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Sun-Powered Prosperity: Solar Cooking as a high-margin, sustainable, rapid on-ramp to women’s enterprise

Proven technology and seasoned implementors combine to grow scalable, profitable female entrepreneurs using 100% renewable resources.

Photo of Anne Patterson

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*Please Upload User Experience Map (as attachment) and any additional Beneficiary Feedback in this field

The Haiti Adolescent Girls Network welcomed its newest "My Space " girls club mentors on June 6, 2017. They were assigned to clubs that protect, nurture & empower girls in several locations in the Port-au-Prince area. The new clubs getting underway in Carrefour now have the needed 28 mentors. They are ready to receive our Solavore ovens & related support to promote solar cooking as a key to the girls' entrepreneurial development. Note: Be sure to view our several videos & attachments!

Explain your project idea in two sentences.

The Sun-Powered Prosperity project helps adolescent girls and women leverage cooking skills to build and scale income-generating businesses using 100% renewable solar cooking technology.

What is your organization name? Explain your organization in one sentence.

Sun-Powered Prosperity - a public-private consortium for clean cookstoves to empower Haitian women.

Is this project idea new for you or your organization? If no, how much have you already executed on?

This project grew from team members' other separate efforts in Haiti, & inspired by 2 situations - women with small restaurants or sales in Cotes de Fer, & adolescent girls learning entrepreneurship. These experiences led us to organize a consortium to pursue together program development and scale.

What is the problem you aim to solve with this idea? How would you define this problem as urgent and a priority in your target community?

While we are driven by the ability of micro-enterprise to empower women, our sense of urgency is driven by the 97% deforestation level in Haiti - an agreed NOW problem, impacting life and livelihoods. Charcoal dependency robs businesses of income, families of security, and hillsides of topsoil.

What is the timeline for your project idea? What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years?

Our 3-year timeline builds on work already accomplished by team members in Haiti and elsewhere. Key steps for implementation are clustered in 3 phases, initially in Carrefour and Cotes de Fer – training for and remunerative use of solar cookers, renting and selling solar cookers, and local assembly/manufacture and distribution. Throughout the project we will deepen relations with Haitian government, other organizations and the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves to ensure wide-scale adoption.

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of responsibility).

We are Solavore, LLC (technology provider); Haiti Adolescent Girls Network (girls empowerment & advocacy); KDCK (community development in Cotes de Fer); Solar Cookers International (SCI) (monitoring & evaluation); & Public-Private Alliance Foundation (PPAF) (multi-disciplinary program management).

What do you need the most support with in this project idea?

  • Financial Business Model

What is your primary goal over the next 6 weeks of Refinement?

  • Iterate or improve on my product/service

How do you currently measure (or plan to measure) results for this project?

We are fortunate in having SCI as a team member. It is a sector-wide association leading the development of monitoring and evaluation (M&E) tools for solar as a renewable fuel cooking technology. SCI will provide leadership for our M&E framework and will assist with program monitoring. Also, HAGN is experienced in researching & analyzing the demographics of participants & the outcomes of club membership, & PPAF has lengthy R&D competence for assessing clean cookstoves & fuels in Haiti.

How has your project proposal changed due to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase?

The beneficiary feedback phase gave opportunity to emphasize the role of HAGN at the core of our initial rollout, with support from KDCK, SCI, PPAF & Solavore. Understanding more about HAGN’s community engagement, participant-based mentorship, deep staff commitment, and sense of urgency to replace charcoal-based cooking underscored its importance at project outset and as a basis for scaling up.

(Optional) What are some of your still unanswered questions or concerns about this idea?

Microfinance and payments over time will be issues for solar oven buyers. Sunshine is free, allowing cost savings against much of the charcoal otherwise used. In the setting of small-scale commerce there will be top-line (new items for sale) and bottom line (fuel efficiencies, heat retention, etc.) benefits which can be turned into time payments. Selling price of ovens yet to be determined/ refined during project. We are already in contact with renewable energy financial entities/ advisors.

During this Improve Phase, please use the space below to add any additional information to your proposal.

HAGN Executive Director Myriam Narcisse describes the objectives, functions and growth of the Haiti Adolescent Girls Network. Established after the devastating earthquake of 2010, and recognizing that adolescent girls are among the most vulnerable and least attended population groups, HAGN has focused on creating a program and structure for girls to develop relationships, options and leadership, find the peer group and trusted adult support they need, increase their economic capabilities and become agents of change in their communities. Narcisse explains why she is excited about the project with Solavore, KDCK, SCI and PPAF -- Solar ovens and related support would supplement what HAGN is already doing in the "My Space" girls' clubs; entrepreneurship related to cooking builds on skills the girls already have; charcoal and its relation to health and hillside erosion is already common knowledge; and people have a sense something must be done about it.

