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What if something as simple as flying a kite could bring much needed water to developing countries? It can, according to entrepreneur Robert Creighton, founder of WindLift, which won the Gaylord Nelson Award for Sustainability and took second place in the Burrill Technology Business Plan Competition, held at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in April. 

Robert Creighton of WindLift“We at WindLift believe that our product will give the poverty-stricken people of undeveloped countries hope for a water pumping system that is affordable, dependable, nonpolluting and energy efficient,” said Creighton. 

The WIndLift manually operated system utilizes a rip-stop polyester inflatable kite, pulleys, winches, and a reciprocating pump. A kit for one system with the potential to pump 54,000 liters per day would cost less than $1,000. The prototype was tested in Madison this spring by children, who were able to operate the system with little training or effort. Sounds like fun, but the solution that the WindLift system provides is serious business. 

“We are really facing a crisis in energy, because all of our economies are so dependent on fossil fuels,” said Creighton, who originally targeted his wind powered system for extracting energy. 

“You would save all the energy it takes to build a 200 ft. steel tower, which is pretty considerable since they have about 80 tons of steel in them,” said Creighton. “So that’s how I came up with the tethered concept and from there I’ve been refining it and refining it, though instead of generating electricity, we’ve decided to focus on pumping water. It’s a much simpler system, and it is needed right now in the developing world.”

India is one country with people who need better access to clean water. Creighton reports that he has connected with an investor that will put his project in the ground and the sky in India by December of this year. The impact the WindLift system will have on people in this part of the world is huge, especially for women and girls, traditionally responsible for hauling water, often over long distances.

The second place award of $7,000 won in the Burrill Competition will certainly help Creighton develop and market his product. But this is not the first year that Robert Creighton competed in the Burrill Competition. In 2006, Creighton was not awarded funding, but he did meet Ayla Annac, southwest Regional Director for the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Network. Annac was able to assist Creighton by reviewing and critiquing his business plan, informing him of various funding options, and helping him develop his concept. 

“Ayla has a lot of connections,” said Creighton. “Just sitting down with her and talking to her helped me realize a lot of the resources that the University and the community offer. She has given me some good feedback on some of my ideas and where we are going with the business.”

A recent UW-Madison MBA graduate, Creighton was able to find experts within the University system. He found professors to help in engineering, design, concept viability and prototype development. Annac also invited southeast regional WEN director David Linz to review Creighton’s project. 

“He Linz gave me more feedback on mechanical design and output estimates and filled me in on what knowledge investors would want before they would be willing to invest,” said Creighton.

Creighton’s ability to embrace feedback and persevere makes him a true success story and an inspiration to other entrepreneurs. That’s why Annac regards Creighton as one of her star entrepreneurs. 

“He doesn’t need anybody to tell him the next steps. Just linking him to the resources was enough. Perseverance, determination and not giving up,” said Annac of this entrepreneur. “He took each advice and critique and improved his product.”

What’s next for WindLift? Creighton seeks additional funding to develop an automated system, which he hopes to roll out in the next three to five years. The automated system could be used here in the U.S. and throughout the world for irrigation and animal water supply; waste water treatment facilities; desalination and purification plants; and even oil wells and pipelines.

 Source: http://www.usbankconnect.com/article/kind-business-plan-need
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