Lighting a Path for Social Business

Published on January 29, 2013

Bauer’s Sales for Social Impact Course Returns to Peru

Sales for Social Impact in Peru

Jose Estrada, Raul Giron, Susana Rosas (professor), John Ly, B. Alexis Borgstedt (alumna and Fall 2012 contributor), Lien Quach, Marissa Robinson, Cassie Gianni, Michelle Hernandez and Sergio De La Vega, worked as business consultants for Power Mundo, providing the people of Pucallpa and surrounding areas with a solar-powered lantern the Sun King Pro.

Plans change. Many know this and adjust hesitantly.

A group from the University of Houston C. T. Bauer College of Business, though, embraced modifications in their itinerary during a recent international trip because it meant even more doors opened to afford them the opportunity to help the impoverished area of Pucallpa – their social business’ target market.

Working as business consultants for Power Mundo, eight students and Susana Rosas, professor for the Sales for Social Impact course for the past three years, provided the people of Pucallpa and surrounding areas with a solar-powered lantern the Sun King Pro.

The first of its kind, the Sun King Pro (SKP) also serves as a mobile device charger, delivering high and long lasting performance. With one day’s charge, the SKP can last up to 30 hours and shines 10 times brighter than a kerosene lantern, which is currently one of the main sources of light in Peru.

Bauer junior Raul Giron said the lantern was an improvement from others introduced in Pucallpa previously – and as he and the students learned almost immediately – their previous research and findings were confirmed; the need there is great.

“When you realize you are in this place that you have been reading about the entire semester, it’s surreal,” Giron said. “It was amazing to see that, what we see as a novelty item because of the luxuries we have here, can make a difference in Peru. The need for electricity is huge, and this product has the potential to change lives.”

Solidifying Partnerships, Making Headlines

Students showing Sun King Pro

Bauer students show the town of Pucallpa how to use the Sun King Pro (SKP).

The trip was the end result of the Sales for Social Impact (SSI) course. In its third year, the course is designed to teach students how to market and sell products that can improve lives through sustainable business models.

Through growth and expansion of the course and further penetration of Peruvian markets, this year’s group was able to secure meetings with top officials, opening doors to many other opportunities. Partnerships and alliances, all ideas made possible by and through the eight students, were solidified with mayors and governors, PRISMA, a microfinance institution, and an entrepreneurial empowerment program for women called Emprendedoras de Yarina y Tushmo

“A partnership with PRISMA was something we thought was unlikely,” Sergio De La Vega said. “Though doubtful, after research and several attempts, our team was finally able to get in contact with the director and identified some of his needs. We found that the product would align perfectly with social programs PRISMA looked to implement in Peru. Setting the partnership with PRISMA for Power Mundo let us know that we were unstoppable.”

Additionally, the group was afforded the opportunity to market their product through mass media, spreading their message on local television and radio programs and even found themselves splashed across the leading newspaper.

“I strongly believe we represented UH and Bauer very well and people viewed us highly, mostly due to the support from their government, leaders and television, radio and newspaper reporters,” De La Vega said. “They were surprised that college students were able to execute such a high-level project. It seemed they were especially proud that the University of Houston, a school you would not think would have a connection with Peru, had the initiative to take this project on.”

A Learning Experience Beyond the Classroom

The course this semester, led by Rosas, expanded its comprehensive look into the bottom of the pyramid by starting off the year with a retreat in Waco with  a poverty simulation that ignited the team’s unique bond.

The poverty simulation experience helped them understand what it is truly like to be impoverished as they lived as a homeless person for 48 hours, enlightening them to the idea of surviving by any means necessary. This led the group, on their own accord, to present the people of Peru with 500 pounds of personal donations upon their arrival to the country. Doors continued to open throughout the trip that provided the students opportunity to help the Peruvian community on behalf of the schools name.

Working with a non-profit unrelated to their business plan. They invested, built, and gifted a brand new house to a family of three – unplanned prior to the trip.

Through the encounter and many others, the students realized the course was more than lectures, taking notes and exams. Cassie Gianni, an Economics junior, said it encompassed theory and implementation.

“The course challenged me to channel my background in economics and international development into a focused and comprehensive sales plan,” Gianni said. “As my first thorough exposure to business, I learned exponentially each and every week of the semester.

SSI has inspired me to pursue more opportunities in the business school in hopes of promoting social enterprises in the future. Most importantly, the course brought my heart and mind even closer together as complimentary forces for good.”

Click here to see more photos from the group’s trip

By Carmen Spencer