WANA Energy Solutions (WES) is a Ugandan-owned company that was established in the year 2008 by Dr. Emmy Wasirwa, a medical doctor, with a mission to distribute LPG to Ugandans as an alternative clean fuel in the country. Over 90% of the population in Uganda uses firewood and charcoal for cooking; most households experience prolonged exposure to household air pollution that result from inefficient and rudimentary cookstoves and fuels. Challenging these cooking practices, such as stove stocking, and transitioning households to LPG from biomass fuels has not been an easy journey for WES.
Our distribution model is focused on door-to-door marketing led by women sales agents and our delivery model uses ‘bodabodas’ (hired motorbikes). The company markets its product through leaflets, TV, fliers, newspapers, and social media. We have made our products affordable through an in-house financing facility which allows the customer to make a 30% deposit to use the LPG cookstove, and pay the balance over a period of 3 months. This guarantees that after 6 months of using the system the household will realize 25% reduction in energy costs. Our company revenues started streaming in 2010 with an initial 45 customer-base that has grown to 15,000 customers to date.
Our efforts have been successful, positively impacting Ugandan households who have been able to transition from biomass fuel to LPG. So far we have received encouraging testimonials of reduced incidences of hospital visits from the families who have adopted our LPG systems as their primary source of fuel for cooking. We have also benefited from training on the Social Impact Measurement System, a joint effort by the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (Alliance) and its partner the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), enabling us to track the impact of our work.
Financial and operational setbacks have challenged our startup journey. However, our continued determination and commitment to our mission has resulted in successes. We attribute part of our success to the support from our donors who have assisted us technically and financially. We have received support from the Uganda Investment Authority, African Award from Seed Initiative, and the Alliance, among others. The turnaround point was when we received support from the Alliance through the Catalytic Small Grants (CSG) program which enabled us to set up 30 metric-tonne tanks for LPG storage. The Alliance also facilitated the opportunity for us to receive capacity building support from BDO. The company will work to access more working capital either through donor funding, debt, or equity arrangements to help expand our distribution base by setting up a 60 metric-tonne storage unit, producing local LPG stoves, and investing in a pay- as-you-go (PAYGO) distribution model.
WES’ advice for startups who would like to venture into LPG work is to ensure that they strive to keep ahead of the game to support their business, and to not give up even when challenging circumstances arise before reaching maturity. Entrepreneurs should also note that the LPG industry requires high upfront investment costs. As a company, we understand the importance of collaboration and are ready to pursue partnership opportunities with like-minded partners.
You can learn more about WES at: http://waesol.com/