The SolarTurtle commenced with a research project for a Master’s thesis at Stellenbosch University and the exploration of micro-utilities and solar battery charging stations as a means to electrify rural communities, making use of social business principles by founder James van der Walt. The output of which, resulted in a containerized solar powered container with a community energy business inside. It was aptly named the SolarTurtle as a result of the solar panels folding awayonto the container, in order to protect it – similar to a Turtle retreating into its shell.
As many of our followers know, SolarTurtle was established with the purpose of inspiring change by bringing solar power to street vendors, rural communities and the like. We always wanted to add our voice to the call for action and we are proud of how far we’ve come.
Our first products focused on security in the form of SolarTurtle Hubs (mobile solar hubs in shipping containers), creating a great mobile solarized hub unit for utilization by companies and organizations. The inside of these containerized hubs were designed to charge phones, ICT devices and keep the lights on in rural villages, or to be utilized as mobile clinics or mobile offices or spaza shops. We decided the expand upon this product offering with the aim of creating a more streamlined, scaled down version in order to improve accessibility and affordability to aspiring entrepreneurs and vendors wishing to access solar energy.
Shortly thereafter, we came across a tender advertisements through the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI). The terms of reference included new aspiring initiatives which focused on renewable energy, job creation and entrepreneurship. Our technical and business team developed a tender solution which included the design and development of the Spark kiosks as mobile solar trading units in order to make solar energy accessible to aspiring entrepreneurs, traders and food vendors in an easy to use packaged product.
After a rigoroustender evaluation process, SolarTurtle was awarded the tender and the BabyTurtle project was set in motion. We set out to design not only the new Spark kiosk range just launched, but also a custom designed software package, inclusive of e-learning principles in order to support the kiosks.
A year later, after a lot of hard work from our amazing team (who is predominantly womenJ), the Spark kiosk range was developed and officially launched to the public.
The Spark range is specifically aimed at vendors; both new and aspiring, but also to existing food, informal and market vendors who require access to solar energy. Our software is designed as a point of sale system and management tool to not only assist the veteran vendor but also new entrepreneurs in terms of basic e-learning in terms of basic business operations and best practice principles.
Furthermore, with a focus on women and youth empowerment, we went a step further and ran a skills transfer course in East London, where the BabyTurtle project office is located. This course comprised of a two-day training session for unemployed women and youth on solar energy and basic business principles.
The main purpose of the Sparks is to create a mobile solar trading space for vendors, which offers services such as solarised battery and phone charging services, powerbanks, printing services and powering connectivity in the form of WiFi hotspots to name a few.
We are extremely thankful for all the positive responses receivedin respect of our new Spark product range.The SolarTurtle team is hard at work to improve upon and upgrade the current Spark range design and associated software.