Outdoor Retailer Show: Day 2 Round Up
When I first began working on the idea for the Estream — our portable, hydro-power generator — there were many naysayers and critics along the way. In fact, as a start-up in the world of energy and manufacturing, there were mostly naysayers.
Many men who had been in the industry much longer and on a much larger scale than I had been insisted that there was no market for personal-level energy — that it wasn’t possible to create something so small and so powerful.
That’s why the Women’s Panel today at the Outdoor Retailer Show resonated so much with me. Laurie Etheridge, President and Founder of Lucy Activewear, put it in such simple but elegant terms when she described the barrier to entry for women at most companies.
When you have women-led companies, it’s easier for women to innovate and gain access to leadership. There’s the ease of entry into the market, where we know how to sell our ideas better than anyone else. There’s the introduction of ideas, where we don’t have to explain how our designs, ideas or theories will apply to women, and then there’s simply the expertise. No one knows women better than women. “There’s ease and expertise, so it’s better for women,” Laurie said in regards to both women buyers and women in the workplace. “Is that politically correct? Probably not. But it’s better.”
Women all over the world experience a barrier to entry, and that’s partially what inspired the idea behind our first product, the Estream.
I backpacked across India for nine months in 2005 to 2006. In that time, I traveled from village to village and stayed in people’s homes as I met them. I left home because I wanted to be a nomad, live as other people live and experience as much of the world as possible.
I spent one night in Kodaikanal village with a widow and her 7-year-old son. There was no electricity in the village, so we prepared and ate our dinner around candle light.
I carried a camera, with which the whole village was enamored. It was the first time many people there had seen a camera, witnessed a piece of electronics capture an image and then were able to view it on screen a moment later.
The widow’s son loved the camera and wanted to take pictures of everything. He took pictures of his mom cooking dinner and brought his friends to take pictures of them the next day. He immediately wanted one for himself.
I could see his excitement and creativity. I considered leaving him my camera or mailing him one later, but I realized that even if he had a camera, he had no way to power or charge it.
This changed my perspective on how we interact with energy. We don’t just use energy to light our homes. We also use it to connect with one another and interact with the world around us. Because the boy had no electricity, an entire profession was out of reach for him. Because the woman had no electricity, she was confined to her village and to the ideals, values and opportunities available there.
Something Range Founder and Editor Jeanine Pesce said at the Women’s Panel stuck out to me: When women come together in groups, they thrive.
I was fortunate growing up that I had parents who supported me in my adventures and my ideas, however dangerous or far-fetched. In addition to allowing me to travel India, they supported me starting this business when so many others said it couldn’t happen. Because I had a connection to the internet and the developed world, I had access to many female role-models, education and resources.
Ideally, the whole planet would have access to the energy grid, but making energy accessible on a personal level could allow one family to start a business, allow young adults to study after dark or allow one woman to connect with other women around the world.