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Shining a light in dark places
Shining a light in dark places
PowerMundo CEO Mike Callahan in Peru, trading a local resident a solar lantern for one of her handmade weavings.
Company: PowerMundo
Team members: Michael Callahan, MBA candidate at Colorado State University, and Jacob Castillo

Concept: More than half the world's population lacks access to basic supplies like cooking stoves and lanterns. PowerMundo wants to expand access to such products by developing low-cost versions available for purchase through a microfinance-driven sales network targeting hard-to-reach parts of the world.

The team aims to connect those living in poverty with wholesalers and distributors who specialize in sustainable goods. Microfinance loan officers are part of the plan; they'll lend money to customers and local retailers to fund product purchases.

PowerMundo's criteria for the goods it stocks is that they must be clean, green, and able to recoup their purchase cost within a year. For example, a $25 solar lantern eliminates $10 a month in kerosene expenses. PowerMundo takes a cut of each product sold.

PowerMundo already has a few success stories to tout. In the slums of Lima, a grandmother who makes handicrafts by night to support her two orphaned grandchildren increased her productivity after she bought a solar lamp. "She said `I don't have to squint or buy candles anymore,'" says PowerMundo co-founder Jacob Castillo. "Then she demanded we sell her a cell phone charger and a radio."

The team has already raised $109,000 in funding, partly by finishing tops in several prior business plan competitions. It needs $350,000 to launch large-scale operations in Peru.

Timeline: PowerMundo is on track to launch a pilot program in Peru this summer. If they reach funding targets, they will ramp up to full-scale operation, with a goal of moving more than 25,000 products this year.

NEXT: Drug check: Real or fake?

LAST UPDATE: Apr 21 2009 | 4:31 PM ET
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