12 Jun Entrepreneurs portrait : Rick
8S2B : Please introduce yourself
Rick : I have many years of experience with developing embedded hardware products and bringing them to market. I have also worked over the past decade in renewable energy for emerging markets. These factors came together in creating Sunny Irrigation which markets affordable solar powered irrigation pump solutions for farmers in emerging markets in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.
8S2B : How did you get the idea of doing this business?
Rick : The idea originally came from work done in Gujarat, India in 2012 where irrigation wells were dug deep making it difficult for farmers to get the water up. Grid-tied electric pumps were used for this but power was only available for an hour each day and farmers would draw as much as they could while power was available. This resulted in load-shedding, and strange coordination strategies between each farmer and the government electric utility branch, with all the inefficiencies that go with that. A solar powered pump that was smaller and so more affordable could pump a more modest rate of water, but to do so all day long, solving these challenges.
8S2B : What is the best word/mantra fitting your mindset?
Rick : How might you look after your own sustainability by ensuring the sustainability of others?
8S2B : What is the message you’re trying to spread?
Rick : Improve other people’s livelihood and it comes back (Unlock economic growth)
8S2B : What do you wish to provide to people?
Rick : Provide the means to maximize income and enable self-sufficiency
8S2B : In your opinion, how would you distinguish your business from that of your competitors?
Rick : The biggest difference is the emphasis on the farmer advisory component of our business where we advise farmers on the best farming practices including how to use our pumps most effectively to maximize their financial outcomes. The quality of the advice improves continuously as we work with farmers more.
8S2B : How long have you been running the business?
Rick : Since May 2017
8S2B : How many staff do you presently have?
Rick : 2 staff in Kenya and 3 contractors internationally (A geospatial analyst, a hardware engineer, and a grant writer)
8S2B : What are your plans for the future?
Rick : a) Grow Sunny Irrigation’s Kenya operational footprint
b) Learn from operations in Kenya, take the best practices learned from the advisory service in Kenya and license it out to other parts of the world. Eventually spin off the advisory service as a separate business from the sale of pumps
c) Controllers would be sold around the world for local assemblers to build and sell their own pumps
8S2B : What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Rick : Give yourself 1.5 years to decide if your venture has legs. A six month trial may be too short for the market to know you and your value proposition. Have the support network to get through this. Also resources like funding can take time to come through.
8S2B : Do you have anything more to share with us?
Rick : Yes. For social entrepreneurs….Even today after 10 years into known profit-driven social enterprise eco systems, there is a false perception that you can either be a) a non-profit that is helpful to people / to the world, or b) a for-profit business . . . but not both at the same time. Anticipate this in your potential stakeholders, and manage it by either investing in the time and effort to message the correction accurately, or find stakeholders who share your understanding.