From MIT to Himalayan Savior


 

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

In looking for a CEO to profile, I wanted to look at someone of whom I was previously unaware and who personifies the ideals of social entrepreneurship. To narrow my search, I looked at the Forbes 30 under 30 and was drawn to the story of Scot Frank, founder of One Earth Designs. While interning in China during his undergraduate tenure at MIT, Frank visited the Himalayan plateau, where he was shocked by the way the locals cooked and heated their homes. Primarily, they used biomass fuels such as yak dung and wood, each of which released harmful chemicals and pollution agents when burned. Recognizing the opportunity to help both the environment and the indigenous people of the Himalayan region, Frank worked tireless to develop One Earth Designs’ SolSource, a solar-powered cooker capable of providing electricity heat, as well as water purification. This clean energy helps to reduce the monthly electricity costs of the local people and significantly reduces indoor air pollution. The company profits by selling these solar powered cookers to government agencies and NGOs who serve the target area of rural Western China.

One Earth Designs was recently recognized as one of the top most responsible businesses according to B Corp’s “Best For the World List.” The values that motivated and inspired Frank to develop this company and help solve this energy crisis are exemplified in the organizations three guiding principles—performance, people, and planet. Not only is One Earth Designs committed to delivering a superior product, but also products that have a net positive impact on the environment and create a sense of community among those who use them. The management and organizational structure of the company is team-based and unique in that it is coordinated globally because “…we believe in something that supersedes nation, language, and creed: our common vision for the world we want to build.” This and other aspects of One Earth Designs approach reinforces Frank’s mission of bettering the world through global citizenship and engagement throughout all areas of the globe.

One Earth Designs has expanded rapidly, due in large part to the increasing popularity of the SolSource. Today, the company operates in over 60 countries and their solar cooker “heats up five times faster than a charcoal grill, delivers a whopping 1,000 watts of power, and harnesses sunlight seven times more efficiently than an average photovoltaic solar panel.” One Earth Designs is also currently working to develop modified versions of their cooker for recreational and disaster-relief used in the United States. They have launched a KickStarter campaign to help cover the costs of the operation; if they are able to penetrate the market and prove successful in the U.S., I believe that this will solidify the effectiveness of One Earth Designs’ business model. This could have the potential of invigorating an industry focused on addressing energy crisis and living conditions through more sustainable means, much as Frank has done with his company.

Like Muhammad Yunus, Fabio Rosa, and others, Scot Frank was able to identify the root cause of a societal issue and develop a meaningful solution to fix the problem through a profitable business model. It is the closure of this junction between alleviating social issues and profiteering entrepreneurship that makes these individuals—these social entrepreneurs—so unique and powerful.

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One thought on “From MIT to Himalayan Savior

  1. Cool. Cooking stoves is a huge need in developing world. I feel like there are many players trying to enter this market.

    How do they cover costs now? DO third parties buy the stoves? Do they have an innovative design?

    Like

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