Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and an online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Spiffy here with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Omar Negron Ocasio, the founder and CEO of Remora. Let’s learn what’s happening at Remora and how Omar is making a positive impact in the world.
Spiffy: Hi Omar, thanks a million for talking to me today. What challenge are you addressing through Remora?
Omar: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! Remora was built in the midst of the water crisis suffered by Puerto Rico due to severe droughts and the destruction of the aqueduct system by Hurricane Maria, but water issues are not only a thing of natural disasters. Worldwide water scarcity affects more than 40 percent of the global population, over two billion people worldwide lack access to clean water for their basic needs, and over 80% of the water available for human consumption is polluted. Remora arises with the aim of tackling the global water crisis. On top of this, a lot of communities lacking access to clean water present many other socio-economic problems affecting them, where education, training, and empowerment opportunities are key.
Spiffy: What motivated you to do it?
Omar: Social entrepreneurship and community-led initiatives have always been a passion of mine. I grew up in Puerto Rico where resources were very limited and working as a community kept us afloat. Five years ago I experienced the most traumatic and challenging disaster in my life: category five Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. My house was completely destroyed, forcing me to live in a shelter. I spent five months without access to clean water. Two of those in my new house. I was able to get a house before getting access to water. Living through the issue that I am trying to solve is what made me passionate about it. I want to make sure people do not live the traumatic experience of a lack of water and sanitation.
Spiffy: How would you say that your organization is working towards a more equitable world?
Omar: Remora is an organization dedicated to providing clean and potable water to disadvantaged communities lacking a reliable source of clean water, through a combination of education, training, and a patented water filtration technology. Our innovation is centered in an all-in-one technology product, and each device can filter one million gallons of water monthly, serve 200 individuals per device, and work 16 hours daily powered by solar energy. Alongside our patented water filtration device, we provide communities with training and education to empower them beyond receiving clean water. We work closely with community leaders to identify potential hires for our Remora's operations facility and mentor leaders on community-building initiatives.
Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organization milestone or initiative. What impact does it make on your community?
Omar: We recently received a patent from the United States Patent and Trademark Office that validates the innovation behind our triple filtration water technology. This has a direct impact in our organization and therefore in the communities we impact. Not only does this provide a protection against our system being replicated, but it also gives us a seal of validation and authenticity that helps us develop partnerships with corporations and local governments. We work by partnering with corporations and local governments to provide our devices at no cost to the communities; receiving a patent alongside having 20 devices working in Puerto Rico definitely makes the process of client acquisition easier, and helps us impact more communities.
Spiffy: That’s fantastic, Omar, congratulations! Please share an experience when you faced failure and didn’t give up. What did you learn from it?
Omar: The idea behind Remora started in 2018, and for two years we were constantly facing several issues while designing the concept and the device. People saying no to us, being unable to acquire funding, among other things that made it seem impossible to continue working. However, the biggest failure I had, or at least the most traumatic one, was the first concept testing. We finally constructed our first device—the idea was finally physically real—and the device did not work. Water was spilling everywhere, debris got stuck, and the device stopped working. I learned there that success takes many many failures. It takes passion and perseverance. If you want to be successful, you need to fail. Failure teaches you how to navigate success.
Spiffy: It does indeed. Thanks for speaking with me today, Omar—it’s been an honor!
Omar Negron Ocasio is the founder and CEO of Remora, an organization dedicated to providing clean water to communities in need. As a social entrepreneur, Omar's impactful work has earned him over 20 awards including Univision's prestigious Agent of Change recognition. His work has been featured in National Geographic, showcasing his commitment to making a difference. (Nominated by Kayla DiPilato at StartOut. First published on the Ladderworks website on June 21, 2023.)
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.
© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Anushree Nande. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.