Cofounders, Innovative Water Technologies
The Barkers — Jack, 47, is the inventor; Carmen, 50, runs the business — are behind the Sunspring, a portable, solar-powered water-purifying system.
Jack: "Everyone was shipping in bottled water to Haiti, but that's not a sustainable option. The Sunspring produces more than 5,000 gallons of water per day, every drop microbiologically safe to drink. The unit is constantly storing energy and can run at night or on a cloudy day. We installed 17 units in Haiti, 10 of them donated by GE."
Carmen: "A natural disaster was never in our business plan. We're working with Artists for Human Rights to install 100 more units in Haiti."
Jack: "One Sunspring costs $25,000, but it lasts for 10 years. If you sell the water at just 4 cents a gallon — 20% of what water is going for right now in Haiti — the payback period would be four months. You can create a local microfinance model; NGOs can help support hospitals, community centers, or schools. This can be sustainable within itself."
A version of this article appeared in the July/August 2010 issue of Fast Company magazine.