Business in a Box Program Provides Affordable Solar-Powered Products to Help Change Lives

Oct 31st, 2009 | By John Waller | Category: Top Story
ToughStuff provides inexpensive solar products to low income families in developing countries which save money, improve lives and protect the environment.

ToughStuff provides inexpensive solar products to low income families in developing countries which save money, improve lives and protect the environment.

In the developing world, 1.4 billion low-income people lack electricity. They turn to small kerosene lamps, which provide very little light, smell awful, lead to lung problems, cause burns and house fires and damage the environment. The other alternative is cheap batteries, which perform poorly and contaminate local water supply. Both options are very expensive; this demographic spends as much as 17% of income on power!

Building on its unique understanding of poor people in Africa, ToughStuff (TS) has developed very affordable solar-powered energy solutions to the current costly and hazardous scenario. TS’s unique set of products are designed following market research and intensive field studies undertaken in Africa and in collaboration with a leading multi?national manufacturer. TS products include:

  • Solar Panel: Flexible PV strips are light weight and durable (no glass)
  • Rechargeable LED Lamp: Multiple settings light a small hut for 6.5 hours
  • Mobile Phone Connector Cables
  • Radio Connector: Operate battery?powered radios or small appliances
  • Rechargeable Battery Pack: Performs even in tropical high?temperature situations

All ToughStuff products retail for less than $12 and save consumers an average of $98 per year over their 5 year life. They also protect the environment by replacing kerosene and battery usage, eliminate the health problems that result from burning kerosene indoors and improve safety because there is no open flame. They also make reading possible and at night, add up to 5 more hours of productivity to the day, improve communications by enabling mobile phone use and increase access to information via the radio.

In addition to selling products, which save customers money, TS uses the Business in a Box (BIAB) program to create jobs and provide income to lift people out of poverty. TS picks local Village Entrepreneurs (VEs), equips them with a proven business model and supports their efforts to build profitable micro?businesses. Each Business in a Box Starter Kit Contains:

  • 10 Solar Panels: Flexible PV strips are light weight and durable (no glass)
  • 8 Rechargeable LED Lamps: Multiple settings; lights a small hut for 6.5 hours
  • 12 Mobile Phone Connector Cables
  • 4 Active Radio Connectors and 8 Passive Radio Connectors: Operate battery-powered radios or small appliances
  • 5 Rechargeable Battery Packs: Perform in very high?temperature situations
  • Full instructions, marketing flyers, a backpack and a bright T-shirt

Each VE receives training on how to rent and sell their products. Some customers will buy the products from the VE, who sells them at a 30% profit margin. Other villagers who cannot buy products will rent, paying prices ranging from $.09 to $.17 per day for a fully charge lamp, battery or a mobile phone charge. The average VE, after all costs, profits between $597 and $744 per annum.

While VEs are primarily attracted to the program for the increased income, there are other important benefits. They are backed by a full support program including product training, business training, marketing materials, frequent visits, microloans and a buy?back guarantee. Many will run their business part?time, either as a second job or around the schedule of raising a family (women have been proven to make the best microentrepreneurs). VEs also enjoy the empowerment of running their own business and lifting themselves and their families from poverty, rather than being dependent on charity.

Each VE creates wide-reaching social benefits

  • Generate average of $660 in income each year
  • Improve the lives of 100 households and 600 people each year
  • Save consumers a total of $9800 each year
  • Replace the burning of 720 litres of kerosene each year
  • Prevent the emissions of 2.0 tons of C02 each year
  • Stop 9,600 batteries from being unsafely disposed of each year

The poor people that ToughStuff works with in developing countries often have to support their families on less than a dollar a day. Very few have enough savings to invest in starting a business. However, they’ve found that once a VE has their first products, they earn enough to reinvest and grow their business indefinitely. A single upfront investment gives a poor entrepreneur a chance to build a profitable, sustainable business that will help his family and community for years.

To learn more about the ToughStuff and the Business in a Box program, visit here: http://www.toughstuffonline.org/

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