I love being a staff writer for 3BL Media/Justmeans on topics - Social Innovation, Social Enterprise and Social Entrepreneurs. When I am not writing for 3BL Media/Justmeans, I wear my other hat as owner of Serendipity PR. Over the years I have worked with high-profile, big, powerful brands and organisations within the public, not-for-profit and corporate sectors; and won awards from my industry....
The Social Entrepreneur Lighting Up the Developing World
Thomas Edison invented the electric light bulb and now social entrepreneur Steve Katsaros has created the solar light bulb. It started with a simple idea; a solar light bulb that charges in the day and lights at night. Inventor Steve Katsaros perfected his design in June 2010, but though he knew he had a fantastic product he was not sure what to do with it or where to market his product. That is until he discovered the developing world. He says, "It wasn't until after we created it that we asked ourselves, 'How do we market this?' And we learned that the largest market was the developing world."
Many people in the developing world are forced to use fuel lamps that burn kerosene, which is costly, dirty and unhealthy. Rural communities around the world are estimated to spend between $8 and $12 per month for replacement lighting services such as candles, kerosene, dry cells, or battery charging. Without affordable lighting, the simple things at home are difficult from children not being able to study at night to businesses not operating after sundown. Kerosene and other fossil fuels produce fumes that can lead to a variety of ailments and according to the World Bank, 780 million women and children breathing kerosene fumes inhale the equivalent smoke from two packs of cigarettes per day. The result is that two thirds of the adult female lung cancer victims are non-smokers. It is easy to see the difference social entrepreneur Katsasros will be making to the 1.8 billion people around the world who do not have electricity.
Katsaros, aptly named his company Nokero, which means 'No Kerosene' and set out to get his bulbs into as many hands a possible in the developing world. He is a social entrepreneur who has based the business model of Nokero on social entrepreneurship to help create smaller entrepreneurs around the globe. It's a business model that he really believes in and committed to and says, "We have a healthy company, we have good people working, and we're improving the lives of a lot of people already. We're happy." Plus Kastros believes as Nokero is a not-for-profit company it allows him to keep working on new ideas without being tempted to move to a high paying corporate job.
Nokero has mostly sold large orders to non-profits and foreign governments, who sometimes give away the bulbs for humanitarian efforts. In Kenya and Tanzania they sell what they call 'business in a box kits' which includes 144 bulbs with displays and fliers. These would-be social entrepreneurs visit villages selling the bulbs, establishing a network of customers. In the future, Katsaros hope to use this budding network to distribute new solar products to further help people who live away from the power grid. A social entrepreneur with a cause...
Photo Credit: school in Kisii Kenya by Cheyenne Ellis from the Nokero website