Chris Larsen-Gould, US Marketing Director, explains how “after seven years of work the team developed SolSource, the most efficient solar stove in the world.” In 2009, a group of brilliant young people created a stove which contributes to reducing air pollution, overcoming fuel supply problems and even reducing gender imbalance.
What sparked the idea of One Earth Designs? What is your target market?
The idea took form in the Himalayas, to help people with no access to clean fuel. Generally this means the poorest families. But at the same time we discovered SolSource was also attracting a lot of interest in the US, Europe and Australia. So we had the idea of subsidizing our non-profit work aimed at helping the neediest families by launching a profit-orientated side to our company in 2012, creating a hybrid business model which has been recognized as a Benefit Corporation. Our target is the over 3 billion people in the world who have no access to clean energy. But we finance that goal by satisfying the demand from customers in developed countries who are interested in living sustainably.
When did you start operating? Which countries are you working with and what agreements have you established?
Our non-profit association was launched in 2009, and in 2012 we added the profit-orientated sector. We are active in 31 countries, with particular attention on Himalayan communities and customers in the USA. We have partnerships in the US, Hong Kong and the Chinese Government, with projects that aim to transform SolSource into a domestic energy system. Our ultimate goal is to succeed in managing a financially sustainable global business which distributes dividends to its customers.
Why did you choose Kickstarter as a crowdfunding platform? In general, how would you describe your experience?
We used Kickstarter as a way of satisfying the demand for SolSource in developed countries. Our crowdfunding campaign was phenomenally successful, gathering 331 percent of our target… which made it possible to help people in the Himalayas.
Have you received recognition for your achievements?
We’ve received a lot of international awards and prizes. From Forbes 30 Under 30: Social Entrepreneur, to UNEP SEED Awards Winner in 2010. Or prizes like the MIT IDEAS Awards Winner in 2009 and the Muhammad Yunus Innovation Challenge Winner in 2008.
Who are your competitors? What is your competitive advantage?
SolSource has been recognized by two independent organizations as the most efficient solar stove on the market. We have created a product which is lightweight, portable and ergonomic, resistant to sandstorms and extreme temperatures. Compared to competing products, our system protects the eyes from UV rays, and has made it possible to implement a new material which exploits solar energy four times as well as an average solar panel. Our competitive advantage lies in the combination of a professionally designed product with a concrete humanitarian commitment.