Nick Moon was born in Bombay, where his English father was a shipping company executive, and his Irish mother an interior designer. At 17, restless, searching, a little impatient, Nick left school and spent the next seven years developing practical skills on construction sites across Europe and became a professional cabinet-maker and carpenter. In 1978, Nick settled in London and set up his first business. The next year, a small want advertising the need for a French-speaking carpenter led him on his first trip to Africa to build a music recording studio in Togo. He saw that Africa was a place of energy and hope and optimism despite its troubles. The trip set the course for his life after that.
He returned to build another music studio, this time in Nigeria, which solidified this impression and led him to join the British VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas – an agency similar to the US Peace Corps) in 1982 and moved to a l, rural community in Western Kenya, where he set up a technical training school, a ‘village polytechnic’, and ran it for over two years. During this time, he learned Swahili and gained the ability to learn about how the world was viewed by his new friends and neighbors- rural small-scale farmers.
After leaving VSO in 1985, Nick stayed in Kenya working for ActionAid, training community groups how to make bricks, stabilized soil blocks, roofing tiles and managing school and clinic construction programs, at first in the slum settlements of Nairobi, later in the northern districts among Kenya’s nomadic communities. It was at this time that Nick met Martin Fisher, and they formed a strong friendship, going on together to design equipment, build and manage school construction programs, small dams and water catchment projects, farm implements production workshops, and training schemes.
The pair became disillusioned as many apparently successful group enterprises collapsed soon after they left. They realized that in many cases they were doing more harm than good. By assisting these enterprises in which the local people had no meaningful investment, nor had taken on any risk in the event of failure, they were in fact working against genuine local entrepreneurs who were unable to compete with a large charity. As a result, in 1991, Moon and Fisher went on to found ApproTEC, the non-profit that would become KickStart.
By bringing together the entrepreneurial spirit of the poor, innovative tools and technologies, and the power of the marketplace, they developed a cost effective and sustainable way to help families lift themselves out of poverty. They started to design affordable moneymaking tools and mass-market them to the poor, who in turn bought the equipment and used it to establish highly profitable family businesses.
For his efforts and innovation, Nick has received a number of awards including TIME Magazine’s 2003 European Hero award, 2005 Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, the Schwab Foundation’s Social Entrepreneur of the Year” award, as well as the 2003 Beacon Prize for Creative Giving.
In 2002, Nick received his MBA from Durham University and in 2004 was named a Fellow of the Royal Society for the advancement of Arts Commerce and Manufactures (FRSA).