Salima Visram will launch her Soular Backpack for impoverished children to US primetime television.
The Soular Backpack will appear on the HSN network at 7:00 pm EST tonight, a deal in partnership with Disney. Visram anticipates that around 95 million viewers will see the launch. She also hopes she’ll end up selling 500 of her famous backpacks.
We’ve watched closely with admiration as Visram has slowly but surely marketed her special product and spresa her message of helping the poor to more and more people.
The aptly-named Soular Backpack allows kids in rural areas to leverage the power of the sun on their long walks to and from school every day. It takes an hour to charge in sun light, and provides up to five hours of light for children to study at night. This is important given that 1.2 billion people in the world are without electricity. They mostly rely on kerosene lamps, which cost money out of a family’s monthly budget (about 25 per cent, according to Visram). In fact, every day, 4,000 people around the world succumb to kerosene-induced death.
Getting coverage in Forbes online for the second time in two years was no small feat either, as the Soular Backpack was all the talk in a new piece published on Friday. According to that article, the HSN/Disney collaboration revolves around the new movie Queen of Katwe, which is set in rural Uganda, where the kerosene lamp is central to the plot of the story.
Moreover, Visram told Forbes that she’s already distibuted 500 backpacks to families across Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. On average, she said one backpack allows three children to study at night.
Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, who stars in Disney’s Queen of Katwe, is a supporter of Soular Backpack. Nyong’o and Disney went with the Soular team to Katwe in Uganda to distribute backpacks there in July. Soular will also be showcased at the premiere of the movie in Hollywood later this September.
“On every Soular Backpack, there’s a quote from Lupita that reads, ‘The Power Is In Your Step,’” Visram said.
-Forbes, September 9
Visram hopes to scale a one-to-one model where people would buy an extra pack for a poor family in need when they buy their own. Soular’s new backpack retails for $49.95 on HSN tonight, which, we believe, will cover the cost of the second backpack. As it says in the HSN description, the backback for sale in North America would not be solar. We assume the second pack sent to Africa would have the solar panel.
“We’re excited to position ourselves as a leading backpack company that stands to create social impact,” Visram told Forbes. “Realizing how electricity is at the center of education, health and economic development is also something that inspired me to start it.”
Large swaths of many African countries simply don’t have electricity. Thus, a huge proportion of the world’s population live off of batteries or kerosene. Visram told Forbes that Soular even wants to set up micro-franchises in rural villages to sell lamps and batteries in order to generate employment.
For anyone interested in knowing how another (much wealthier) North American entrepreneur once set up shop in this way in Ghana, a good read proves to be Bright Lights, No City by Max Alexander. Ghana is admittedly quite far from Uganda, but the way in which villagers live without electricity might not be dramatically different across the continent.
Like the protagonist in that book, Visram continues to dream big to help the average rural Kenyan, Ugandan and Tanzanian.
“We want to partner with a bank, so that the money saved on kerosene every month goes into a secondary education fund for the child. We want to set up We’ve just moved production to Kenya, which is creating more employment and impact within the region.