first place in the Mastercard Foundation’s “Fund for Rural Prosperity” with her project Kilimo Jijini and gave various workshops on pitching and presentation of ideas to potential investors.
In February, Phenny will take the next step in her career, representing EARTH as one of its graduates at the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Bootcamp organized by the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
She is one of 5,000 social entrepreneurs selected to participate in the program from the pool of 50,000 applicants.
This boot camp is a new MIT offering for innovators, entrepreneurs and promoters of global change. Participants will be in Australia February 10-16 for an intense, week-long program to learn how to build innovation-driven ventures that address global environmental agricultural and mineral-resource challenges.
According to Phenny, applicants needed to present a feasible idea, which considers the estimated resulting environmental gains and social impact. “I liked that very much because complements what we studied at EARTH,” Phenny said.
Her project idea involves sweet potato cultivation. Producers from Phenny’s hometown often suffer from exploitation by intermediaries and unethically low payments for crop sales.
“Much of what is grown is lost, so we are proposing a value-added project. We have a defined market niche, and there are currently organizations making flour, breads and other products from the sweet potato. Still, we see that producers are paid less than half of what they should be. We want to partner with them, so they can earn what they deserve and overcome their resulting impoverished conditions,” Phenny said.
In 2014, Phenny discovered a handful of online lessons taught by MIT. At the end of the course, she had the opportunity to apply to the training program. She entered her idea but was not selected for participation. However, as she progressed in her practice-based education, she managed to refine the idea through mentorship and personal growth.
“When I received the acceptance letter, I was thrilled to know I was one of 50,000 people to have applied. The application was super demanding. I think MIT considers student personality. They want you to analyze situations and form ideas that are thorough, generate money, have a positive impact and are sustainable. On the other hand, they evaluate what you consider important as a person, your confidence and self-perception. I am very excited to have been chosen,” Phenny added.
MIT expects camp participants to actively learn from one another and the coaches. Throughout the interactive program, students will learn and put into practice new entrepreneurial and innovation-related skills – led by MIT faculty members, coaches, guest speakers and each other.
Everyone has the opportunity to lead their team through its project work for a day.
“From the camp, I hope to improve my idea and develop a well-defined plan of how to implement it. I also want to meet other people who have similar interests,” Phenny concluded.