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Inventive Emily and her clever fridge. Photograph courtesy of Emily Cummins
At the age of only 25, Emily Cummins has already established herself as one of the most successful entrepreneur-inventors in the UK.
With a string of awards behind her, including being named as one of the Top Ten Outstanding Young People in the World in 2010 and winning a Barclays Woman of the Year Award in 2009, she is recognised internationally for her work. And it all started in a garden shed in Keighley.
When I was four, my granddad gave me a hammer. He has a shed in the bottom of his garden, and in that shed he had collected machinery and tools, over the years. It was an Aladdin's cave of all these bits and bobs that I would take apart and put back together. My granddad really allowed me to experiment and be creative and I think that's something he instilled within me.
He taught me the benefit of taking risks. If I wanted to use a doorknob to create a wheel and it didn't work, I learned from that.
Whilst studying for a degree in business management at Leeds University business school, Emily developed a sustainable fridge, which is powered by dirty water but keeps the contents dry, hygienic and cool. She refined her idea in African townships before giving away the plans to benefit local people.
I came up with idea when I was at school. I went out to Namibia and started to develop the notion of a sustainable fridge to store food and medicines that would run without electricity, using heat transfer and evaporation of dirty water.Dumped fridges. Emily invented a simpler one. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty Images
I open-sourced my idea - there was no patent because I wanted local people to be able to create and use my product themselves. It could be made from all sorts of things – whether it was a milk churn or a water barrel – anything they wanted to use, really.
The idea wasn't about making money for me; it was about seeing benefit from the product that I had created. That was all I wanted to do. For me, that is the proof that I have the ability to solve a real problem. I don't like to create products that people want, I create products that meet a need.
For Emily, inspiring others to believe in themselves is a core motivation behind her entrepreneurial pursuits.
People often look at me and think it's strange that I do what I do. I often hear things like, 'Oh… but you're a girl? And an inventor?'
It's important to inspire others to believe that they can achieve whatever they want to achieve, in spite of what others may think. That's why awareness days like World Entrepreneurship Day are so great. If a day like today can inspire just five others to think more about entrepreneurship,that for me has made that day a success. It's about inspiring others.
For the past year, Emily has been working on a revolutionary project that's been kept firmly under wraps. Today, she can finally lift the lid.
I have been establishing a social enterprise called Big Promise. The business is currently in its inception phase and we are canvassing support from a whole range of people and businesses.
Big Promise is about inspiring young people; our aim is to set up a network of initiatives that supports the next generation to find their passions and fulfil their potential. We want to encourage a shift in the way that young people are taught; we want to encourage schools to embrace new approaches and new ways of working.
For example, recently I've been working with a new start-up business called PV Education creating educational apps for tablet computers in schools. Learning needs to be interactive, engaging and collaborative; the adoption of tablets in schools is going to be one way of reinventing how we teach and how we learn. I am going to make sure that what we develop will free the innate creative spirit of kids in the classroom. I believe in modern technology. If apps are created in tandem with the kids themselves, I believe that they can deliver a new way of learning.
We're going to be working in partnership with PV Education and children in several primary schools including St Benedict's Catholic Primary School at Garforth in Leeds. Success in phase one will see the launch of a series of apps throughout the UK. I hope that these will then fund projects for disadvantaged young people in the UK and in developing countries.
It is widely accepted that the education system needs an overhaul and I intend, through Big Promise, to play a big part in that. This country needs to be bold enough to make some big changes and needs to do it quickly. We're looking at a total revolution in the way children are educated across the world.
Kids need other ways of being stimulated to encourage them to play a part in their world. I have been extremely lucky and feel privileged to have been recognised the way that I have. I feel I owe it to the next generation to create as many opportunities for them as I can and to influence people to take risks and to challenge current systems, because they are showing signs of failure.
I want to get kids excited about learning to start projects of their own, and benefit from them. I'm going to give then the chance to solve real world problems and make education exciting and fun.
In the spirit of World Entrepreneurship Day, Emily offers her best piece of advice to anyone considering entrepreneurship as a career path.
For me, it's really about passion and determination. You have to be passionate about what you're doing. Passion is the unstoppable force that will make your idea work.
It's so important to find something you love doing. I feel like I have a seven day weekend because I adore the work that I do.
Amy Byard is a BA broadcast journalism graduate of Leeds university.