Mother Nature Can Be the Mother of Invention



From floodgates for homeowners to “diapers” for absorbing storm waters, they’ve come up with ways to tackle the problems brought on by tornados and other major events—including, of course, Hurricane Irene.

“Often large disruptions such as natural disasters create the basis for new business opportunities,” says Andrew Zacharakis, a professor of entrepreneurship at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass.

Maurice Huffman thought up Stormtec, a line of water-absorbent alternatives to sandbags for preventing floodwater damage, while watching TV news coverage of a flood four years ago. A commercial for baby diapers aired during the program and he and a friend joked that such items would be helpful for absorbing the flood water.

“It was silly talk but it planted a seed in my head,” he says.

Mr. Huffman found a manufacturer to produce burlap sacks containing an expandable polymer which, when soaked in water, plump to resemble sandbags. He began to sell them online.

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