Looking Back To Look Ahead

5 Quotes From 2016 That Will Take Us To Scale

It's the end of the year and everybody's putting together roundups: top songs, photos, most memorable moments, you name it; we're all looking back on the things that had an affect on us. Here at BioLite, 2016 was the year where our mission found its stride and we learned (sometimes the hard way) what it takes to scale. In this final installment of the Road To Impact, we're leaving you with five quotes that crossed our path this year and will forever shape the way we operate at BioLite.

“This line put a pit in my stomach,” recalls Venky, Combustion Engineer. “Just weeks before the launch of the new HomeStove we were on a phone call with our Orissa Customer Service Lead, Nirab, and he just got straight to the point: we needed proof these stoves were going to last. We couldn’t launch a product we’d worked so hard to perfect if we were missing a critical element. So we did exactly what Nirab suggested - we went back to the lab and burned our stoves until we got it right. We set up around the clock durability tests, which meant that someone from our team had to be present 24/7 to oversee the fire. Every team member in Brooklyn volunteered her or his time after hours to help out in a massive group effort that spanned across the world to our test center in Orissa. 1800 hours of burn testing later we found and fixed unforeseen issues and are left with a stove our customers can rely on.”

Looking Ahead: You have to get the product right before you can go big. We spent years refining the new HomeStove using direct customer feedback and feel confident that this model is ready to be distributed far and wide.

“This question transformed the way we sell to customers,” says Ethan, Director of Emerging Markets. “Durga, a farmer in rural Rajasthan, approached our team after attending a HomeStove demonstration in her village. As she spoke of her experience leasing equipment for her farm, she explained that when anyone in her village needed to make a significant investment without tying up all of their cash, they turned to local microfinance institutions rather than paying upfront. She reaffirmed that if we wanted to reach low-income customers, it was crucial that our products were accessible and affordable. So this year we set out to partner with organizations that could make purchasing a HomeStove easy for women like Durga. We established nine partnerships with microfinance institutions and distributors across India, Uganda and Kenya. Together, they have a collective reach of more than 20 million clients.”

Looking Ahead: Potential customers are one of our most powerful resources. By listening to their personal experiences, questions, and feedback, we can discover the best ways to reach them.

“Here's the thing: we've got an interesting business model,” says Erica, Director of Marketing. "We're pairing two unlikely audiences together and building a business on the belief that they can work together to change the way we look at personal energy. Campers and families living in energy poverty seem like an unexpected combination, right? But when you take a closer look at the needs of these customers, we all want the same thing: to be safe, productive, and connected. As you’ve seen in this series, building a business in emerging markets takes a long time so we need runway to figure it out. In the plainest terms: when campers buy our gear, they're building our runway. When our community spreads the word, they're building our runway. So when we get emails like Carey’s, we can feel the runway growing, and that is a great feeling."

Looking Ahead: We couldn’t have gotten to this point without our community’s support and it’s only with their support that we’ll continue to grow. As we scale our work in the year ahead, we’ll continue to build a community who shares our commitment to bringing energy everywhere.

“This quote encapsulates a daily tension we face here at BioLite,” says Jonathan, BioLite’s co-founder and CEO. “I’m constantly balancing the pressure to scale quickly with the potential to grow sustainably. It can be tough to make the case for moving slow in the digital age, but building a business focused on lasting impact requires laying a lot of groundwork. And that takes time and patience. With the support of partners like Acumen, our emerging markets team has put the right processes in place and built strong partnerships that have helped our sales grow year over year.”

Looking Ahead: All good things take time and growing a business is no exception. Thanks to the groundwork laid this year, we’ll have access to a massive network of potential customers in 2017 as well as local staff who make purchasing a stove easy and accessible.

“I can’t seem to get this moment out of my head,” says Jan, Uganda General Manager. “This fall I drove with our microfinance partner to a small village outside of Jinja to meet with new HomeStove owners. We met one woman who told us that thanks to her new energy products, her village became a city. She equated modern, city life to a lighted life and village life to one without light. It’s a powerful reminder of the possibilities that come along with energy access. When I hear stories like this, it does much more than inspire me to come into the office, it provides our team with important insights into our customers’ needs. Just like our customers in the outdoor markets, our emerging markets customers need energy systems and solutions beyond a new cooking fire.”

Looking Ahead: Access to clean, safe, and reliable energy truly has the power to transform communities. Beyond lighting homes and charging devices it has the potential to improve health, combat climate change, enable communication and education, generate income and reduce inequality. These opportunities remind us why we're committed to reimagining energy on a personal scale.

These five quotes are perfect examples of how by listening to our customers and partners we were able to make strong progress towards our mission and our ability to scale. This year alone, we perfected our new product, established new partnerships, thereby expanding our network of potential customers, and improved access and affordability to our product by focusing on microfinance channels. With the right technologies, partnerships, and business models in place, we are more prepared than ever to go further, faster in 2017. We have a long road ahead of us and hope you’ll join us in the year ahead as we let our customers and partners show you what happens when energy is everywhere.

The Road To Impact Series is complete. Miss a chapter? Catch up here. Stay tuned for the release of our first-ever annual report in January 2017.

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