Josephine Gaicugi, altruistic future entrepreneur

“One in four people lack safely managed drinking water at home. With an income of less than 5$ per day, they cannot have the luxury to consider drinking water purification as most of them life in poverty.” Says Josphine Gaicugi – the first water-technology participant to join VentureLab through NEW-TTT funding. The altruistic entrepreneur has spent the last two years on an all-or-nothing plan to develop low-cost water treatment systems targeting the poor and vulnerable communities.

Altruistic ideas

“Through insufficient funding and maintenance, the piping infrastructure has worsened over time, and the water from the system has become hazardous,” says Gaicugi. The Kenyan national has personally experienced the troubles on her home continent. “For my bachelor’s research, I studied the water quality of stream water, used as a source of drinking water downstream. But it was also used in wet processing of coffee upstream. I concluded that the water gets contaminated, despite there being stabilization ponds used for disposal of the wastewater.”  In effect, this means people assume to be using clean drinking water, while the quality can be hazardous at times.

This came as a shock to the young civil engineer. “I felt like I needed to find a solution, so I started to look for possible alternatives.” Gaicugi read through all available literature and stumbled upon a promising find: eggshells are a great adsorbent and works well in removing toxins in water.

So, back home, she dried some eggshells and gathered some sand. Together with piping elements, she gathered all components into a DIY filter, which she then tested on the irrigation system of her parents’ coffee farm. “It was remarkable how the cloudy water cleaned up. It gave me hope,” tells Gaicugi. With the sales of boiled eggs as a snack on every street corner and sand being easily available in the region, the water filter would be a perfect fit.

After her master’s degree in Water Supply Engineering from IHE UNESCO Delft, she worked in Uganda on a drinking water research project which fueled her longing to help improve the drinking water in African countries. From her position, that was easier said than done. So, Gaicugi returned to the Netherlands in the hopes of finding aid for her business idea.

VentureLab experience

Armed with water technology knowledge, Gaicugi booked a ticket to the Netherlands, seeking entrepreneurial wisdom. “I knew that the Netherlands is a well of knowledge for water related businesses, so I started looking for opportunities, which I found in the form of NEW-TTT.”

NEW-TTT financed Gaicugi’s year-long adventure at VentureLab. Here, she is professionally coached every Friday on all aspects of entrepreneurial life. “We’ve been talking finances, strategy, possible funding opportunities, relevance, and product validation. So far, the program has impacted my professional life in seeing the importance of networking. I have also learned how to pitch my business in limited time.”

And testing new skills is of course part of the program too. Gaicugi: “We have had the first quarterly evaluation past January, in which each group presented their idea to a jury. It was great how there are just there to give you feedback. No marks, or musts, but just advice.” The level of attention throughout the course is built up similarly. “I enjoy the trainer’s attention as if we had a personal training, despite being in a group of 15 teams.” “It has only been a few months, but I have learned so much already. It is great to have gotten this opportunity,”

Interested to become successful too?
Please contact Ronald Wielinga our manager entrepreneurship via +31 6 121 38 876 or or read more below.