Solar Energy Startup Founded by Sierra Leonean Woman Wins Covid-19 Relief Grant

In 2020, the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic left businesses of all shapes and sizes that rely on the free passage of goods and people reeling from its impacts. Restrictions of movement and travel bans resulted in delays to access inventory and curtailment of face-to-face customer engagement. Supply chains, sales processes, and revenue generation were dramatically disrupted. The consequences were significant not least in emerging markets.

Sierra Leone was no exception. Businesses in the country, especially traders, startups, and small-scale privately owned enterprises were badly hit. Many businesses scaled back or shut down operations, laid-off workers, and sought ways to weather the storm whilst revenue-generating opportunities dried up.

Smiling Through Light, a local solar energy company in Sierra Leone founded in 2016, was among the businesses affected. The company focuses on providing clean energy access to vulnerable communities in Sierra Leone through the sale of solar-powered products and was unable to perform core business functions. Few activities spared the disruptive effects of the pandemic.

Thankfully, emergency relief funds and patient capital were mobilized to address these unprecedented impacts. Smiling Through Light were welcome beneficiaries of the Shine COVID-19 Energy Access Recovery Fund; an average grant of USD 10,000 to support the needs of frontline energy access entrepreneurs, cooperatives, and agencies to survive the global pandemic.

Upon receiving the grant in November 2021, Smiling Through Light utilized it to address arrears and position it to return to normal operations. Agents are now able to reach customers in the last miles they are operating as restrictions on the movement of people have been lifted.

“Our company is now able to move forward in assisting the communities through the sales of our products, our staffs are being paid and they are now able to settle family and personal responsibilities” Mohamed P. Kamara, Area Sales Manager, Lunsar.

In an appreciation video, the staff of the company extended their gratitude to the Shine Campaign for their generous support and Rockefeller Philanthropic Advisors for sponsoring them and reviving the business. Smiling Through Light is mobilizing, with a renewed focus to deliver on its mission of providing clean accessible energy to last-mile communities whilst empowering women.