Walsh University Student in the Business of Improving Lives to Travel to Africa

Like many college students, Joe Knopp goes to school fulltime, works 40-hours per week at his job, and he is involved in campus activities.  What sets this Walsh University senior apart from his peers is that at the tender age of 20, he has already started three businesses and the third one is making a huge impact.  Using proceeds from his earnings, he has begun building water wells in Africa - all from his dorm room in North Canton, Ohio.

Less than a year after learning how he could help alleviate the world water crisis and devising a plan to earn the funds needed to build his first water well, Knopp is traveling to Africa.  He will visit the Village of Katiiti in Uganda from October 1 through October 10 to see the impact of the water well firsthand and to visit five other sites set to receive a well.  The first well, which is expected to be completed by September 24, will provide clean water to more than 600 individuals and direct lines to two elementary schools.

Last November, when Knopp took on the challenge to build water wells in Africa, he learned that each well would cost approximately $8-10 thousand.  He leveraged his entrepreneurial skills to raise the money.  Inspired by Toms Shoes Founder Blake Mycoskie, he and his roommate Chip Gottschalk launched “Ripple,” a brand dedicated to serving others by marketing high quality product lines to solve real world problems.  He started by selling reusable water bottles in order to give every human access to clean drinking water. 

“We call ourselves Ripple because our efforts here will have a ripple effect to impact thousands of lives on the other side of the world,” said Knopp.

Knopp invested his life’s savings, $14 thousand, to purchase two thousand water bottles – the number of bottles needed to build one well.  They arrived in March and occupied every inch of free space in their dorm room.  Together, Knopp and Gottschalk sold half of the bottles so far.  Knopp said he needed more capital, so he entered Stark Tank, a business pitch competition modeled after the television show “Shark Tank,” and won $10 thousand.  He has also applied for a 501(c)(3) with the intention of building additional water wells.  With a tax-exempt status, he’ll be able to apply for grant funding to make clean water a reality in Uganda and other nations.

“Ripple has already been one of the greatest experiences of my life,” said Knopp.  “I wake up ready to take on the day and help give the gift of water to all.”

Knopp made all the contacts himself and met with village leaders via Zoom, but he admits he couldn’t have made it happen without his roommate and his Walsh connections in Uganda.

“Our success in Uganda can be greatly attributed to the work of Brother of Christian Instruction and Walsh Alum ’19, Michael Bulumba, who runs a nonprofit in Uganda focused on community development with an emphasis on youth,” said Knopp.

Watch the interview on Spectrum News

Follow his journey on LinkedIn