What Does Lean Startup Have to Do With Teeth and Poverty?

What started as a project in +Acumens Lean Startup Principles for Social Impact course turned into a country-wide initiative.
 

August 13, 2015


Julie Hood

Julie Hood and Rosaleen Robertson called themselves The Tooth Fairies when they undertook their latest +Acumen course. But instead of leaving a few quarters under people’s pillows, their class project led to an initiative which saved low-income individuals in New Zealand hundreds of dollars in dental care.

What started as a project in +Acumens Lean Startup Principles for Social Impact course turned into a country-wide initiative.

The ‘Tooth Fairies Team’ first participated in +Acumen’s Design Kit: The Course for Human-Centered Design, built in partnership with IDEO.org, where they took on a challenge to provide healthy eating options to those in need of them. This sparked a conversation around oral health being so central to good health and the inextricable link between poverty and poor teeth during their field research. This eventually led them to the idea of how to provide dental care in low-income communities.

It was through their work with the mentors they found during the course, that Julie and Rosaleen learned their idea to provide free dental services to high-need individuals wasn’t a viable business proposition direct with consumers, nor something they could do themselves. However, if they could craft a value proposition appealing to a charity that could be fixed. Their mentors encouraged them to approach potential organizations.


Rosaleen Robertson

“None of us is as smart as all of us, (a truism from Ken Blanchard),” agrees Rosaleen, who describes the relationship with their mentors as the key to arriving at the breakthrough in their idea. With a new approach to their business model in mind, they sought to successfully stimulate the interest of potential funders and one organization adopted the idea.

“Lots of people talk about lean startup but have never really learned how to apply it,” says Rosaleen. “The online course was truly brilliant such as learning to not go too big but focus and meet a genuine need.”

Do you have a new idea for how to create impact in your community? Learn how to test it out in our upcoming Lean Startup Principles for Social Impact course. Learn more and register here.

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