How Two Ambitious Women Found Success With a Cause-Driven Company

Their mission is to help the women of Ghana start businesses that solve an age-old crisis: the shortage of clean water.

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By Sumi Krishnan

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When women are driven by passion and compassion, they can do great things. No matter the cause -- large or small -- pursuing a passion to enable social change is one of the most worthwhile things anyone can do.

Related: Charity Water and Its Vision for Clean Water

Kate Clopeck and Vanessa Green, co-founders of Saha Global, are prime examples of women who have successfully pursued their passion to work toward solving a problem. That problem is the global water crisis. When Clopeck first learned of it, she was shocked to discover how easy it is to purify contaminated water. She'd fallen into the common trap of assuming that the "hard part" of solving a problem is inventing the solution. In reality, however, Clopeck came to understand that simple, cheap water treatment technologies had been around for years. The problem was implementation.

Saha Global was born out of Clopeck and Green's shared passion. Saha Global's mission is to empower women and bring more clean water to Ghana, which works hand in hand with the organization's business model. Saha Global enables Ghana's women, traditionally the ones in charge of water in the home, to become entrepreneurs. Through a training and monitoring program the women learn to collect and treat water by hand, then sell it at an affordable price.

Despite working alongside many nongovernmental organizations that distribute clean water solutions for free, Saha Global found success because its locally available treatment methods produced sustainable clean water solutions that villagers could afford while stimulating the local economy.

Clopeck's inspirational story serves as a remarkable example for all women interested in social entrepreneurship. The most important lesson: Solve a problem that you can get excited about. Follow Clopeck's example with these four tips for finding success with a cause-driven company:

1. Widen your social lens.

Social entrepreneurship isn't just about being your own boss and making more money. Give yourself the freedom to be driven by a problem, and constantly challenge yourself to "think bigger."

Saha Global began with purifying water in Ghana, but it soon expanded to solar power and female entrepreneurship. Because of Clopeck and Green's efforts, the company has been able to empower 178 women entrepreneurs to start their own clean water or solar electricity businesses.

Related: Nonprofit Incubator Teaches Low-Income Women to Build Restaurant Businesses

2. Assemble your team with care.

Cause-driven companies are a lot of work for the whole team, so it's critical that everyone care about your cause. As a leader, you should recognize that your job is to motivate and engage your team members -- regardless of their roles or talents.

In Clopeck's words, the Saha Global team is "small but mighty" because it's made up of people who care deeply about the company's mission. She credits her team members with their ability to do great things, but it's her guiding hand that makes it happen.

3. Take advantage of creative fundraising.

Fundraising is one of your jobs, and it may be harder than you think. There's often a lot of red tape, and you have to be willing to put in the time and effort to convince people that your cause is the one they should support.

Because Saha Global is a nonprofit that launches for-profit social businesses, it was difficult to find the appropriate fundraising avenues when it came time to scale up. Neither venture capital nor traditional philanthropy really fit. Although it was frustrating at the beginning, this challenge forced the team to get creative and eventually launch its Global Leadership Program. This program not only gives young leaders the opportunity to learn about social entrepreneurship while having a lasting impact on the ground, but also provides Saha Global with the resources it needs to grow.

4. Uncover the simplest solution.

It's easy to get caught up in the newest, most innovative tech, but the most basic solution is often the most sustainable.

Saha Global uses aluminum sulfate and chlorine to treat drinking water. No pipes, pumps or mechanics are involved -- just two products and a safe storage container. Innovation wasn't needed, because the simple solution was effective and sustainable. As a result, Clopeck and Green can spend all their innovation energy on their business model.

In this highly connected world, the motto "in order to be a billionaire, help a billion people" is actually possible. However, the inspiration for entrepreneurship shouldn't come from the question of how to make money but rather how to solve a problem. The world has a lot of crises waiting for solutions. So find something that makes you feel alive, and pursue it like a woman on a mission.

Related: How This CEO Combined a For-Profit and Nonprofit and Made Both Better For It

Sumi Krishnan

CEO of K4 Solutions

Sumi Krishnan is the CEO of Falls Church, Va.-based K4 Solutions, which provides technology and staffing services. She also offers success coaching to aspiring and established female entrepreneurs.

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