Empower Generation

Empower Generation: Empowering women to power the world

Year Founded:
2012
Organization type: 
hybrid
Project Stage:
Growth
Budget: 
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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

Empower Generation (EG) trains and supports women to distribute clean energy solutions to their communities in Nepal. EG’s women-led distribution network has delivered nearly 50,000 portable solar lanterns, chargers and pay-as-you-go solar home systems to rural customers so far. 

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

What if women lead their communities out of energy poverty into a world where human dignity for all and environmental sustainability are universal values?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Without access to reliable energy, Nepal remains one of the world’s poorest countries. Less than 40% of Nepal has electricity. Those who have it suffer daily blackouts lasting 12-18 hours. The poorest spend up to 20% of their income on kerosene and candles. Women are marginalized in their homes and left vulnerable to exploitation like human trafficking and sexual slavery. Without leadership opportunities, women will never be freed from injustice.

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

Already serving as their family's household energy managers, women are positioned to lead Nepal’s renewable energy revolution, as well as benefit most directly from a clean energy transition. Our innovation empowers networks of women in Nepal to provide affordable solar power to those that need it most, leading their communities from energy poverty. We mentor women to become solar CEOs owning their own businesses, improving health and educational conditions for their children, as well as creating local jobs - shifting the role of women in society. Energy consumers will shift spending from harmful sources of light, such as kerosene and cheap flashlights, to affordable, high-quality, efficient, clean solar-powered products.

Awards

Clean Energy, Education and Empowerment Initiative (C3E) International Leadership Award 2015, HBS Alumni New Venture Competition Northwestern US Winner 2015, Global Social Benefit Institute Fellow 2015, Katerva Awards Finalist
Impact: How does it Work

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

Runa and her three children used to live on >$2/day, spending 20% of that on kerosene. In 2012, Runa purchased a solar lantern from an EG solar CEO. Within four months she had paid back the cost of her lamp. Her children gained three extra hours to study and Runa saved money for the first time. Inspired by the possibilities this lantern created and by the success of the CEO who sold it to her—a woman, just like her—Runa began working as a sales agent. In 2014, Runa started her own solar business. She has already increased her income by over 40% and, by providing critical energy services, Runa is seen as a community leader. Runa says: “This program has changed me. I have self-confidence. Nowadays even the most important people greet me..."

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

*As of September 2015 # solar products distributed: 44,896 # people w. power + light: 230,000 $'s saved on energy: $1.7M # women-led businesses: 13 # of women CEOs: 17 # of sales agents: 160 # of people training beneficiaries: 1900 # of earthquake victims reached 72,343 # of out-of-school girls w. jobs 15 For a woman who wants to earn income and respect, EG provides a rare opportunity to become a business leader in her community, earning 6X the national average income. For a student who wants to keep up with school work, solar lamps provide 4-6 hours of clean, safe and reliable light each night, and a customer breaks even within 4 months of purchase. Customers have saved $1,661,152 on their energy expenses and students have increased study time by 160%. By 2018 we aim to have employed 1100 women and provided energy access to 1.2 million people.

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

EG plans to reach scale and become cash flow positive by 2018 with the following strategies: 1) Scale our existing distribution network in Nepal. By 2018 have 100 women-led businesses operating in our distribution network, and 1000 village-level sales agents working under these businesses. 2) Streamline operations by instituting a mobile-based reporting system by end of 2016. 3) By 2018 have sold 13,000 pay-as-you-go solar home systems, being the only company offering this to rural, last-mile customers in Nepal. 4) By 2018 Empower Generation plans to expand into Burma.
Sustainability

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

We will be cash flow positive through sales of solar products by 2018. We have favorable unit economics and have proven demand, generating $350K in revenue from sales in 2015 so far (6X growth from 2014) and raising $250K in donations. This year our strong sales funnel is moving up from the sale of portable solar lanterns to offering solar home systems(TV + Fan). Upselling to only 20% of our current customers would result in $3.8M in sales.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Our competitors are local small retailers selling kerosene and candles, solar system installation companies based in Kathmandu (mostly focused on upper and middle class urban households or businesses), commercial scale solar developers, and Nepal’s Electric Authority. EG works at the intersection of significant fields. Today energy access, enterprise development, and women’s empowerment are seen as distinct, but as social challenges become more interconnected, integrated approaches like EG’s will be revealed as the key to solving them.
Team

Founding Story

Empower Generation (EG) was started from the passions of its co-founders to end energy poverty for the 1.2 billion people currently living in the dark and to reduce women’s vulnerability to exploitation, human trafficking and modern slavery. Women, our model’s foundation, are consistently cited as the best investments and catalysts for change. Women are more likely than men to pay back loans and invest profit in their communities. In Nepal, women serve as household energy managers. As the only energy company in Nepal that is leveraging a woman-to-woman sales dynamic, we introduce an unfamiliar technology from a trusted source. When you invest in women economies expand, poverty cycles break.

