IDEAS: Empowering Women & Youth Microfranchisees

IDEAS: Empowering Women & Youth Microfranchisees: TecAp: Solar Technology Provided by the Poor to their Communities

Esteli, Murra, NicaraguaDecatur, United States
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$500,000 - $1 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

TecAp is most recent of social enterprise of international non-profit IDEAS. TecAp empowers women & youth microfranchisees to increase incomes while improving their communities by harnessing dual power of entrepreneurship & solar technology in Nicaragua. The women sell and the youth install solar.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if rural women & youth could provide solar energy to one third of Nicaraguans without electricity while earning income to poor families
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

TecAp solves several problems. 1) It gives women & youth in rural Nicaragua opportunity to earn income where unemployment is very high. Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the western hemisphere. 2) It resolves energy poverty. One third of Nicaraguans do not have conventional electricity. Our solar technology is allowing them to save money & valuable time. 3) There is little technological work to improve productivity in these rural areas.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

TecAp is the first microfranchise in Nicaragua and one of the few worldwide with two sets of microfranchisees. It trains rural women in marketing strategies to successfully sell solar-powered products and promote solar systems & other labor saving technologies to their neighbors. Rural youth are trained to install and repair systems. This improves their incomes and their neighbors’ quality of life in communities & fair trade coffee cooperatives. This business model fosters quick start up and on-going support to microfranchisees. IDEAS, the microfranchisor, provides rural women a new system of business opportunity that includes the training, products and technical assistance. They thrive in a technology business. Women & youth get financing.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Our women microfranchisees work in very rural areas. Karen Bonillas has been earned $1100 net her first year with selling solar products in a post-war community. While working very part time she earned the full time minimum wage for her community. She sells each month and provides income to not only her children but also her unemployed sister and her kids. She has used the income to start a store selling food & needed products. Karen receives solar products by bus for others who live even more remotely who come and collect them & leave funds to buy more products. We have assisted her to be the first in her rural area to have a telecommunication relation with a bank to be able to send funds to other communities in the country. Youth benefit.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

TecAp has proved that microfranchising can work in Nicaragua and now new microfranchises are forming, some with the assistance of IDEAS. Over 100 women sellers have been trained and are selling with the back up support of the microfranchisor. The women meet to receive mutual support as well as sales techniques and products. TecAp created a new curriculum and got government certification for solar training. 50 youth have been trained and most are actively selling and repairing solar systems. Thousands have been educated on green energy and have been impacted by having light in their homes for the first time in their life. IDEAS has negotiated partnerships to provide over $1.2 million in loan funds for microfranchisees and the end borrowers who are buying solar systems. TecAp is applying solar to water pumping, electric fencing & other productive uses. Rural staff are trained & leading.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Our goal is to help eliminate energy poverty for one-third of Nicaraguan families. Working with allies, within 5 years, clean energy will be the dominant form in the country. This increases productivity of rural families. Our strategy is to continue to work with other organizations to spread to other parts of the country. We have gotten MFIs involved to lend millions to solar energy. We are creating stronger communities with more employment opportunities. We are bringing in other appropriate technologies. Being sustainable, we have impact. We are fostering new microfranchises in the country.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

The plan is to have the main funding source be the sales by the women and youth microfranchisees. TecAp borrowed funds to purchase inventory & for initial capital. Microfinance institutions & coops provide financing to buyers of solar systems & to microfranchisees for their working capital. Foundations subsidize the creation of new programs or work in new areas until sustainability is achieved. Donors finance training leading to sustainability.

Founding Story

Carter Garber, who has created many social enterprises including 5 financial institutions, has worked in Nicaragua for 27 years. He teamed with a rural Nicaraguan, Hermogenes Zelaya, to do a feasibility study with fair trade coffee coops and other communities. Carter knew microfranchises from his work in Asia and Africa and knew they could function well in C. America. The two formed the first microfranchise in Nicaragua. They saw the enthusiasm community leaders for this solution to their energy poverty. By creating women and youth microfranchisees, it brought local people income while solving the problem of one-third of Nicaraguan families. The two have been working on other technologies to resolve needs. Carter leveraged millions of $.


Hermogenes Zelaya is the co-founder and Technical Coordinator. Two full time rural coordinators who train and work with the women and youth to sell products and systems. Two part time women work on providing inventory and bookkeeping support to the microfranchisees. The microfranchisor is a 40 year old international NGO, IDEAS, has launched several successful social enterprises in C.America & US. A Committee of Nicaraguans oversee the program.
About You
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Project
Organization Name
How long has your organization been operating?

Organization Country

, GA, Decatur

Country where this project is creating social impact

, NS, Esteli, Murra

Funding: How is your project financial supported?

Friends and family, Individuals, Foundations, NGOs, Customers, Other.

Awards: What awards or honors has the project received?

TecAp is the first microfranchise in Nicaragua.
It has been honored by two universities in Nicaragua.
It is the topic of a course for the last 4 years in Tulane University.
It is recognized by the InterAmerican Development Bank as a microfranchise active in Central America.
Carter Garber, CEO, of IDEAS and co-founder of TecAp is well known in the microfinance fields. He is the founder of several social enterprises in different fields, including 5 financial institutions. [email protected]

Where have you learnt about the competition?


Tell us about your partnerships:

IDEAS worked to create a loan product with a well known microfinance institution, Fundenuse, to obtain financing for the TecAp solar energy microfranchise. Global Partnerships has lent $1.2 million to Fundenuse to lend for solar energy.
IDEAS has been active for 40 years in international development and social enterprise so has many partners.
IDEAS has worked for 28 years in Nicaragua so is officially recognized by the the Nicaraguan government

Challenges: What challenges might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

Nicaragua is the 2nd poorest country in the western hemisphere. However, the international board of the NGO has Nicaraguan leadership and all Nicaraguans are on the body that manage the social enterprise. Also, the staff are rural Nicaraguans who live the reality and problems that the program faces. They are rural development professional who can help overcome the obstacles.