Jim Kosterman is a product engineer and the founder of Hope’s Toolbox. His vision began when friends visiting from Kenya showed him some handmade greeting cards produced by women living in the Kibera slum in Nairobi. The women worked for a nonprofit enterprise that provided a safe workplace and an attractive income, along with financial counseling and life-skill training. Within a few months Jim started a business importing and selling the cards. It was his “baptism by fire” into social entrepreneurship.
Questions remained as he couldn’t imagine how $50 a month could be considered a reasonable, much less an attractive income. So in the Spring of 2015 Jim, along with his wife and daughter, traveled to Nairobi. There they visited five socially minded enterprises to gain a vision for how they could best promote economic and social development. The family was moved and humbled by the generous hospitality and dignity of the families we visited in mud-walled dwellings in the Kibera and the Kawangware slums.
The slums were inspiring as they witnessed an economy lubricated by the hard work and craftsmanship of individuals providing goods and services. Whether it was hauling and delivering water and charcoal, manually carving lumber into furniture, or cooking & selling food by the side of the dirt path, this is a thriving economy founded on a “hand-to-mouth capitalism.” And the social enterprises visited revealed several ways to create educational and employment opportunity while improving economic hope. These were not “sweat shops” – rather places of hard work rewarded with economic security and provision of generous benefits to individuals and their communities.
In the following months Jim thought about how he could merge his engineering and business experience to help impoverished communities in Kenya and elsewhere. The result was Hope’s Toolbox. We connect engineers with impoverished communities, infusing technology to stimulate economic opportunity.
We are a 501(c)3 nonprofit that creates and distributes product designs to be built by those living in poverty. We partner with local community organizations, providing designs which rely on individual craftsmanship and require limited capital investment. We want to help communities create good jobs, producing quality products, growing industry in impoverished communities.
Explore our website to learn more about us and find out how you can get involved.