Alec Drummond and Jonathan Cedar are avid campers, who in 2006, teamed up to develop a portable stove that could use the fuel available in the woods instead of relying on petroleum fuel or batteries. Together, they developed a wood burning stove that utilized its own thermal energy and produced clean, safe heat.
Their stove prototype won a contest hosted by an advanced combustion conference in Washington State, where is also gained the attention of researchers focused on clean combustion for developing countries.
While Drummond and Cedar did not intentionally set out to design a product for the developing world, they realized their stove was extremely marketable to the more than 3 billion people relying on open fires and simple stoves for their cooking and heating needs.
BioLite now sells several products to its camping and adventure market, including stoves, kettles and LED lights. These sales help offset the costs of selling its cheaper, but equally as effective and dependable stoves in the developing world.
BioLite’s business plan maintains a focus on innovating useful, sustainable and clean products for customers with varying needs. BioLite products serve the rugged nature loving, thrill seeker trekking through the Pacific Northwest just as well as the humble, hard working mother living in rural India.
The World Health Organization estimates that cooking on open fires causes 4 million premature deaths every year from pneumonia, lung cancer and other pulmonary and heart diseases. BioLite’s cylindrical stove works by burning twigs and wood and emits 90 percent fewer particulate emissions than a traditional open flame stove.
Even better, it can produce the same amount of heat using 60 percent less wood. And to take the product from good to great, the stove even makes use of heat waste by funneling it as electricity through USB ports that can be used to charge cell phones, an already popular possession even in rural villages.
Businesses can learn from BioLite’s fairly unique production strategy. Products intended to enhance the experiences of wealthier western customers can also be designed to provide customers in developing nations with much-needed goods.
Expanding scopes to include developing nations works to increase business and include formerly excluded marketplaces, while also helping those living in economic or energy poverty improve their lifestyles.
– Brittney Dimond