In 2008, as blackouts plagued her native South Africa, Sarah Collins had a eureka moment. “My grandmother would take a boiling pot out of the oven, wrap it in cushions, and put it in a box to keep cooking the food without additional power,” she says.
Collins realized that this low-tech slow cooker could help solve a major economic problem for women in her country and around the globe. “Eighty-nine percent of women in Africa are still cooking over open fires for up to eight hours,” she says. “This leaves them with less time for working, farming, and starting businesses.”
So Collins created the Wonderbag, a poly-cotton bag that’s insulated with chipped foam and snugly fits a pot to keep food cooking for up to 12 hours after it leaves a heat source. Studies say that women in developing countries who use the bags regain four to six hours in a day and their household incomes increase from 20 cents to $2 daily.
But the no-plug cooker has appeal beyond the developing world: It’s growing globally among young grads, campers, and Orthodox Jewish families, who can still enjoy hot food on the Sabbath after the oven is off. There are more than 1.5 million Wonderbags around the globe now, and for every one purchased, $1 goes toward subsidizing bags for people in vulnerable communities.
“When I started the company, I was a one-man band,” says Collins. “After years of blood, sweat, and tears, I’m proud that the Wonderbag is everywhere.”