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Derreck Kayongo, founder of the Global Soap Project, speaks during IWEEK in Memorial Auditorium, at Ohio University, in Athens, Ohio, on Wednesday, April 15, 2015. Kayongo was the keynote speaker for the week. 

Founder of Global Soap Project shares entrepreneurial advice

Derreck Kayongo, creator of the Global Soap Project and a Top 10 CNN Hero, visited Athens to share his entrepreneurial experience.

Derreck Kayongo, entrepreneur, Top 10 CNN Hero and creator of the Global Soap Project, stepped onto the Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium stage Wednesday in his white seersucker suit and brightly colored tie to tell Ohio University students the power of American competition.

Kayongo, who is from Uganda, said the strategy to achieve the American dream is no secret.

“It’s about taking small ideas to the land of giants,” he said. “A powerful event in your life can inspire you to do something remarkable.”

Kayongo’s idea came to him in Philadelphia, where he stayed in a hotel that provided him with three different kinds of soap. He decided to use one and then put the other two in his bag for later, only to find they were replaced the next day.

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But later on, he began to think the hotel would soon begin to charge for the soap, and he took them back to a concierge who laughed in his face and told him the hotel would have thrown the soap away regardless. 

“Three bars of soap, who does that?” he said while laughing. “Two million children die every year from sanitation and hygiene illnesses, and this soap is being thrown into the environment.”

Kayongo said there are 2.6 million bars of soap thrown away by hotels across the United States a day, totaling 800 million bars each year. This waste has become a cultural norm in America, and he recognized the problem.

“When there’s that assumption something cannot be done, that’s where the business opportunities are,” Kayongo said.

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Instead of complaining about how the U.S. is wasteful with countries suffering from hygiene like his own, he took the problem as a business opportunity.

What hit me was how wasteful we are with soap, and it makes me wonder what else we are wasteful with,” said Grace Connolly, a freshman studying social work. “I thought he was amazing, and really funny.”

The Global Soap Project, founded by Kayongo, recycles and ships soaps to more than 35 countries. 10 million recycled bars of soap are given to partnered organizations to distribute throughout these countries.

Kayongo said a negative aspect of American culture is that Americans tend to constantly work without reflecting on their lives and different situations.

“It’s because we have forgotten how to live,” he said. “We have been driven by commercialism, and so we think the best way to live one’s life is by being or looking busy.”

Maria Rodionova, a fourth-year medical student, said she thought Kayongo was an engaging speaker who prompted action.

“I want to stop complaining about issues and start doing something about them,” she said. 


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