Annalise Miller, Photo by Victor Charoonsophonsaki
Annalise Miller has a tattoo on her shoulder that reads“not all who wander are lost.”
In January, Miller “wandered” to Tanzania to field test a product she invented in her senior capstone class. Tanzania marked her thirteenth country in four years. She’d never traveled out of the United States before coming to WSU. In that time, she’s also traveled to Ghana for humanitarian work and studied abroad throughout Europe.
Miller loves to wander, but she certainly isn’t lost. In fact, she found exactly what she was looking for.
Miller didn’t come to WSU with the dream she has today of being an entrepreneur who makes the world a better place. She came to pursue math and a business degree. She found she wanted more, and entrepreneurship was the “something broader” she was searching for. Through the support of the Carson College of Business Center for Entrepreneurship, she has spent the last four years preparing to build her entrepreneurial dream.
DIGITAL THERMOMETER AN INSTRUMENT OF CHANGE
Miller and her entrepreneurial partner, Victor Charoonsophonsak, a mechanical engineering major in the Honors College, found each other in a senior capstone class cofacilitated by the Harold Frank Entrepreneurship Institute and Center for Entrepreneurship. They were given a prompt by thePaul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health to find a solution for cow herding Masai tribes in Tanzania who don’t pasteurize their milk and are getting sick because it contains antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Miller and Charoonsophonsak decided a better thermometer was needed than the standard mercury thermometer currently being given to the Masai. They invented a digital solution with lights that indicate if milk is pasteurized or not. It is durable, easy to use and read, and has the added benefit of being able to collect much needed data about the pasteurization habits of the tribes. They built their first prototype and founded their company, Kulè Tech LLC.
TESTING INNOVATION IN TANZANIA
The student entrepreneurs traveled to Tanzania, Africa, to test their thermometer among a few Masai tribes. They traveled with leaders from the Allen School; Marie Mayes, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship; and the founders of Engage Biotech, former Carson College students who invented SafeShot, a lid that attaches to a multiuse medicine injection vial and sterilizes the needle. Engage joined the trip to field test use and adoption of their latest product in a variety of medical clinics throughout Tanzania.
“It is so cool to see your product tested in the field for the first time,” says Miller. “The Masai were incredibly welcoming. We learned so much about the initial design and are already revising based on how members of the tribes used and interacted with it.”
In addition to testing their products in the field, the group mentored the teams competing in the African Grand Challenges Event at the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology (NM-AIST) in Arusha. This work included providing entrepreneurial education and support to those from various socioeconomic backgrounds working to develop businesses in Tanzania.
“The people must do the developing,” Miller says.
“We can’t do it for them. We must help give them the entrepreneurial education to build the businesses to sustain their economy. That is where my interest really is now.”
NEXT STEPS FOR KULÈ
The trip and the partnership with the Allen School proved successful for Kulè. The company’s potential market is huge: there are 1.7 million cow herding people in Kenya and Tanzania alone. Africa, India, and parts of Asia represent the developing world’s largest cow herding populations.
The team is currently manufacturing up to 100 units for an in-depth use and adoption test with three Masai tribes. Once production is complete, Miller and Charoonsophonsak will again return to Africa with Mark Caudell, a postdoctoral fellow in the Allen School, to test how each tribe responds to various approaches for adopting the use of these thermometers and the corresponding milk pasteurization practices.
As for Miller, she is working toward her dream of seeing and educating the world. “International development is my dream, and the Peace Corps is my best foot in the door. Right now, I’m working toward a job with them. I take every opportunity as it comes because I don’t know where it will lead me.”
Being able, as a senior in college, to invent a product and then travel to Tanzania to do hands-on field testing is something I just don’t know if I could have done at any other school.
– Annalise Miller