Jordan Vanderham has dreamed of owning his own green company ever since he was a kid.
“I would call all of these big companies and say, ‘can I have a solar panel?’” Vanderham said. “And some of them would help me out, so I had solar panels all over my house, and I just started making them and took it from there.”
Vanderham’s passion for solar energy and sustainability caught the attention of one of his high school teachers. He was asked to create something that his teacher could take on a trip to Nicaragua, something to demonstrate the locals that they could apply to their daily lives. Vanderham came up with a workshop that would expose participants to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and teach them how to build solar panels.
The workshop was a success, and Vanderham continued to develop his idea. One year later, he taught the workshop himself at GVSU and was able to show members of the community how to make solar panels. Vanderham said it was then that he fell in love with teaching.
“I am an engineer. I am not someone that talks in front of people, that teaches an idea,” Vanderham said. “but that changed that day.”
After enrolling in GVSU as a freshmen, Vanderham joined CEO Club and threw himself into learning about business in order to grow his workshops. Last year he had the opportunity to take his workshop back to Nicaragua and experience the impact he created first hand.
“One of the science teachers was crying because he thought he would never get to learn something like that and then teach it,” Vanderham said.
After winning second place and $1,000 of venture capital at the 2015 MWest Idea Pitch, Vanderham made it official and formed a company around his workshops.
He has since held workshops in Lansing and Traverse City and will soon bring it to Detroit. Demand and participation has been growing, with Vandergen’s last workshop seeing 63 participants and 30 volunteers. Vanderham would like his company to target education for primary and secondary childhood education with the goal of being a catalyst for a more sustainable lifestyle. He is currently developing kits to be made available for those interested in hosting a workshop.
At just 20 years old, Vanderham already has an engineering background and is involved in several other product developments, including a passive air warming device through Ordindi Ventures.
In the future, Vanderham would like to continue to use his skills and knowledge as an engineer to bring new ideas to life.
“I think it would be fun to have a company and say, ‘Bring me your ideas, we will work together on them and then we will make something happen.’”
Jordan Vanderham is a Junior at GVSU, majoring in Engineering with a minor in Business.