When Ludwick Marishane was 18, he and a friend were sunbathing in rural Limpopo in Marishane’s native South Africa. By the time the pair were ready to leave, Marishane hit the showers but his companion didn’t feel like cleaning up.
That gave Marishane, now 21 and a student at Capetown University, the idea that forms the core of his business, HeadBoy Industries. Marishane’s notion that day was to create a simple, antibacterial cleanser that could be used in lieu of gallons of water to bathe. On Friday, that idea and the business it influenced led Marishane to become the first sub-Saharan African to win the Global Student Entrepreneur Award.
“Who would have known a lazy friend not wanting to bathe would lead to this,” he told me Friday night after being named the winner of a competition that included more than 2,000 contestants, and ended with an intense day of 30 student entrepreneurs occupying the New York Stock Exchange and pitching their businesses to panels of veteran entrepreneurs and others. The contest was run by the Entrepreneurs’ Organization and was sponsored by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the NYSE.
Marishane and four other finalists spent the afternoon explaining their businesses and visions to a group of panelists that included such luminaries as Redbox cofounder Mike DeLazzer and Shark Tank regular Kevin Harrington. I was the only media representative on the judging panel. The students were competing for $150,000 in cash and services and a year of mentorship from DeLazzer.
Marishane’s invention, DryBath, and the business he’s built around it, replaces use of polluted water for regular bathing in areas of the world where the water is so dirty that people catch diseases from taking a bath. The potential market includes more than 2 billion people.
DryBath also has commercial uses. It could be used by hotels looking to conserve water and by airlines trying to provide a refreshing dose of cleanliness to customers on long-haul flights. In fact, Marishane, who expects to do $162,000 in revenue this year and $1 million in 2012, is already working with British Airways and the Accor hotel group on test deals. He’s also established partnerships with Oxfam and WaterAid to provide his product to victims of disasters worldwide.
Marishane told the judges that his product could become, “a poor man’s necessity and a rich man’s convenience.”
“Participating in the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards was a game-changing experience for my personal and professional growth, and winning is proof that crazy high-school dreams can go on to bring about real change in the world, ” Marishane said of his experience with the event.
As for the students who Marishane beat:
Garrett Gee, a Brigham Young University student whose company, Scan, developed one of the most-used apps for QR Code scanning on mobile devices.
Jake Jorgovan, a Belmont University student whose company, Rabbit Hole Creative, is built around creating three-dimensional lighting effects. He has worked with such artists as Dolly Parton, Cee Lo Green, and Lady Gaga.
Kevin Gelfand of San Diego State University, whose company, ShakeSmart, provides healthy protein shakes near college fitness facilities. So far, he has established an outlet at San Diego State, but plans to expand to other colleges and hopes to hit the fitness-club market.
Dinesh Wadhwani of Babson College, whose company, ThinkLite, aims to provide savings on energy-efficient lighting to consumers and businesses. Among ThinkLite’s clients are AT&T and Kodak.
“This year’s GSEA competition really symbolizes how young entrepreneurs are making their mark: creating employment, changing the world, and, in Ludwick’s case, saving lives,” said Kevin Langley, global chairman of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization.