“Everything worth having is worth working for, so never give up.” – Lois Gicheru (Founder, Solafrique)
By Joëlle Payet (Marketing & Communications Coordinator, BiD Network)

Lois Gicheru, this week’s Women in Business Challenge finalist, was born and raised in Kenya, and through her business endeavors is starting to resolve issues regarding access to clean, sustainable and consistent energy in Kenya.

With little proven reserves of oil or gas and an erratic supply of hydro-electric power, advances in consistent renewable energy are highly advantageous for Kenya, allowing it self-reliance. It was these inconsistencies in the supply of electricity which prompted Lois Gicheru to form Solafrique.

At the time, she was operating as the owner of Innovent Africa, a green events company aiming to ingrain green ethics and practices amongst Kenyan businesses and the general public.

Lois was appalled by news that Kenyan hospitals were so prone to power outages that kerosene lamps were an essential hospital tool. Noting a lack of diesel in the generators was the main reason for these power cuts, Lois realized the potential of solar generators, such as those she was using with Innovent Africa Ltd to power events, as a means to provide uninterrupted power to hospitals. It was from this realization that Solafrique was born.

Solafrique has since further extended its potential market beyond merely hospitals and organizations reliant on an uninterrupted supply of power, noting the possible application in rural areas, which have little access to power from the grid, as well as businesses and homes in urban areas which are prone to power outages.

The role of women in Kenya is changing drastically, expanding beyond the traditional role of stay-at-home-mothers.

To support this evolution, the Kenyan government has initiated two organizations to facilitate the entrance of female entrepreneurs into business, encouraging females to attend university and form their own businesses.

Lois Gicheru’s educational and employment history epitomizes this change of attitude.

Graduating from Nairobi’s Strathmore University in Commerce, Accounting and Finance, after working shortly in the banking sector with Citi Group, she embraced her entrepreneurial inclination and started her own accounting practice early in her career.

Nairobi is often referred to as the green city in the sun. It is the ambition of Solarique and the solar generators they distribute to ensure it lives up to this epithet, acting as the catalyst for growth in Kenya’s green economy. With net profits expected of over $40,000 in its first full year of trading, the impact Solafrique could have on Kenya’s green sector is clearly evident. Further consolidating Solafrique’s desire for growth is their determination to almost double the number of employees in the next two years to 15.

Lois Gicheru wants her company to support the migration from diesel to sustainable, consistent forms of energy in her country.

When asked what advice she would offer to aspiring female entrepreneurs, she stated; “Everything worth having is worth working for, so never give up.”

For more information about Lois Gicheru, check out the Women in Business Challenge.

Since 2009, the Women in Business Challenge has provided support, coaching, visibility and finance to over 600 entrepreneurial women in emerging economies.

This year, five outstanding applicants were selected from almost 300, on account of their potential for growth and the overall quality of their business plans. In the final stage these finalists will receive coaching from professionals before having the opportunity to meet face-to-face with high end investors at the Growing SMEs event at The Hague in November. The Women in Business Challenge is run by BiD Network, ICCO and ING.

Every week, we will be focusing on one of these five women, whose experiences are as varied as they are inspirational. Get to know them and their stories.

Missed the first stories of this series? Click here to meet Nigerian fashion guru Kiki Kamanu and Ghanaian owner of Nuba Foods Kosi Yankey.

Editor’s note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below.
About the guest blogger: Joëlle Payet is Marketing and Communications Coordinator at BiD Network, contributing to sustainable economic growth by stimulating entrepreneurship in emerging markets. With over 42,000 members and 10,000 business plans, bidnetwork.org is the world’s largest online community for emerging market SMEs, coaches and investors. Since 2005, BiD Network has launched 490 businesses, created more than 3500 direct jobs, and mobilized $12 million from investors.