4TH AFRICA WOMEN INNOVATION & ENTREPRENEURSHIP FORUM

Unleashing Ideas: Innovation, Sustainability & Enterprise Growth

8 - 9 November 2018
Cape Town International Convention Centre
Cape Town, South Africa

SARAH COLLINS

Founder & Chief Executive Officer

Natural Balance Global t/a Wonderbag

South Africa

Also known affectionately as “the Bag Lady”, Sarah Collins is as comfortable rubbing shoulders with the world’s leading policy makers and celebrities as she is with people living in abject poverty all around the world.

By now many countries around the world have come to know and love Collins’ brainchild - The Wonderbag. People love this cooking tool for different reasons, some because of the energy and fuel sources they are saving every month. There are those who appreciate the major nutritional and health benefits that this form of cooking yields. Others love it because it frees up time they would normally have spent in the kitchen keeping watch over a boiling pot as the Wonderbag can safely be left to cook unattended for up to 12 hours.

With many countries around the world embracing the Wonderbag including South Africa, the US, Jordan, Turkey, Zimbabwe, Uganda, the UK and more recently, Ghana - these revolutionary bags exceeded the 1 million mark in 2015 for the number of bags sold. The overwhelmingly positive adoption of the Wonderbag makes it clear that Collins’ innovation is a critical catalyst for positive change in households around the world.

The business world was also quick to recognise the potential of Collins’ innovation. Collins was voted as one of the Top Ten Female Entrepreneurs by Fortune Magazine in 2013, she was invited to speak at Davos by the Dutch Prime Minister, was a keynote Speaker at TEDx Cape Town in 2015, and more recently worked with tech giant Dell to help raise awareness around entrepreneurship and its value in the developing world for the UN Summit. Needless to say Collins has been identified time and time again as an influential global activist and acclaimed social entrepreneur.

At the heart of every entrepreneur is a passion for problem solving. That is precisely how the Wonderbag idea was born. It was 2008, and rolling blackouts had darkened the city of Johannesburg. The severe, ongoing energy shortages throughout South Africa were affecting everyone. Cities and towns, hospitals and schools—all had power only once every several days, and then only for a few hours, making the simple act of cooking meals incredibly difficult. It was during one of these blackouts that Collins leapt out of bed at two in the morning and woke up her roommate shouting, "I've got it! I know how I'm going to change the world." The night of the blackout, Collins flashed back to her childhood. Growing up on a farm in a remote part of the country, she had watched her grandmother bundle blankets and cushions around a hot pot of stew to keep it cooking and conserve her limited fuel. "Why wouldn't that work?" she thought. Then she remembered watching the San people bury food in the ground while they were cooking. "I thought to myself, this is the oldest technology in the world."

 

The next day, Collins created the prototype for her heat-retention cooker, the Wonderbag. But what a lot of us may not know is how this cooking tool has changed millions of lives far and wide by bringing dignity and hope back to war-torn communities that the Foundation side of the business has helped since its inception. To alleviate poverty and suffering and to empower women who are at the heart of most families and communities has long been the driving force and inspiration behind Collins’ success.

Collins is currently busy expanding her product offering to help address other pressing needs that people in the third and developing world face on a daily basis. And so the problem solving continues.

 

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