Okey Esse is the founder/CEO of Powerstove Energy, the innovators of Powerstove, a smart smokeless cooking stove that uses proprietary cooking fuels that are produced from wood and post-harvest crop wastes. In this interview Nigeria’s Esse, who is also among the Top 20 finalist for Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH) award this year, unveils to OBINNA EMELIKE his innovation, the impact, reasons for competing at the ABH awards, high hopes and expectations after the awards. Excerpt:
Congratulations on your making the Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH) award shortlist and also one of the five Nigerians competing with the rest of the continent for the award this year. How important is the award to you and how will it impact your business?
The award means so much to me, my team and our shareholders. Award and recognition from ABH will grow our brand and trust in our technologies and will go a long way to transform the livelihoods of the communities we operate.
Can you explain what the Powerstove, your invention, is all about?
Powerstove is smart smokeless cooking stove that uses our proprietary cooking fuels that are produced from wood and post-harvest crop wastes to cook food five times faster and to also self-generate electricity for the users to charge their mobile phones and light up LED bulbs. Powerstove currently sells the cheapest cooking fuels in all the markets we operate, and these products are helping our users save up to $300 annually.
In the face of rising energy cost, especially for poor households, how has your invention solved the energy challenge in your country?
Right from day 1, we set out to build the most economical smart clean cooking stoves for our users. Not only that our stoves save energy cost, but we also produce the cheapest cooking fuels in the market and this is double benefits for our users. To sweeten the deal for our users, they have the opportunity to enjoy free electricity at home, hence giving them more reason to save more money.
If you win the award grant, do you think it will be enough to scale up your business?
Definitely yes, it will. We have lot of communities yearning for our technologies and these grant fund will be the catalyst to launch in these communities
Which of the entrepreneurs and innovation do you think has more chances of grabbing the larger chunk of the grant and why?
Well, I have not checked anybody out. I want to believe that any entrepreneur that made to this stage has equal chances of grabbing the larger chunk of the grant. We all need to be in our very best during the finals and allow luck to do the rest.
Nigeria has five entrepreneurs in this year’s top 20 ABH finalists, what do you think is responsible for the feat?
I might sound a bit biased; entrepreneurship is in our DNA. We do not complain, we build the solution to solve the problem.
You have also been engaged in networking and training opportunities by ABH, what is the impact so far?
Amazingly beautiful, we are gaining a lot from A List Networking Opportunities
What if you did not get as much funds as you expect at the grand finale, will that affect your business growth plan?
Not at all, we have ongoing projects across y States of Nigeria that any amount fund we received can be plugged into it for maximum social and livelihood impact
This year will be the 4th year the grant has been running and it will run for 10 years. How do you see the ABH, is it really impacting African entrepreneurs and the continent’s economy at large?
Yes, I have seen past winners and finalist do greater exploits in their business and I want to believe that ABH has contributed a lot to that their growth.
What about the organiser of Africa’s Business Heroes, any comments on their gesture of supporting African entrepreneurs?
First, I want to commend and thank ABH organizers for believing that there is potential in the young people in Africa. Where others saw problems, they saw growth and opportunities and decided to invest in these young people through Africa’s Business Heroes. I want to thank ABH for putting forward a merit-based credible selection system that has inspired lots of founders to better understand their business potentials and pitfalls.