Social Entrepreneurs Find A Home At Boulder’s Watson Institute

By John Spina
Daily Times-Call, Longmont, Colo.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The Watson Institute in Boulder specializes in incubating socially focused entrepreneurs and their businesses. It has been the perfect fit for Nzambi Matee who is focused on transforming discarded plastics into bricks that can be used to build affordable housing.

Daily Times-Call, Longmont, Colo.

When Nzambi Matee noticed plastics piling up all around her hometown of Nairobi, Kenya , she organized a group of volunteers to start cleaning up, but her enterprising spirit wouldn’t let her stop there.

Instead of simply thinking about the waste as just that, Matee began to see it as a potential resource; she just wasn’t quite sure how she would go about transforming it into something useful.

Little did she know the search for that answer would take her nearly 9,000 miles around the world to Boulder.

Her journey began, as they often do these days, on YouTube. Matee saw a young Russian scientist named Roman Sebekin creating pavement tiles from plastic waste and thought if he can make tiles capable of withstanding the weight of cars, why couldn’t she transform the discarded plastics into bricks capable of building affordable housing — another major issue plaguing her country?

With this vision in her mind, Matee applied to the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology to learn the scientific processes for creating these bricks. By the time she graduated four years later, she had done just that. The problem was that she had no idea she was going to manufacture thousands of them, let alone scale a business capable of disseminating them around the country.

“I could tell you how to make one brick, but I couldn’t tell you how to make 1,000 bricks,” she said. “I didn’t even know what a brick should cost.”

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