Adam Camenzuli showing the solar pucks to a group of Tanzanian women.
It was literally a “light bulb” moment for Adam Camenzuli that led to the formation of Karibu Solar Power in 2013. Camenzuli graduated from the Schulich School of Business in 2010 and went to work on a Canadian funded internship for Street Kids International in Tanzania. He says the idea came to him one night. “I came home and the power was out and my phone and my computer were completely out of power. There was no light anywhere. I couldn’t see to take my contact lenses out.” Together with his brother Brian they formed Karibu Solar Power.
“Karibu Solar Power makes hockey pucks for Tanzania” jokes Camenzuli. The “hockey pucks” are small, round solar power packs that are used to provide light and charge cell phones where there’s no other source of power. Much of the population in Tanzania is not connected to the electrical grid. Out of Tanzania’s approximately 50 million inhabitants it’s estimated only about 20% are electrified. The majority of households use kerosene or candles for lighting, which is expensive and can be a fire hazard.
That leaves a huge opportunity for Karibu Solar Power to make money and help make the world a better place.
The “pucks” are about the size of a hockey puck, and attach to a matching solar panel. Each puck can provide up to 15 hours of light. So far they have manufactured 4000 kits, each with two pucks, a solar panel, and six different phone chargers. They retail for $30 to $40 dollars and will provide low-cost power to thousands of people. It’s part of a new business model called social enterprise, businesses that make a positive difference while making money.
Camenzuli says he learned about social innovation at Schulich. “For us, our feedback loop is: if we make money, we do good, and if we do good, we make money,” he told the Globe and Mail. In order to ensure success, Camenzuli applied to the Social Enterprise Accelerator (SEA, formerly the Social Enterprise Lab) run by Community Innovation Lab in Durham. The SEA works with socially conscious businesses to accelerate their success and increase the positive impact on the community. Through in-class training, group coaching, and cutting-edge tools, the SEA training program addresses the business, market and funding challenges faced by social entrepreneurs as they develop and grow their social enterprises. It consists of in-class sessions and mentoring. “The most important piece for us was the mentoring,” says Camenzuli. “We had a super amazing mentor in Heather Crosbie. Her support was critical in the last steps in Tanzania.”
The mentors and facilitators are some of the most successful entrepreneurs and executives in Durham Region. Most volunteer their time to work with these businesses. Camenzuli has some advice for entrepreneurs who are considering applying for one of the programs at Community Innovation Lab. “Totally do it, there’s no reason not to apply. It was a huge step forward for us.”
The awards are piling up for Karibu. They won the Community Innovation Lab Fast Pitch Competition, won the United Nations Seed Award, The Cornerstone International Award and they were in the top five at Harvard University’s Social Enterprise Conference. The company has been featured on CNN, CBC and in Forbes Africa Magazine.
Brian Camenzuli, Cecilia Assenga and Adam Camenzuli display Karibu “hockey pucks.”
The next step for Karibu is bringing the pucks to Canada. They are currently looking at raising more funding and getting the product into chain stores across the country.