One of my biggest achievements is being the original inventor of the solar inflatable light and solar light assembly called the SolarPuff, which is the primary product for Solight Designs. Along with starting my own company, I have raised over $1 million in funding through crowdfunding and other investors. The original design of the solar inflatable light and solar light assembly was improved upon to later become the SolarPuff™, using recyclable materials, light diffusion, and origami folding and self-inflating design. Notably, my work has been featured in Hillary and Chelsea Clinton's book "The Book of Gutsy Women," on TEDx Talks, and more. 
My idea was developed after many years of research and development in photovoltaics and thin-film substrates. The first prototype was made in 2009, while I was a professor at Parsons the New School and Columbia University. Since then, I have been inspired by my mission to maximize the power of the sun, reverse the growing rate of toxins in our environment, and by my own very personal story. 
I loved my work at Columbia in material technology and sustainable design/architecture, but my most important job became being a mom. At a young age, my son, Quinn, was diagnosed with asthma. After the diagnosis, we spent a countless amount of time in doctors' offices. After my intense research of my son's asthma, I was shocked to find out that one out of four kids in New York City has asthma – I started to think — what kind of toxic environment creates this outcome for our children?
I wanted to know how we could move forward with this information and create some sort of solution — a worried mom does better research than the FBI.
It became an obsession, and I was determined to make a difference and educate the public on how climate change affects us all. If we all contributed to the decline of the environment, then we all as individuals have the power to heal the environment. My research, my love for my son and his future, and my Columbia pedagogy all inspired this journey. At the start, with minimal resources, I fought with my mind and heart, continued to dig deeper into the problem, and used creative resources to produce technology with design intelligence. That is when I decided to focus on the most powerful source of renewable energy, the power of the sun. The sun is our muse for design, but my biggest inspiration comes from seeing the impact and magic seen in the light in people's faces when they see our innovations. I could see no other way than to dedicate my profession to helping my son's future, his children's future, and the planet's future. 
Entrepreneurs are like architects; it's not about building possible realities, it's about building real possibilities. Thankfully, we live in a world where when you have an idea and a passion, there are tools and ways to hack the problems of existing solutions with better environmentally friendly solutions, that ultimately help the real stakeholders. Crowdfunding is one way to get started when you have a product like our SolarPuff™. We started with Kickstarter and had some great success, including so many wonderful stories of giving, connecting, and sharing our story.
There are perceived and tangible challenges with any endeavor to create change, but without purpose and passion, there is only a limit to what you can sustain. The amount of pain, tremendous effort, and time that it takes to start a new enterprise to turn an idea into reality - it takes blood, vigilance, and undying determination.
Without that purpose, most people will give up. There is only one reason why I would start a new venture, and that's reveling in the knowledge that it will make lives better.
"Why" we do what we do is more important than the "What" since there is a great deal of competition. The "Why" deals with understanding and honing in on what information is already out there and peeling your eyes and your senses to the opportunities to be harnessed, specifically by understanding the competition. Then, shift to a better "why" you are doing what you are doing -- again problematizing the solution, not finding the solution to the problem. With the solarpuff, it is the impact of understanding that design provides dignity. Whether you live in Nigeria or Nantucket, design matters. We forget how important it is to give wonder, joy, and awe to people. That's what the Solarpuff does through design. With one small design idea, we have impacted over one million lives worldwide through our humanitarian efforts with our NGO partners--children were able to read at night, refugees traveling on foot for miles were empowered and able to survive when given one of our lights or phone charger. We even saw Syrian refugees use our lights for a wedding in a tent camp. After the Haiti earthquake, we realized that 2.6 billion live without access to electricity and use kerosene to light their world at night. Two million children die from the bad air, 200,000 house fires happen in South Africa alone every year. When there is a natural disaster, and there is no light, we see women and girls getting assaulted; having light in the tent camps made a 20% decrease in cases of assault.
As an entrepreneur, mom, and professor, explaining to other creators, experts, and inventors how you have to just keep going and going through ups and downs helps to constantly reinforce that commitment to my company and all of its stakeholders.
I shout this out wherever and whenever I can: I meet with kids all over the world and show them the power of the SolarPuff™. We chant together, "Light Warriors Never Give Up!"
As a mother and teacher, it sparks my heart to work towards a goal that not only will impact my son, but also children all over the world. The hope and excitement they show keep the fierce desire for innovation within me.