Partner Spotlight: ENVenture

1.3 billion people lack access to electricity and close to a billion people drink unsanitary water. According to the World Health Organisation, over 4 million people die prematurely from illness attributable to the household air pollution from cooking with solid fuels. Creating access to sustainable and modern energy services is a prerequisite for meeting basic human needs and for economic and social development across Africa.

ENVenture is a social enterprise incubator that empowers and trains rural Community Based Organizations (CBOs) to learn business skills and receive financing to launch sustainable clean energy enterprises, becoming last mile distributors for clean energy in Uganda. They provide a revolving seed loan and business coaching to CBOs in their incubator program. They also provide mentorship through Business Development Fellows and create simple open source mobile technology to track sales, inventory and orders. The CBOs serve as a supply-chain for solar lanterns, improved cookstoves, water filters, and fuel briquettes to reach rural last mile populations earning less than $3 a day.

ENVenture’s CBO partner Rwenzori Environmental And Agriculture Development Technologies (READT) shares a story of the impact of their energy business:

“One old woman by the names Yoless Mbambu in Muhindi Parish, Nyakiyumbu sub-county, Kasese district narrated a success story how our solar lantern saved her daughter in law from infant mortality rate. It was at midnight when she got labour pain in the mountain where there is no maternity ward, no electricity and they had to walk 15 km to Bwera Hospital, she said they had to use the solar lamp in lighting the path up the hospital. More so when they reached at the hospital, the power went off and at a critical time when she was to give birth, and the full hospital did not have the standby generator. It’s the solar lamp that saved the situation according to the client. Even the midwife wondered where the old woman bought the solar lamp in the mountains. This is the impact our CBO’s energy business has created for our people and will continue to do so to meet the target. Thanks to ENVenture for the support for saving lives and may God bless you and give more years on earth.”

Summer cohort of ENVenture Business Development Fellows, recent graduates looking to enter the energy access sector

ENVenture has three main activities that enable CBOs like READT to successfully run clean energy distribution businesses:

FINANCE. ENVenture delivers affordable loans to qualified CBOs in the equivalent amount of $2000 USD. ENVenture’s credit line is for CBOs to purchase from ENVenture’s catalogue of high quality solar products, water filters, fuel briquettes, and improved cookstoves. CBOs determine through market research which technologies to buy and sell in their community. When a CBO repays the principal, ENVenture re-lends this loan to another CBO; the original CBO is issued a certificate of credit-worthiness that they can use to obtain traditional financing for their business.

CAPACITY BUILDING. ENVenture has three inputs to build the capacity of CBOs to launch businesses:

  • Buisness 101 Bootcamp: ENVenture hosts all new CBO Partner Executive Directors, Project Officers, Shopkeepers, and Business Development Fellows for an interactive two day workshop covering topics such as finance, marketing, sales, accounting, and business management. Clean energy suppliers also demonstrate their products and develop relationships with CBO’s through the bootcamp.
  • 1:1 Mentorship: ENVenture recruits both international and local young professionals, typically graduates of University business programs, to serve as Business Development Fellows. In turn, CBOs must provide housing to Fellows. During the 3-month Fellowship period, Fellows support and train the CBO leaders in launching the enterprise. By working with youth, ENVenture is creating a new talent pipeline for the clean energy access sector.
  • Network: As CBOs grow more and more experienced in their businesses, through ENVenture’s replicator model they serve as contacts for each other. ENVenture encourages WhatsApp and Facebook group communication between the CBOs, to demonstrate best practices and knowledge sharing to prevent “reinventing the wheel” with each store launch.

TECHNOLOGY. ENVenture has launched ENVision, an open source simple pictorial mobile app to track inventory, sales, and orders in 2G and Edge networks for low-literate users. This helps sales agents to manage their sales and performance more effectively, and allows ENVenture to receive real-time product updates to help monitor and measure success. CBOs also receive a web-based dashboard to allow for remote monitoring to help them improve their knowledge of performance.

Since June 2017, ENVenture has incubated 16 CBOs, which have cumulatively sold over 2000 energy products, adding another revenue stream to their community relief work. ENVenture has enabled 12,186 people to access energy and saved income worth USD 342,000. In the next five years, ENVenture plans to support 250 CBOs in their program through strategic partnerships, outreach, referrals, and social media marketing.

ENVenture is a recipient of Unilever and DFID’s TRANSFORM portfolio, which invests in new distribution models for impactful products. ENVenture is excited to join the wPOWER network to showcase its successful women-led CBOs running clean energy businesses and to learn how to further empower them through the network.