ENVenture, creating sustainable enterprises

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ENVenture, creating sustainable enterprises

Wabutungulu, UgandaRaleigh, United States
Organization type: 
Project Stage:
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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

The Problem isn’t the technology, but the lack of distribution networks. ENVenture aims to create and expand sustainable goods ventures (SGV) in developing countries in order to increase access to low cost, low carbon technologies that advance the health and sanitation of current living standards while improving the environment. Participating SGVs will sell a variety of high quality products approved by ENVenture for distribution, including solar lights, non-electric water filters, improved cookstoves, and energy-saving briquettes.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

According to the International Energy Agency, 1.5 billion people, or 22% of the world’s population, are without access to electricity, 85% of which are in rural areas. Almost 50% of the developing world’s population – 2.5 billion people – lack improved sanitation facilities, and over 884 million people still use unsafe drinking water sources. The indoor air pollution caused from the burning of solid fuels through cooking is linked to the deaths of over 1.6 million people, predominately women and children, each year. The other challenge is on the local level. Many grassroots community based organizations (CBOs) have a real desire to start energy access outlets. However, in setting up social ventures they face three hurdles: labor, knowledge, and financing. First, CBOs tend to have a large program of activities, ranging from education to social work. With a small staff, it is difficult to implement a new business, which requires full-time attention. Second, CBOs have been working within the non-profit field their whole existence and learning how to run a business requires a different kind of skill set, such as inventory, accounting, operations, marketing, and etc. Third, CBOs generally do not have a lot of funding to operate their programs, and are thus cash-strapped. Launching a business takes money, yet if a CBO does not have the investment to run it, the business will remain a vision and not a reality.

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

However, simple solutions exist to these problems. High quality low-cost eco-friendly household health products such as solar lights, water filters, and improved cookstoves are being manufactured, but there is real lack of supply chains for these types of products in developing countries, especially in rural areas. Single manufacturers of innovative low-cost technologies are creating their own distribution channels or are channeling through large non-profit agencies; thus the rural market is accessing only some technologies and not others. The most sustainable way to bring these products to the rural poor is through retail, particularly retail through organizations that rural customers know and trust. But rather than endorsing products that agencies consider right for the communities, local people - especially the poor, should have a choice in deciding which product technologies are right for them. In 2012, ENVenture plans to pilot with Joint Energy and Environment Projects in Uganda and replicate it's original project in India with the Auroville Village Action Group.
Impact: How does it Work

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

In short, ENVenture creates low-carbon technology supply chains in rural areas through retail, offers exciting entrepreneurial fellowships for youth, and empowers local community-based organizations through business knowledge. We see the solution as 4 pronged: a. ENVenture is the convener, providing entrepreneurial young professionals with challenging professional opportunities where out-of-box creativity and problem solving is required to succeed. ENVenture Fellows serve for one-year in an advisory capacity to the CBO. b. ENVenture has developed a proven open-source retail model that can be replicated and taught by ENVenture Fellows to local CBO partners on how to distribute healthy low-cost low-carbon technologies. ENVenture and Fellows develop best practices for delivery systems. c. Local CBOs are in the best position to serve their communities and provide targeted rural distribution networks in developing countries. d. Located at the CBOs offices, SGVs are the central point for distribution of these products. This is the end-result of connecting the ENVenture Fellows to the local CBO, having created a sustainable business operation distributing healthy low-carbon technologies for the years to come. Proof of concept: In 2009, the founder traveled to the village of Irumbai, Tamil Nadu to set up a SGV called the EcoLife Store with the Aurovile Village Action Group. This store services about 90,000 households and is a focal energy access hub in the community. Sales have brought extra revenue for the CBO, which allows them to continue their work on empowering women, eliminating the caste system, and combating alcoholism and domestic violence. Notably, after Cyclone Thane devastated the area, people were able to access solar lights whereas they would have before needed dangerous kerosene.

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

There are a number of successful distributors of low carbon technologies. However, our approach is to partner, not compete. Any low carbon technology manufacturer that wants to sell their technologies to rural communities can distribute through ENVenture, provided that their products pass quality checks and are approved by standard committees, such as Lighting Africa. The market and need is extremely large, and any other organizations that are working in this space could potentially host ENVenture Fellows to create retail outlets on-site in rural areas.
About You
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name


Organization Country

, NC, Raleigh, Wake County

Country where this project is creating social impact

, LUW, Wabutungulu

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Project description
What are your organization's top three priorities in the next year?

• Growing a network of clean energy stores around the world
• Fostering the growth of young social entrepreneurs to work on the energy crisis facing the rural poor
• Measuring impact of the businesses we support

Your project
Project Support
Need #1

Message & Brand Strategy

Need #2

Digital Marketing Strategy

Based on your first choice of the eight technical categories you selected above, what is your specific project need? Please be specific!

ENVenture has four different audiences: final consumers in developing countries; community-based organizations; entrepreneurial young people; and donors. ENVenture needs to develop a digital marketing strategy to achieve its mission and expand its reach. In particular, attracting new donors and young entrepreneurs is an essential part of this task. Moreover, developing a specific marketing strategy for each audience is critical for the long-term success of ENVenture.

What three characteristics or qualities do you prioritize in working relationships/partnerships?

Mission driven


Committed to develop long-term relationships


Out-of-box creativity and problem solving

Will support from American Express be focused on your organization overall or a specific product/service? Please describe.

It will be focus on our organization's marketing strategy, not on a specific product or service. In particular, American Express support will be essential to reach a larger base of supporters and partners.

Have you focused on the above area previously? If so, please explain, including whether you have worked with outside consultants before.

Yes, we have dedicated time and resources in developing a marketing strategy for ENVenture. In particular, we have obtained advice from friend and colleges, but we have not worked directly with outside consultants.

ENVenture has relied largely on worth of mouth and social media (website, Facebook and Twitter). We have also participated in competitions, conferences and events that are related to energy access and sustainable enterprises. This gained us public attention and support.

Are you able to commit 3-5 hours/wk over 10-12 weeks?


Are you able to meet virtually or at a convenient in-person location?


Are you able to meet in the city where your organization is based?


Rank your three intended outcomes of this project:

Create and expand sustainable goods ventures (SGV) in developing countries.


Increase access to low cost and low carbon technologies in developing countries


Improve health and sanitation of current living standards in developing countries.

What has been the impact of your solution to date?

In 2009, Aneri Patel traveled to the village of Irumbai, Tamil Nadu to set up a SGV called the EcoLife Store with the Aurovile Village Action Group. This store services about 90,000 households and is a focal energy access hub in the community. In less than three years, over 3000 low carbon technologies have been sold. Sales have brought extra revenue for the CBO, which allows them to continue working on empowering women, eliminating the caste system, and combating alcoholism and domestic violence. Notably, after Cyclone Thane devastated the area, people were able to access solar lights and water filters whereas they would have before needed kerosene and wood.

What is your project future impact after receiving professional support from American Express?

We are convinced that ENVenture has the potential to grow across the developing world by creating and promoting SGV. Our first pilot shop in Uganda, which recently began operations, and previous experience in India confirms that this is a successful model. After receiving support from American Express we aim to build new partnerships that can helps us open eight more shops in the next three years. In particular, we are already working in our next shop in India