Developed by engineers from 3M Corporation and manufactured in St Paul, MN, the Solavore Sport’s 13-year track record as a simple yet efficient, durable, high-quality solar oven makes it an ideal candidate on which to build wide-scale and rapid deployment of women-owned food-service enterprises starting in Haiti and expanding to other sun-rich resource-poor countries.  Built for long use, simple construction and easy care, the "bake, stew, simmer" Solavore Sport oven serves well the American recreational market and aims for use and distribution in developing countries.  In addition to Haiti, Solavore has already initiated activities in Kenya and Cambodia.  

In our consortium, training on solar oven use, on the benefits of these in small business opportunities and on development of entrepreneurship skills are important aspects of the work. Those activities are to be carried out primarily in the "My Space" girls' clubs of the Haiti Adolescent Girls Network (HAGN), in Carrefour, and among small restaurant owners, market vendors and other budding female entrepreneurs in Cotes de Fer, where the hometown organization Konbit pou Developman Commune Kote de Fer (KDCK) is active. Dynamic Haitian and Haitian-American women lead the work in both of these. The head of KDCK is also the Haiti representative for Solavore. Technical backstopping and M&E support will be led by Solar Cookers International (SCI), which has research, projects and standard-setting aimed especially in relation to women in many countries. 

Carrefour is a largely poverty-ridden urban agglomeration of about 500,000, built on steep hillsides to the south of Port-au-Prince.  Under this project the new HAGN girls' clubs in four districts will be provided with USA-made solar ovens without charge in order for participants to develop experience in entrepreneurship, to earn money from cooked items and for HAGN and the project to aim toward stove sales and in due course local assembly and distribution of stoves.  Cotes de Fer is a town of about 40,000 on Haiti's southern coast.  The target beneficiaries there are women small-scale restaurant owners and market vendors who stand to benefit immediately from solar cooking.  For these the main question will be outright purchases or payments over time, at (probably subsidized) prices yet to be determined.

Objectives of the "Sun-Powered Prosperity" project over a 3-year span are:  expanded pilot implementation of Solavore solar ovens; technical and consumer testing of solar oven cooking and related guidance; trained cadre of skilled personnel, especially women and adolescent girls, as mentors and managers for food sales, monitoring, stove sales, business start-up and related work; and a scaled-up undertaking, focused on women's and adolescent girls' entrepreneurship.  Contributing to success will be encouragement and support from Haiti Government ministries and others; inclusion as a regular part of team member and "friends of the project" institutions; follow-on grant support; and connection with green energy finance and microfinance.

OpenIDEO has not asked for a detailed project budget, but it can be said that first year expenses for personnel (at discounted rates), international and local travel, equipment (125 stoves & shipping), training, operations, office and miscellaneous have been costed on a provisional basis in relation to the five members of the consortium.  Depending on funds available, this could be planned at about US$200 thousand per year, which would include some 40% in cost-sharing from our side. 

We have posted several items as part of this proposal to illustrate and explain the experiences of each of our team members for advancement of the project, including an inspiring video by the HAGN Executive Director, a feedback interview with a solar oven user, a speech at the United Nations by the PPAF Executive Director, a competition "pitch" and a visit to the Solavore factory, an article that won a prize and is accepted for publication from the head of KDCK, and photos, tables, text and maps from all concerned. Planned steps for the project are summarized in the User Experience Map.

We are grateful to those who have commented on our project proposal.  Our responses  and further thinking led to several of the postings mentioned above, in particular as concerns use, acceptability and feedback on the demand side of the equation and details of perspective and competence on the supply side.  We are especially glad to have received very supportive comments from Patricia McArdle and Paul Funk, who are notable professionals in the field of solar cooking.

