Katherine Lucey is the founder of Solar Sister, a social enterprise devoted to equipping women in Africa to solve the epidemic of energy poverty through a community based model of entrepreneurship. Beginning with a seed investment in an individual entrepreneur, the women are given training, marketing materials and a solar lamp inventory. As they sell solar lamps, they earn a commission to increase their inventory and their sales capacity, while better able to support their family’s nutrition, educational and housing needs.
Following a distribution, rather than a product-centric business model, has granted the flexibility necessary to serve a diverse and highly localized solar lamp market. It has also given the women entrepreneurs the room and responsiveness to become trusted providers of solar lights to their sisters, friends and communities through the compelling strength of word of mouth marketing. The women earn commission on each sale, which provides much-needed income opportunity, but as Lucey explains, “Money does not motivate in isolation,” noting how it is the intricate social ties that are the foundation of the successful model.
Image from Solar Sister