Since 2012, Toyota’s Mothers of Invention program has awarded $650,000 to 13 women who not only innovate, but offer real, tangible solutions to problems they see in the world. This year’s recipients continue the legacy with simple ideas that yield massive results—from an app to end hunger to connecting virtual mentors with young students to offering services to adults with special needs.
Komal Ahmad, Copia
“Hunger is the world’s dumbest problem, especially in the world’s wealthiest country,” said Komal Ahmad, founder of Copia, an app akin to Uber for leftover food. Restaurants, hotels and other businesses with food surpluses connect with organizations that will pick up that food and distribute it to those in need. In 2011, Ahmad met a homeless veteran who had not eaten in three days. She realized that there is a lot of food wasted, when, in fact, there are many hungry people who need it. Since then, her company has fed over one million people with 800,000 pounds of food. “It’s not a Miss Universe-type situation where I want world peace,” said Ahmad. “Hunger is a distribution problem.” Her app is set to go global in the very near future.
Maria Dellapina, Specs4Us
A single mother of a teenager with Down Syndrome, an optician and founder of Specs4Us, Maria Dellapina founded her company when she realized her daughter needed glasses that fit her. “Erin was almost two when I could see her eyes turning. A typical frame doesn’t balance on her right,” she said. Her company has grown into a very successful one that provides eyewear for people with special needs, but it took three years before anyone would even listen. Since then, she, along with health professionals, are on a mission to provide adequate healthcare and services for adults with developmental disabilities, who often age out of the system when they turn 21.
Monica Gray and Annie Medaglia, DreamWakers
As recent college graduates with full-time jobs, Monica Gray and Annie Medaglia lamented the fact that they weren’t working in more inspiring fields. Soon after, they dreamt up DreamMakers, which uses free video chat services to connect virtual mentors with students who would not have an opportunity to hear from—and get inspired by—leaders in their fields. Launched in 2014, they have already set up impactful interactions in over 50 diverse communities, and they aim to reach classrooms in every state, showing students a breadth of possible careers. They now have a long wait list of speakers who want to join their program, still there is one hitch: “We received more applications from men than women to be speakers, so all you women out there, please sign up,” said Medaglia.
- The 2016 Women In The World Summit, NYC, New York; 4/7/2016