Explain your idea

Cooking is the most universal skill set of women all around the world. The Sun-Powered Prosperity project helps women leverage the skills they already have to build and scale income-generating businesses, from the simple selling of baked goods at market to scaling and improving profitability in an existing restaurant business. The 97% deforestation level in Haiti is a well-known problem, yet charcoal – at 7 pounds of wood to 1 pound of charcoal - continues as the primary cooking fuel. Devastating not only to lungs and forests, charcoal is expensive. For domestic cooking a family spends the small fortune equivalent of USD $1/day on charcoal. A restaurant will spend many times that, making the cost of fuel a major barrier to entry to any food-service business. The Sun-Powered Prosperity project not only removes fuel as a barrier to entry but also ensures significantly higher gross margin as businesses grow. The enabling technology is the Solavore Sport solar oven and the enabling process is our consortium of organizations contributing committed trainers, adopters, Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) specialists and advisors. Bebine’s Story Bebine owns a successful 6-8 table restaurant in the Cotes-de-Fer region on the south coast of Haiti. Like most, her open-air kitchen is behind the restaurant where 60-pound bags of charcoal line the perimeter fence. Fuel accounts for 30-40% of her cost of goods sold. A shrewd businesswoman, it took only about three days of cooking with the Solavore Sport solar oven for her to fully embrace this workhorse and recognize the contribution to both top line and bottom line revenue. Not only does solar cooking contribute significantly to improved gross margin, now for the first time Bebine has an oven – allowing her to extend her menu to cakes and other confections that her customers love – and are willing to pay generously for. Bebine is anxious to add more Solavore Sport capacity to her business and is a willing mentor to young women striking out in the business world using the technology. The Enabling Technology The Solavore Sport solar oven is the primary enabling technology for this proposal. It is manufactured by Solavore LLC (, a woman-owned social enterprise and Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (GACC) partner. The Enabling Process The Sun-Powered Prosperity project is comprised of a consortium of five qualified, experienced organizations that represent the critical components necessary to launch and manage a program of this scale. Please see an attached document for further detail on the technology and implementation consortium, and the User Experience Map for a ready illustration of plans.

Who Benefits?

Our products and services have unique value and attraction in that the fuel is non-polluting, free, and renewable. The units are good for respiratory health and the environment. Beneficiaries are users, their families, neighbors and ultimately the country. The units are low-cost and low-maintenance; they pay for themselves in fuel savings and earning opportunities; they are simple and understandable with little training, and they can have immediate impact for women and adolescent girls in existing or new entrepreneurial endeavors. In the case of HAGN, which already has over 1,400 club members in Haiti and is poised to expand to 4,000 in the near future, the introduction of solar cookers as the key to entrepreneurship will start in the new clubs in Carrefour instead of the food and artisanal sales otherwise promoted, and the age 18 to 24 participants will have both technical and entrepreneurial support from our full team.

How is your idea unique?

The Sun-Powered Prosperity project is unique in that it is configured for immediate positive impact for its participants & it is rapidly scalable. Unique advantages include proven technology and competent constituent organizations representing users, implementors, & effectiveness measurement. Unlike projects based on nascent – albeit promising – technology, this program can within one year create 100-200 women entrepreneurs and define “the recipe for success” for wider-scale deployment in Haiti (including government adoption, an interest already expressed) and to countries beyond. Among many worthy competitors in the OpenIDEO challenge our approach combines clean cookstoves, support for girls' & women's rights & empowerment, and the talents of a team from a consortium of collaborating organizations. Also we have advisors in 2 "friends of the project" - Population Council and CMMB (which has a hospital in Cotes de Fer), & we are active in the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Piloting: I have started to implement my solution as a whole with a first set of real users.

Tell us more about you

On behalf of the consortium outlined above, this proposal is being submitted by Anne Patterson, CEO, Solavore, LLC. Committed to creating solavores (those who eat “of the sun”) all over the world, Anne and her partners have committed the use of profits from sales in the developed world to helping subsidize programs in the developing world – be it the Solavore Sport or other clean cooking technology. Solavore is a certified women-owned business (WBENC) and Anne has been named to the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program where she hopes to springboard into the 10,000 Women program on behalf of the female entrepreneurs the company develops as a result of programs like this Sun-Powered Prosperity project. Solavore, LLC, is headquartered in St. Paul, MN. Please see an attached document for a complete description of the five constituent organizations comprising this program. Manufacturer / Technology Providers -- * Solavore, LLC Technology provider (solar ovens) Organizations Providing Micro-Enterprise Candidates for the Program -- * Haiti Adolescent Girls Network (HAGN) HAGN is a Haiti-based nonprofit organization created by a collective of Haitian and international organizations committed to protecting and empowering adolescent girls in Haiti. * Konbit pou Developman Cotes de Fer (KDCK) KDCK is a non-profit hometown organization with participation in the USA and Haiti. Monitoring & Evaluation * Solar Cookers International Based in Sacramento CA and with representation at the United Nations in NYC, SCI’s mission is to spread solar thermal cooking technology to benefit people and environments Leadership * Public-Private Alliance Foundation (PPAF) Based in New York. Overall program coordination and oversight, and participation in technical and training matters. Program Advisory ("Friends of the Project") • Population Council Based in New York. Its Poverty, Gender, and Youth Program supports/ collaborates with adolescent girls empowerment programs in several countries to help girls stay in school, avoid early marriage and pregnancy, learn about sexuality and health, and develop life skills. • CMMB Based in New York. Has an active program for partnerships and a well-established public health program in several countries. Representation in Haiti for over 100 years. Opened a hospital costing over US$2 million in Cotes de Fer in 2017.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered social enterprise.
  • Yes, we are a registered company.
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Attachments (10)

KDCK - Cooking with Solavore - Photos.pdf

This is a collection of photos of Solavore Sport "baking, stewing and simmering" solar cookers as they are being used and appreciated in several demonstrations.

