This article was written by Matt Leedham, EO’s Vice President of the Americas, for the March 2016 issue of Octane magazine.
Recently, I made a trip to Guatemala to visit with Regional Director, Enrique “Kikoy” Montano, where we discussed EO’s growing presence in Latin America. While there, I spent a Saturday volunteering with an organization called Believe Guatemala, which empowers Guatemala City’s poor through education. That day, I helped deliver water filters to families desperate for clean water. Only after returning home did I discover that the filters are created by EO Guatemala’s Philip Wilson. Kikoy was quick to provide an introduction, and we connected a few weeks later for this interview.
A 15-year member of EO, Philip graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business and has spent the past 20 years building profitable enterprises. However, it wasn’t until 2012 that his true purpose came into focus: providing clean water for those in need. To realize his vision, Philip created EcoFiltro, a social business that affords families throughout Central America access to potable water through a clay pot filtration system. I sat down with Philip to talk about his journey, what inspires him and the lessons he’s learned along the way.
After years of corporate work, what motivated you to start a social business?
PW/ “After I turned 40, I was questioning the meaning of life and looking to make a change. Although I had successfully built businesses and made good money over the years, I was having trouble getting out of bed in the morning. I don’t think entrepreneurs talk about this enough: Once we achieve a certain level of success, many of us go through the process of asking, ‘What’s next?’ I’m not into buying yachts and Ferraris— I don’t need a lot of material things. I wanted my life to have substance and purpose, yet still enjoy success. My sister is a social worker and nutritionist. She spends her time working in rural communities, and I would occasionally join her. Visiting with the people of these villages, understanding their unique needs and offering assistance always felt good to me. I knew I would be inspired to build something meaningful if I could use my business skills to transform lives.”
How would you describe the challenge your product is trying to solve?
PW/ “There are two primary problems with ensuring all humans have clean water to drink. The first is a lack of water, which is more of a problem in Africa. The second is the quality of water, our biggest challenge in Central America. Take Guatemala, for example: ninety-seven percent of lakes, rivers and streams contain bacteria of fecal origin. More than half of the population does not have access to clean water, resulting in one out of 20 children not reaching age five. This is an urgent problem that needs to be addressed. The EcoFiltro water-purification system I created uses a clay pot to convert contaminated water into clean water, in turn providing more than two years of drinking water to those in need.”
Read the rest of Matt’s story in the March 2016 issue of Octane magazine, coming soon! To request a hard copy of the magazine, contact us.
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