Diligence + Design = Development

Hopes Toolbox is a 501(c)(3) non-profit seeking to address poverty by helping job creating enterprises. We are product design professionals who value customers, quality, and a healthy workplace.

Good design is the way, and our story

The bee symbolizes diligence and indefatigable effort. It illustrates the values that drive success and flourishing.

The honeycomb uses the least material to create a lattice of cells within a given volume. It is an example geometric efficiency. It illustrates the value of good design that makes a product robust, reliable, and economical.

Together they illustrate the mission of Hope’s Toolbox. We have great admiration for the diligence and determination of those who are willing to work with perseverance, especially in developing economies. Hope’s Toolbox provides design services to create efficient, robust designs suited to the resources and needs of the local economy, multiplying the value added in the workplace, creating greater economic opportunity. 

By extension, the analogy of the beehive applies to our goal of working to create or empower business development. In the context of a business we see great advantage to the services of a sole proprietor. The workplace can provide tools, safety, and collaboration to enable a community of workers to thrive together. The business can provide training in health and safety, while also imparting technical skills to make a worker more marketable. We envision the workplace as a tool for restoring dignity and community.

Our Logo has an industrial feel, by design. We expect that most products required by an impoverished community will tend toward being utilitarian. Matching the design with local needs and resources will empower economic thriving from the bottom, where the more urgent needs are best met by practical and affordable solutions.

What we do

  1. Connect product design and manufacturing professionals with development projects 
  2. Collaborate with the dreams and visions of those trying to rise out of poverty
  3. Create sustainable and profitable business ventures in impoverished communities

We seek to create workplaces which are safe and respectful, creating a culture of personal honor. This honors the dignity of the individual and creates a place for people to flourish.

We partner with the dreams and visions of those whom we serve. We believe that he best ideas come from those who will invest in making them succeed.

We invest in technology infusion into the impoverished community. As simple technologies multiply within the community there is multiplied opportunity to flourish by cooperation and synergy.
  1. Establishing a safe and respectful workplace
  2. Creating jobs that provide exceptional economic opportunity
  3. Founding sustainable businesses (either as a non-profit, or for profit)
  4. Providing a quality product that is in demand

Measuring Success

How you can help

  1. Connecting Engineers with Impoverished Communities
  2. Creating Jobs through technology infusion and partnership
  3. Partnering with organizations and projects fighting poverty and promoting education and economic empowerment

We need help from professionals and students who want to use their skills to create economic empowerment in developing economies.

We also need help identifying project partners. We’re an organization with a vision to partner with and support others. So we need local partners who live and work in developing economies.

Volunteer opportunities:

  • Engineers (Managers, Retired, Academic, Students (internship options)
  • Communications (Website Development, Promotional Materials, Copywriting, Graphic Design)
  • IT Management and Security
  • Legal counsel
  • University or NGO laisons
  • Fundraising

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.

Jim Kosterman

Rob Mehne

Rob is a seasoned executive with 50 years of leadership experience in manufacturing, engineering, information technology, and administration. Since obtaining a B.S. in operations management at Penn State, he has served businesses of all sizes, as well as numerous ministries and community organizations. His passion for adding value to others combines with specialization in leadership development, strategic planning, and operational effectiveness. He has a particular interest in business solutions to the world’s great social challenges.

Rob presently serves as CEO of High Impact Strategy, a Founding Partner of The John Maxwell Team, and in leadership at Crossview EFCA Church, DeKalb Camp of the Gideons International, and We Care Pregnancy Clinic. He lives in Sycamore, Illinois with his wife of 45 years, Katie, and three and a half hours from son Jeff’s beautiful family.

Rick Borkowski obtained a degree from Iowa State University in hotel and restaurant management. He currently works as a letter carrier for the United States Postal Service where he also serves as Union President. Rick is a member of the Gideons International, and helps lead a local prison ministry. Rick has spent over 17 years volunteering in children’s ministries, and has also coached young people for the last 8 years. He and his wife Jessie live in Ames, Iowa along with their 5 adult children who also live in the area.

Rick Borkowski

Contact Us

Hope’s Toolbox Inc.
5306 Maryland St.
Ames, IA 50014

We are a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

Copyright 2015–2019 Hope's Toolbox Inc. All Rights Reserved.