In my work as a Futurist I come across a lot of business ideas. I’d like to lay claim as the origination point for all of them but many come from the peeps in my think tank. Although they’re great ideas and many could make me rich, it’s just not right for me. I don’t have the skills. I don’t have the contacts. I don’t want to do it. I like giving these ideas away, kind of my way of giving away something for free that I usually do for money.
A good friend Jeff Cole recently spoke for us at church. He’s the founder and director of Project James, a charity that supports an orphanage in Haiti among other projects. He’s very passionate about it and has jumped wholeheartedly into doing good for others.
During Jeff’s talk at The Pilgrimage he mentioned something that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind. We asked lots of questions about Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. One of the big issues following the disaster was housing. With most of the structures demolished or unsafe afterward, they simply lived in tents. Let’s face it, tents are ubiquitous in a disaster. They’re quick and easy shelters to assemble. People all over the world live in tents as temporary housing. I spent more days than I can count in military tents of all sizes. Tents arrived in Haiti from all over the world.
A problem for the Haitians that Jeff mentioned was that many of them couldn’t set up the tents. This has nothing to do with an intelligence factor and certainly nothing against a third world country. Those of you who have set up tents before know that the best of us can get confused. We set them up weird. We have extra spikes, rope, and poles left over that aren’t supposed to be extra. We get rained on. The tents fall or blow over. We ask for help and it gets worse. And that’s when the instructions are written in our primary language.
Imagine trying to set up a weird device with either no instructions or poorly written instructions that are in other languages you don’t read. You can guess what happens. The vast majority of the tents went unused or were used improperly as makeshift tarps instead of a functional shelter.
Just look at this poorly constructed tent city in Port Au Prince…
That’s where the business idea comes in. Someone needs to make third world disaster tents.
The tents need…
- To be affordable Not much profit, but cost enough to make the making of them sustainable.
- No instructions. If they do require instructions, how about just a couple of steps that are printed on the tent instead of a 20 page hardback novel that ruins or gets lost after a disaster.
- Super easy to set up. Please tell me the engineers of the world can make a tent that’s easy to set up without being so complicated.
- Good material. It needs to be weatherproof. Please don’t go cheap here.
- Needs to store easily. If people have to move, everything they own goes on their back. The tents need to fold and store easily, not at all like normal tents.
I’ll leave the rest up to you, whoever runs with this one. In addition to the tents themselves, your business needs to be socially responsible one. Think TOMS Shoes with this part. You need to create a tent business or division that makes people want to buy dozens of them to donate and give away. Create a brand around this.
I remember a while back when the movie Congo came out that they had pop up tents on the movie. They seemed supercool in the movie and for a while, you could find them everywhere. I don’t see them much anymore. After a cursory websearch I found quite a few companies selling them, but for some reason they don’t often make it to the disaster sites. Maybe they’re cheaply made. Maybe the engineering is off. Maybe they cost too much. Maybe that’s a place to start or maybe not.
I hope somebody runs with this idea. You have my blessing. You can even take the name 3rd World Tents if you want. All I ask is that if it works, send me one. I’ll be happy to test a prototype. I’ll be happy to buy a bunch and send the to the next disaster site.
I just hope you’ll take me up on this.