Thursday, December 16, 2010

William Kamkwamba - Ignore Conventional Wisdom

Entrepreneurs see a problem and find a solution. It sounds easy and on one level it is easy. But in reality it is not easy. There are many obstacles that entrepreneurs have to go over, through and around.

William Kamkwamba lives in Malawi, Africa. Malawi is one of the poorest nation in the world. It is a land affected by drought, hunger, disease, poor medical conditions. Just living there is a Sisyphian feat.

William Kamkwamba had a dream for his family and village. He wanted to provide electricity and water to them. He wanted to go to school to learn about electricity. Unfortunately, a famine devastated the family farm and he could not pay the $80 per year tuition. He had to help his family survive. His days were spent foraging for food just to help keep his family alive.

But he did not let go of his dream.

Entrepreneurs have dreams they want to fulfill and follow. They grab on and hold tight. One might also say it is the Dream that grabs the entrepreneurs. This dream of water and electricity grabbed William. And it held tight. With his stomach in pain from emptiness his mind remained full of his vision.
He had some textbooks and taught himself about electricity. He visited junkyards to find scrap metal, bicycle parts, pieces of tractors and other things necessary to fulfill his dream. As he built his machine the villagers called him crazy. Why would he waste his time on something no one could eat? He should feed his family.

William did not give up. Hunger, the voices of disbelieving neighbors and even his own personal doubts would not deter him. He needed a part so he visited the junkyard. A fan blade here, some wire there. And in time the windmill he was constructing was turned on and at the end of the wires was a light-bulb - and it glowed!

Spurned on by this success William built another machine. This one ran a pump that provided water to the villagers. Crops now would grow even in the most severe drought and famine.

William saw a problem and saw a solution. It took him time, trial, error and sacrifice but he persisted. He overcame many obstacles to fulfill his vision.

To read more about his story check out: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, HarperCollins, 2009.

Here is a YouTube video to watch:

And his website is:

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