HAGN - Photos, Map and Tables.pdf

This collection of materials from HAGN shows: photos of the newest group of mentors for “My Space” clubs; a scene in Rivière Froide section of Carrefour where new clubs are being established; a group of young participants; a Haiti map with HAGN activity sites; and tables for HAGN coverage in Carrefour, scoring for past HAGN entrepreneurial opportunities, and HAGN's theory of change for social asset building.

HAGN - Haiti Girls Network Info - Video.pdf

Through the eyes of Esther, a 15 year-old participant, this promotional video vividly illustrates the purpose and functions of HAGN and its “My Space” clubs in order to protect and empower girls, nurture their development and break the cycle of poverty.

KDCK - Bazile-Benefits of Solar Cooking.pdf

Rose Bazile is the head of KDCK and the Solavore representative for Haiti. The attached presentation was a prize-winner earlier this year in a competition at Adelphi University (USA) and it has been accepted for publication in "Journal for a Changing World."

Solavore - Manufacturing - Vimeo.pdf

This vimeo of the manufacturing process of the Solavore Sport box oven was prepared at the factory in Minnesota. The product is “Easy to build & built to last.” It requires no special skill or tools for assembly, and it has an expected 10-year lifespan. Our multi-year plan aims toward local manufacturing, starting with local assembly, then sourcing of most components in Haiti with the housings shipped from Solavore, then lastly, 100% of the manufacture done in Haiti.

Solavore - Patterson - Pitchfest - Video.pdf

This video “bio” of the Solavore CEO was created for a pitch competition hosted by Camber Outdoors, a non-profit advocacy organization for women in the outdoor industry. We felt it would contribute to the OpenIDEO assessment of the individuals and products in the team effort for the “Sun-Powered Prosperity” project proposal. FYI, we recently learned that Solavore has been named one of the 8 competition semi-finalists.

Solavore - Honored by Entrepreneur Magazine.pdf

Solavore LLC, a women-owned social enterprise committed to the manufacture and global distribution of 100% fuel-free, clean cooking technology, announced in October 2016 that it had been named one of the best privately-owned companies in America by Entrepreneur Magazine's Entrepreneur 360™ List. The Entrepreneur 360™ Ranking delivers the most comprehensive analysis of private companies in America.

SCI - Data, Evaluation & Stove Distribution.pdf

Solar Cookers International (SCI) provides content on its website that addresses numerous items of current interest. Among these are: incorporating baseline and feedback data from customers and users into project design; where solar cooking use has potential traction within Haiti; and which solar cookers are most suitable to user needs.

PPAF - Stillman Speech at UN - Video.pdf

PPAF Executive Director David Stillman spoke at the United Nations in a recent event on Public-Private Partnerships and the Sustainable Development Goals. He focused on PPAF’s work with other organizations, especially in efforts to assist Haitian families exit the poverty– respiratory disease– deforestation trap of the country’s heavy reliance on charcoal for cooking. He highlighted solar ovens & other non-polluting cookstoves & fuels. The moderator also commented on the value of solar cooking.

EXPERIENCE MAP -Sun-Powered Prosperity.pdf

Jolie's Journey -- This is the User Experience Map as prepared at the outset of the BridgeBuilder challenge. It summarizes the target beneficiaries and the project intentions.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Grace Magney

My husband, Gordon, and I worked many years in Afghanistan and Pakistan with the Sport Solar Box Oven, ordering hundreds at a time and distributing them in both Afghan cities and villages, as well as in the Afghan refugee camps of Pakistan during the 10-year Soviet Occupation of Afghanistan.

Life is rough in both instances, and our supply never met the demand. We found the Sport Solar Oven simple, strong and hot. It is not easily damaged, is very light in weight, and simple for non-literates to use. One lady baked cakes and sold them to her camp neighbors. Another cooked the meat for her entire extended family.

One thing we noticed when we attended International Solar Cooking Conferences, where solar cooks displayed their latest invention of a solar oven, that most of them also had on the side a Sport Solar Box Oven. After all these years, I still have two of them and continue to use them on a regular basis here in the States. It's like a Slow Cooker, without the need of electricity.

Photo of Anne Patterson

We are honored to have your support; thank you for your testimonial of the performance of the Sport solar oven in the most dire of circumstances, Afghan refugee camps. An oven that is simple, strong, and hot, not easily damaged, lightweight and simple to use: that's a recipe for success in Haiti as well.

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