Easy Solar makes clean energy affordable to off-grid communities by distributing solar-powered devices via a rent-to-own financing structure. Enabled by data-driven consumer finance, a trusted brand built on superior customer service, and an expansive network of community-based agents going the last mile, Easy Solar is powering and empowering families and businesses across West Africa.
Company: Easy Solar
Location: Sierra Leone
Alexandre Tourre MPA '16
Why We Love Easy SOlar
Easy Solar makes clean energy accessible and affordable to off grid households in Africa, specifically in Sierra Leone. It offers a rent-to-own model for energy products to people who previously could not afford them. Easy Solar aims to provide high-quality solar products and appliances to millions of Sierra Leoneans with limited or no access to the conventional grid and in the process transforming the way people live, work and play
Nthabiseng's Entrepreneurial Journey
Easy Solar is the product of the journeys of its three founders who met while students at SIPA. Alexandre, Nthabiseng and Eric have grown the company together which started as a pilot and is now serving 13,000 customers and 80,000 beneficiaries. Nthabiseng was raised in South Africa and has worked across Sub-Saharan Africa and always knew she wanted to return and work in Africa. Eric was a Peace Corps volunteer in Sierra Leone and Alex had a background in financial consulting and technology and is passionate about technology’s ability to tackle challenges in the development sphere. Easy Solar began as a graduate school project during the SIPA winter break of 2015.
Running a High Impact Business
Easy Solar measures its impact by assessing the number of households they have connected and, more importantly, the resulting savings realized. Over the 5 year lifetime of their products, households can save 150 dollars; for a solar house system, families can save up to 900 dollars. They also talk to their customers via surveys and focus groups to assess if the households use these savings for productive purposes.
For Nthabiseng, the most difficult part of running a business is the feeling that they are never doing enough and that they haven’t learnt enough. Additionally working in Sierra Leone is challenging at it lacks a network so they often end up “fumbling through the dark.” The best part of running a business the pace of change and trial by fire which helps you grow quickly. Nthabiseng says that the reason she gets up and keeps pushing each day is the impact.
Advice to Aspiring Entrepreneurs
My advice is that you have to listen to your audience. It is one thing to come up with a solution and another to come up with a solution to an issue that affects many people. We talked with locals across Sierra Leone to understand their needs and, as a result, came up with a carefully crafted business model that was in line with what our customers really need.
Being at SIPA and having access to the larger Columbia community is an resource for someone who wants to be an entrepreneur. We could not have done half of what we did without the ecosystem that we built and we advise you to leverage these resources while they are right in front of you.
Favorite Place on Campus
NOUS, the cafe in the Philosophy building - it’s a great coffee shop and there are a lot of fun memories of late night projects at Nous.
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