Can you give us a brief description of Lucky Iron Fish?
Founded in 2012, Lucky Iron Fish is a certified B corporation with big aspirations: to tackle and wipe out iron deficiency in the developing and developed world. Its carefully formulated and tested cooking cast iron fish, seen as lucky in Cambodian culture where it was first introduced, has been shown to reduce instances of iron deficiency and provide an entire family up to 90 percent of their daily iron intake for up to five years.
What inspired you to start this company?
During my undergraduate studies, I completed a two-week field course in Botswana and an internship in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camps, which opened my eyes to the realities of abject poverty and malnutrition.
In my senior year at the University of Guelph, I came across an ad to commercialize a health innovation concept called Happy Fish. Chris Charles, a PhD candidate in biomedical science, developed the Happy Fish following a trip to Cambodia, where he made the shocking discovery that 50 percent of Cambodians are affected by iron deficiency. In fact, as many as 3.5 billion people suffer from iron deficiency worldwide, which can result in anemia, weakness, impaired cognition and increased risk of illness, particularly in women and children.
I took the plunge, responded to the ad and eagerly worked to scale up the invention, first by modifying its shape and brand to Lucky Iron Fish, then by setting up our for-profit operations infused with social good.
What is the "giving back" aspect of your company? What impact has it made?
Giving back is fully baked into our business model -- through our “Buy One Give One” program, we give a fish to someone in need for every fish purchased online. At the end of 2015, approximately 70,000 fish were sold and another 40,000 donated, with an estimated 84,000 families benefiting from using Lucky Iron Fish.
We also give back in other significant ways: From the very beginning, we wanted to develop a simple innovation that could transform the face of health. Lucky Iron Fish is easy-to-use, cost-effective and proven -- our clinical trials have shown a substantial reduction in instances of iron anemia among women and an improvement of both stored and circulating iron when used daily, up to 90 percent of the required dose, with no observed side effects.
We provide work opportunities to 50 Cambodians with disabilities through the Watthan Cooperative, most of whom are landmine victims.
Our education campaigns about iron deficiency and nutrition also help Cambodians make better health choices that improve their productivity, which in turn contributes to the local economy.
Why is it important to you?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been hardwired with a drive to help level the playing field. Knowing that today, more people are leading healthier, more fulfilling and productive lives thanks to Lucky Iron Fish couldn’t be more gratifying. But we have so much more to accomplish. The World Bank estimates a $70 billion loss of GDP every year due to iron deficiency, let alone the billions of people who are affected by and struggle daily with the condition. I’m deeply committed to reaching 1,000,000 fish sold and 1,000,000 more donated by 2020.
Our goal is simple: To “put a fish in every pot,” and put an end to iron deficiency around the world.
Reporting for this slide by Rose Leadem.