Red Cedar Supports Wartburg College Entrepreneur

posted on Tuesday, August 20, 2019 in Investor Highlights

Red Cedar Supports Wartburg College Entrepreneur's Genesys CookstoveSome content and information taken from the original article written by Tim Jamison, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier writer.

When it comes to supporting business here in the Cedar Valley, we truly focus on all shapes and sizes of businesses, even the entrepreneurs that are looking for key resources to get their businesses or idea started. Red Cedar, is a Cedar Valley startup catalyst, focused on supporting entrepreneurs and high-growth startups – helping them learn faster and accelerate their growth. As more of a behind the scenes' worker, Red Cedar is there in the beginning process to offer funding, resources, connections, and tools to help entrepreneurs take the next step and elevate their business. 

This is the type of support and resources Wartburg College graduate, Max Chinnah was looking for when he began his journey for his (now) award-winning cookstove. He credits the support and funding from Red Cedar as "incredibly instrumental" when getting in touch with a manufacturer.

Originally from Nigeria, the 2015 Wartburg graduate was inspired to become an entrepreneur after attending a conference in Miami. 

“The thing that really energized me was I found people as young as me, even younger, pursuing ambitious goals and big dreams,” he said. “That helped me snap things in focus and change the course of my life, I think, for the better. I started to think about the things that are really important to me. I’ve always been intrigued by the issue of climate change, and how can we push back against that and leave a better planet for our grandkids.” 

In his home health hazards of cooking over fires have claimed the lives of many, including his own grandmother. His two worlds collided and Terraoak Inc. was born. Terraoak Inc., was founded by Chinnah with fellow Wartburg alumnus Godwin Attigah. Their invention, a stove which converts heat into electricity and outputs it through a USB jack to charge a phone or other small electronic device.

“We are deeply committed to making this dream a reality because it’s a big problem and something we’ve experienced personally,” Chinnah said. “For us, it’s very real and raw and very personal.”

In 2016 the stove won a $10,000 innovation prize at Yale University’s Global Health Innovation Conference, which funded field tests under harsh conditions in Ghana.

The road to this success has not been easy, especially in the beginning months of finding funding, resources, connections, and tools that were needed to take their stove to the next level.

“(Red Cedar) That was incredibly instrumental for us to get our sample unit done and also get in touch with a manufacturer,” Chinnah said. “Before we got that, it was really hard, just excruciatingly hard, to raise funds.”

Pending completion of their successful Kickstarter launch this fall, Terraoak has a manufacturer lined up and ready to begin production.

You can learn more about Terraoak on their Facebook page or landing page.