The Solar Entrepreneur

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By Betsy Ramser jaime

Peter Gatundu is a true hustler, in the best possible way. He started out with a second hand shoe business in his town in Kenya, but always had his eyes set towards the future as well. With a passion for environmental conservation, his mission has been to start an affordable solar water heater project and indigenous tree nursery.

He is also raising three boys and is teaching them to dream big as well. His first born dreams of becoming a pilot and his second son would like to join the military someday.

With his shoe business, Peter is able to generate about 800 shillings in income per day. He shares that he purchases the shoes in Nairobi and then sells in Nanyuki town. He also has a second side hustle doing taxi work, which allows him to maintain his income when shoe sales are down. And, just when you were wondering how Peter possibly manages it all, he also grows most of his own food on his own farm and sells the extra to make some additional income. On average, this adds about 500 shillings to his daily profit.

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Since becoming a member of the Zidisha community in 2017, Peter has successfully raised 8 loans. With his first 3 loans in September and October 2017, he was able to pay school fees for his boys and also grow his shoe business by purchasing 80 additional pairs of shoes. Generally, he is able to sell each pair for $2.80 and he makes a profit of $.80 cents per pair.

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By January 2018, Peter was ready to get started with his dreams of building a homemade solar water heater, and his Zidisha lenders were behind him to help make this happen. With a mere $75 from lenders, he set to work. He purchased 4 PVC pipes, two iron sheets, 20 connectors, a heated water storage tank, insulation, and plywood. He predicted that the total starting cost would amount to $90. The good news was that he also estimated that he would be able to sell it for $170 making a profit of $80 for himself.

He explains, “This is a very affordable water solar heater compared to a factory one which the cheapest one cost about 800 dollars. My dream is to continue making cheap solar water like this and enable as many people as possible to buy it and save trees and electricity bills. It is also a good idea to take advantage of the sunshine in Kenya.”

On Jan 28, 2018, Peter proudly took to his discussion page and shared with lenders this update, “My homemade solar water is now working. It is all passive.Today after two hours and half of sunshine, the water was very hot such that cold water had to be mixed for any to shower. My next goal is working on retaining the heat so the water can stay hot/warm for at least 10 hours after the sun has set.Thank for your support.”

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In an effort to make his product as close to perfect as possible, Peter set out for his next loan of $90 in April 2018 to make a few changes and improvements to his model. He shares his thought process as he says, “I will use the new loan to improve my solar water heater so that it will be as perfect as possible by the time it goes out to customers. First, I will raise the water heater 8 feet high so that it gets the sunshine earlier in the morning and very late in the afternoon. I will also use the loan to advance the insulation around the storage tank.”

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Soon after this loan, Peter was prepared to share his progress, “Thank you so much for the loan you gave me. It made me have a big step forward as far as my Home Solar Water heater is concerned. I bought four pvc pipes each 20 meters long, 50 connectors and two iron sheets each 1 meter by 2 meters. I really appreciate your help which has made the whole project to have a very good start. Very soon a lot of people will be able to use free heat from the Sun to heat water at an affordable price and save our trees.”

A few months later, in June 2018, Peter found himself in need of an additional loan from lenders. With this next loan of $189, Peter purchased a 2,000 liter water storage tank to feed the heated water tank. He noted the importance of this tank as he explains, “This tank will help me to ensure that I have enough water supply even during dry season to feed my solar water heater. This will also help the community understand how the whole solar water heater system works and thereby will give me more customers in the near future. I would like to take this time to thank all my lenders.Without your help, this project won’t progress.”

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His next project began in July 2018 as he started constructing two water solar heaters for a boarding school. After purchasing materials and building the heaters, he was able to receive a nice profit of $110.

Most recently, Peter was able to raise $384 from lenders in September to purchase additional materials such as, iron sheets, black paint, pvc pipes, connectors, uv protected plastic sheets, tanks, and glue. These materials would allow him to build three additional tanks.

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With a little innovation and iteration, Peter has found a business that he truly loves and is also bringing substantial environmental change to his community.

Would you like to make a difference in the life of an entrepreneur like Peter? Make sure to head on over to our Lend page to see other amazing projects like Peter’s solar water heater.

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