MPOWERD: Giving the Gift of Power
Updated: Dec 9, 2022
Most people might think that being a business owner or an entrepreneur is about one thing: the bottom line. Making a profit and scaling up is critical to business, but it could be much more. The heart of a business for good is these questions: What problems can I solve? What questions can I answer? Many innovative companies create products and services that meet the needs of people in different communities.
Balancing profit and its mission to empower and provide electricity to billions of people in need is the job of MPOWERD’s president and CEO, Seungah Jeong. We invited her to talk about her work at MPOWERD and her story of becoming a mission-driven woman in business. She talks about the business model that allows them to make a change in the world and stay sustainable and profitable.
Seungah’s Journey as a Woman in Business
All around the world, communities live without access to running water and stable electricity. Seungah grew up in the same conditions, and wanted to do what she could to help communities like hers. Her solution was business. Seungah went to business school and, after a long journey, became MPOWERD's president and CEO.
Her years building a career in big companies were unlike her work at MPOWERD, a certified B Corp. She was amazed that businesses could focus on profit and social and environmental impact. Going into MPOWERD, Seungah kept the entrepreneurial spirit alive while using her business skills and experience to help it scale and succeed. There is a balance between keeping the spirit and heart of the brand while making changes within the company.
MPOWERD: A Business for Good
Micro, Power, and Design. These three key concepts are the heart of MPOWERD. The company's products are small, portable, sustainable, empowering, and well-designed. Their mission is, as Seungah puts it, to “utilize business as a force of good.”
MPOWERD follows a different business model using localized pricing depending on the community's needs. Pricing is adapted to emerging markets like Kibera, Kenya, to prevent disruption to local economies. On the other hand, in developed economies such as the United States, their products are sold at full price.
As Seungah said, “We [MPOWERD] are designing unique products serving a need, but we’re building products for people. We really think about people around the world and their needs and commonalities and we design to that.” By adapting to the community, MPOWERD can use its business model to meet the needs of both emerging markets and developed economies.
John Salzinger founded MPOWERED when he saw the need for communities living without basic resources. They've innovated products that people can use for various purposes: from outdoor recreation to becoming a source of light and electricity for war-stricken areas. Over three million people have felt the impact of MPOWERD and its products.
Giving the Gift of Light
Any consumer who purchases a light contributes to MPOWERD's mission to utilize business as a force for good. With the help of NGOs and corporate partners, the company can make its business model work and distribute lights to those who need them. Anyone can donate lights that MPOWERD will deploy as needed through the Give Luci Program.
Seungah grew up using a kerosene lantern at home. Until today, many communities use the same risky method to light their homes and businesses. However, Seungah believes that, whether “in a developed economy or in an emerging market, consumers everywhere deserve the best quality, rugged, durable products.” Each Luci light bought or donated is of the same quality that brings light to homes worldwide.
Luci stands for light and serves as MPOWERD's brand name for its light products. The next step forward is Viri, which stands for power. MPOWERD is looking into future products that serve as sustainable and rechargeable power storage.
MPOWERD: Making an Impact
Empowering Communities, One Change at a Time
A fishing community in SouthEast Asia struggled with a decline in fishing stocks. One fisherman discovered how their Color Luci Lights attract plankton and increase the fish they catch. After deploying more of Luci's floatable lights, the fishing economy started thriving. In the end, the fishermen reinvested what they gained to create sustainable fishing practices.
After a major natural disaster, the first needs of the people are power, light, and communication. MPOWERD provides power and light for rescue and relief efforts. One example was during the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, where they deployed 100,000 lights.
Light for Sight and Hearing
One of MPOWERD’s NGO partners helped them understand the unique needs of the hard-of-hearing community. Without light, they couldn’t communicate. With their partner, MPOWERD was able to distribute Luci Lights and give them the means to communicate.
Meeting Everyday Needs
MPOWERD has worked to light medical clinics in North Korea. With their light, the clinics stay open, allowing people to receive the medical treatment they need.
In parts of Africa, women work to support the needs of their families. Seungah shares, “Instead of these women and their families using harmful kerosene or firewood, they're not only gaining a means of economic empowerment for themselves and others in their community. But they're also helping to stave off respiratory disease and burns that affect many of the women and children who light their homes with something other than solar lanterns.”
MPOWERD also works to educate children. With their partner organization, the distributed Luci Lights serve as many children's guides as they walk to and from school. Students can study safely and pursue education even in struggling communities.
The Future of MPOWERD
Innovation is in the future of MPOWERD. Their products are finding new ways to meet different needs and become more sustainable. Seungah and her team want to bring solar power into people's every day. They want to show that alternative power sources can be reliable, fun, and relatively inexpensive.
Seungah wants to shift the mentality around renewable energy for the next generations. They offer products like the Build-Your-Own Luci Kit to teach consumers about electricity and solar power. MPOWERD is building a future where sustainable innovation can help solve the problems of a broad range of communities.
Use discount code “HERCEO” for a 20% discount on MPOWERD if you want to purchase Luci products as holiday presents.
Seungah wants to empower people to create solutions to the hardships they face. She says, “I think the power of business is so incredible because you can get out there. You can say I'm going to invent something that desalinates water from the environment and creates clean drinking water for those who need it. It can be anything and that's the joy of business. That we can be problem solvers.”
A Sustainable and Profitable Business
At its core, MPOWERD is a mission-driven business. As a business, it needs financial security to continue its operations. The company has competitors who don't need to shoulder the extra steps and costs that come with creating positive change and making an impact. So how does MPOWERD stay profitable?
Seungah's answer to this is the power of consumers. Consumers vote with their wallets; the more information consumers can access, the better their decisions. People wanting to make a change tend to support companies like MPOWERD that focus on sustainability and social impact. However, having a business for good doesn't mean low-quality products. MPOWERD continues to bring the best products to the market at a moderate price.
A mission-driven business must understand where the market is moving and reach its consumers. Making use of opportunities to spread who they are and what they do can go a long way to helping them stay profitable and continue to grow. It's vital to keep an eye on profitability. It's how the world can see that businesses can be a source of profit and a force for social and environmental good.
Learn More About Seungah and MPOWERD
Seungah Jeong is the president and CEO of MPOWERD. She spent her career shaping global companies and has experience leading multi-million dollar businesses and start-ups. Seungah has also been named as part of the Top 100 Women in Impact by Real Leaders. At MPOWERD, she works to make energy products that are both sustainable and affordable. Their mission is to empower the lives of the billions of people living without electricity in low-income countries.
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