As I mentioned last Monday, my trip to Washington DC gave me the opportunity to meet and engage with many people from very different backgrounds. My team included the CEO of Ron John’s, a former astronaut, and a young student from UF (who was getting way out of his comfort zone).
It is awfully hard to beat an astronaut, but probably the best story I heard came from Shawn Seipler. Shawn is a father of four who was looking for a way out of all the travel associated with his sales and marketing job. One day while in one of an endless stream of hotel rooms, he called down to the front desk to inquire about what happens to all of the bars of soap and shampoo in hotel rooms when the customer checks out. The answer of course was that it is thrown away. It was then that Shawn and his partner Paul Till, started to research the potential for recycling soap products. Their orignial goal was to keep them out of landfills, but while doing this research, the team discovered that two very deadly child diseases:acute respiratory illness and diarrheal disease could be significantly reduced simply by giving kids soap to wash their hands.
It was from this research that Clean the World was born. Clean the World now employs 30 people here in Orlando and works with corporate partners to recycle soap and distribute it to impovrished people around the world. I found his story so compelling, such a great example of professional risk-taking, cross-disciplinary collaboration and data-driven decision-making that I invited him to speak at UCF. But, I had already been beaten to the punch: Shawn will be speaking in the student union at 4:30 on April 9th as a guest of our Center for Entrepreneurship. If you want inspiration, come out and hear his story.