8 November 2022
Kalkidan Tadesse, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of this year’s winning BeChangeMaker team, Happy Pads, was shocked when she discovered that some of her fellow college students were having to use fabric torn from their mattresses as sanitary products. Unable to forget about the situation, Kalkidan teamed up with Wubit Tadesse, and the idea for Happy Pads was born.
The Happy Pads team has a vision to develop affordable, sustainable sanitary products for women and girls. They have already made good progress. The happy pad is free from chemicals and plastics and degrades with six months of disposal. It is the first and only patented biodegradable sanitary pad in Ethiopia. Taking part in BeChangeMaker was an exciting next step on the team’s entrepreneurial journey.
“We are grateful for this program,” said Kalkidan. “It’s been such a great opportunity for us to learn. The HP LIFE courses and training have helped us as Happy Pads and also introduced us to a great mentor and coach. Thank you so much.”
During the three-month program, Happy Pads and the other 29 participating teams had access to coaching, tools, and resources, including the HP Foundation’s free online IT and business skills training program, HP LIFE, to help them develop their business acumen and get their fledgling enterprises off the ground.
Dedicated support was also provided by 54 HP employee volunteers from around the globe who served as mentors helping the teams hone their business ideas and improve their pitches. As experienced technologists and business professionals, their support is invaluable and provides the aspiring entrepreneurs with real-world expertise that would be difficult for them to access otherwise. Another 17 employees volunteered as judges.
For HP employee Kathleen D’Angelo, who mentored the Happy Pads team, the opportunity to share her expertise was extremely fulfilling. “Personally, I got more out of the experience than I could have imagined. It was wonderful to meet such a remarkable team of young entrepreneurs and incredibly inspiring to learn their story and what they had accomplished thus far. Being able to add value to their team by sharing my skills and knowledge was tremendously rewarding for me.”
Happy Pads was one of six teams who took part in the BeChangeMaker final. They were joined on the virtual podium by COCAPAIR from Taiwan who took second place with their idea for a sustainable furniture manufacturing business and EcoLife from Hong Kong who took third place with their idea to use gamification to promote an eco-friendlier lifestyle. Runners up were Thate Pan Institute from Myanmar with an idea to provide access to quality, affordable STEAM education for high school students, The Specials from Taiwan with their work to improve the quality of life for the underprivileged, and Circular Innovation Hub from Kenya who are creating a hub to support startups working in the circular economy.
The top five teams will each receive €1,000 worth of post-program coaching. The top three teams will each receive an additional cash award of €2,000 to help develop their business ideas further.
BeChangeMaker is an online social entrepreneurship training program created by WorldSkills International and the HP Foundation. It offers people ages 18–35 a chance to develop their potential as social entrepreneurs. More than two hundred teams from 53 countries and regions applied to join this year’s program, from which 30 were selected to participate.