Kimberly Worsham: Fixing Issues Where the Sun Don’t Shine
Hi there, my name is Spiffy. I’m an interplanetary journalist sitting here with Kimberly Worsham, the entrepreneur behind FLUSH. This is a part of my series talking to entrepreneurs making our world a healthier place.
Spiffy: Oh boy, I’m excited to meet you Kim! Tell me, what challenge is FLUSH addressing?
Kimberly: Yay! I’m happy to be here Spiffy. Globally, one in four people doesn’t have good access to toilets, which causes many health problems. Despite the need, toilet work doesn't receive enough money to fix the problems. Toilets are taboo, and no one wants to talk about them.
Spiffy: And what exactly is FLUSH?
Kimberly: FLUSH is a sanitation-solutions-superhero and women-owned business. Our activities focus on (1) building greater public awareness of and advocacy for sanitation and hygiene, and (2) supporting organizations and institutions working in the world of sanitation.
Spiffy: And what prompted you to get involved with something that’s not talked about very much?
Chloe Superflush is FLUSH’s mascot. (Image courtesy of Kimberly Worsham)
Kimberly: I have had stomach problems since I was a little girl - toilets are my safe space. Whenever my family would go to restaurants, I would inspect the bathrooms before I sat down to eat. When I grew up and started traveling, I found out how hard it is for many people in the world to find and use toilets. I imagined all of the people who have similar stomach problems, without anywhere safe to go. And yet, I noticed no one talking about these issues in public. So, I decided to change that.
Spiffy: And what’re you doing to make the world a more equitable place?
Kimberly: FLUSH is focused on making a more equitable world from the very basic level of healthy living – making sure everyone can use a toilet. This issue isn't just a problem in other countries - it's often people in our neighborhoods who are neglected, including people with low resources (who are often of color) and houselessness. We advocate for adequate toilet access for people in the US, which often means advocating for public toilets so people without a home can have a safe place to go.
Spiffy: You’re illuminating issues where the sun don’t shine! What’s a recent initiative you’ve undertaken in the sanitation space?
Kimberly: FLUSH recently noticed that a lot of the leadership in sanitation programs all look alike. There isn't a lot of leadership representation from BIPOC communities or from emerging markets. We've recently started a study to analyze the actual diversity rates of leadership in sanitation and compare diversity rates to impact. We plan to share our results in the next few months, which we think will help the water and sanitation sector start thinking about equity in the workforce.
Spiffy: What’s a time you’ve faced failure with FLUSH?
Kimberly: COVID-19 has given FLUSH a lot of opportunities to fail and learn. We have had plenty of consulting rejections in the last year, which can be pretty discouraging. The failures have helped us learn that sometimes the front door closes, but there may be a back door open if you are creative and flexible in your approach. We've focused on creating more unique events after rejections, which has gotten us more interest for future consulting. We are happy that our workstreams can support each other!
Spiffy: Could you tell me about something you’ve learned unexpectedly from someone?
Kimberly: I learn every day from my dog, Chloe - aka SuperFlush Chloe, FLUSH’s mascot. She had a rough life before we adopted her – she was a puppy mill breeder. After being in an abusive mill for eight years, she blossomed into this loving, bouncy little star. The biggest unexpected learning she's taught me is to keep going after messing up big time…even if the mistake was pretty ungraceful at the time. We need to shake it off, take a nap, and then keep on waddling forward. It may be hard, but that's what the nap is for.
Spiffy: Naps always help! Thanks for talking to me today.
Kimberly Worsham is a water and sanitation specialist, passionate toilet lover, and the founder of FLUSH. She manages initiatives globally and has worked across many different causes. She has degrees from NYU in marketing and management, and a masters of water management from the University of Queensland in Australia. (Nominated by Impact Hub New York Metropolitan Area)