Team

Full time staff: Executive Director (based in the US) Anya Cherneff is a social entrepreneur who is passionate about empowering women to control their own destinies and create a cleaner, healthier future for themselves and their communities. Anya has dedicated her life to promoting women’s rights as human rights. Her recent experience includes founding the Human Trafficking Clinic, working for the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, and serving as a Princeton-in-Asia fellow in Malaysia. She holds a Master’s Degree in Human Rights from University of Denver and a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology from Columbia University. Country Director (based in Nepal) Sita Adhikari has a Masters Economics (Tribhuvan University), BA Commerce (Sahid Smriti College). While working as our first entrepreneur Sita decided she wanted to extend opportunities to women around Nepal. Sita believes women can increase their social value by becoming economically productive and independent. Director of Operations (based in Nepal) Chloe Chapman has business development experience in industries ranging from clean-tech workforce development and entertainment distribution to hospitality and airline. She has her BA from Rutgers University and MBA from The College of William and Mary as a Mason Scholar. She now lives in Nepal, supporting women entrepreneurs by procuring new clean-tech products and implementing cloud software programs and processes for stream-lined data collection and operations. Financial Officer (based in Nepal) Sitaram Paudel is a certified accountant with 10+ years of experience. Program Coordinator (based in Nepal) Kabita Subedi has her Master's in Business Administration and 5+ years of experience working for social enterprise. Program Coordinator (based in Nepal) Chanchala Dhakal has 10+ years of experience working in women's microfinance. Junior Program Coordinator (based in Nepal) Bindu Thanait has 5+ years of experience working in business administration and is studying to get her law degree. Regional Field Mobilizer - Far West (based in Nepal) Rajendra Mann Karki has 10+ years experience working in NGOs, community organizing and community mobilizing. Warehouse Manager/Junior Account Manager (base din Nepal) Aabhash Adhikari is a certified accountant with 5+ years of experience managing financial transactions. Part time staff: Communications Director (based in Canada) Kristy Dixon has her Masters in Project Management (University of Adelaide), BA Comms (University of South Australia). After working in non-profit, public and private sectors as a corporate communications generalist, Kristy believes in a clean energy future where everyone has access to the opportunities she’s had in life. For-Profit Board Bennett Cohen Co-Founder & Member Bennett is passionate about clean energy innovation and has worked with Rocky Mountain Institute, Royal Dutch Shell, and CPower. Bennett graduated from Delft University of Technology and Columbia University. Lionel Bony Acting CFO & Member Lionel is CEO of Neoen México, a developer and operator of renewable energy power plants. Before that, he was CEO of Chamina Voyages, a leading adventure travel company in France. Prior to that he worked for five years at Rocky Mountain Institute, a US “think and do tank" focused on resources and energy efficiency. Lionel is a graduate of Harvard Business School and Sciences Po Paris. Nicholas Planson Acting CTO & Member Nick is Director of Asset Management at Con Edison Development (CED). Prior to joining CED he spent five years with CPower, Inc. (formerly ConsumerPowerline) in a variety of Market Development and Program Management positions in the demand response and energy efficiency industries. Nick holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Columbia University, and is a certified Project Management Professional, Certified Energy Manager, and Certified Demand Side Manager. Non-Profit Board Bennett Cohen, Royal Dutch Shell Anya Cherneff, Empower Generation Nick Cherneff, Independent Screenwriter Amira Ibrahim, Rockefeller Foundation Jake Levin, Director of Regulatory Affairs at O-Power Anna Sternoff, Brand Strategist Deborah Kim, Marketing Director at a startup John String, Private Equity Consultant Volunteers We have three fellows who currently support us on a volunteer basis: Program and Development Fellow, Social Business Fellow and a Communication Fellow. We are currently raise funds to hire a full-time CFO, CTO, Technology Manager (based in Nepal), Communications Manager (based in Nepal), 3 additional Regional Field Mobilizers. This team will allow us to reach our impact targets in 2018.
Background
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

Our Communications Director, Kristy Dixon saw the award advertised on Twitter

Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:

co-Found and Executive Director

Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

No Poverty, Gender Equality, Affordable and Clean Energy, Decent Work and Economic Growth, Climate Action.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

Anya Cherneff is the co-founder and first Associate Director of the University of Denver's Human Trafficking Center.
Sita Adhikari is Empower Generation's pilot entrepreneur and the owner of Empower Generation's network wholesale importer for solar portable products.

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

We work closely with our Global Social Benefit Institute Mentors, Bill Scull and Juli Betwee as well as our Advisory Board members (listed on our website).