Friday, 24 December 2010

BBOXX through to the final of the French Global Social Venture Competition

BBOXX was part of the ten businesses selected out of 110 applications to participate to the final of the Global Social Venture Competition in Paris on the 1st of February 2011. This competition aims at redefining profit, business and success. Companies have to show high social and financial return in their business model. BBOXX received positive feedback from the judges and hopes to secure a place to the European final in London in March.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

An original advertising method

BBOXX’s Rwandan Director of Distribution and Sales, Olivier Udahemuka, undertook an analysis on the marketing and sales techniques that are most suited for the Rwandan market. His conclusion was that a jeep, a renowned DJ, a powerful sound system, a wireless microphone and an army of salesman were the ingredients required to raise awareness of our products in East Africa. 

BBOXX's jeep and sound system are key to advertise our products around the country.

During three days he drove around the most popular markets around Rwanda to advertise and sell our solar kit. Olivier came back exhausted but confident about the mass market appeal of our products in Rwanda and said: “I felt more like a preacher than a salesman.  We were shaving people on the hood of the car to demonstrate the different ways of using our product, it was hectic!! ”.
Olivier "preaching" about the benefits and characteristics of our box.

A young boy being shaved witht he power of the BB5 on the hood of the jeep.

BBOXX is attracting international media attention

A Belgian journalist came to Kigali to make a documentary about BBOXX for some French and Belgian TV companies.  The film takes us from our start with e.quinox and our first Energy Kiosk, going through to our assembly line in Kigali and our first portable and affordable solar powered kit. BBOXX’s visionary and innovative bottom-up design approach towards solving energy problems in developing countries will be at the centre of the documentary. 

We will keep you posted with the viewing dates!

Sunday, 21 November 2010

BBOXX’s first steps in the Republic Democratic of Congo

BBOXX was invited to Goma by Eric de Lamotte, a successful Belgian businessman and philanthropist who has a broad experience of doing business in the North Kivu with his numerous for-profit and charitable organisations such as En Avant Les Enfants, Kivu Travel or his brand new micro finance Smico. 

The main aim of this trip was to evaluate the market potential for our solar standalone energy solutions and meet his Congolese partners to analyse the hurdles and barriers to market entry that we will have to face when doing business in this part of Africa that has just come out of a long period of unrest and conflict. 

Laurent Van Houcke (right), BBOXX's partner and director of African operations, is presenting the BB5 to Eric de Lamotte (middle) and his Congolese partner (left).
We carried out a detailed market research on the solar and electricity market in Goma which lead to the following findings:
  • There are around 6 hours of blackout every day which force people to use generators.
  • A medium sized businesses spend around 75$/week for fuel. This is around 4,000$/year
  • There is a clear potential for carbon financing.
  • Photovoltaic panels in Goma cost around 6,5$/Watt.
  • Lead-acid batteries in Goma cost around 2,4$/Ah.
  • PV panels have on average five hours of peak power output in the North Kivu.
  • Most solar systems come fro China and are poorly sized, designed and installed. 

We noticed the poor maintenance of the electrical network in Goma and the extend to which people go to get access to electricity during power cuts.

Unprotected and rusty 50kVA transformer on the top of Mont Goma.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

BBOXX’s assembly line running at full speed in Kigali

The clock is ticking for BBOXX’s shop in Rwanda where the last battery boxes of the initial batch are being produced.

Our shop has been operational for two months and has 12 workers employed that can produce around 65 BB5s per day. 400 boxes were produced for our charitable arm, e.quinox, which has now implemented two new kiosks in Rwanda using the BB5. We have around 200 BB5s out of our 1400 first batch still to grab at our shop in Kigali! Hurry up as they will probably be gone within the next few days.

Our shop manager Kellen is handling the over-the-counter sales and the after-sale services of our products. She has an important role has she is the main person representing BBOXX in front of customers.
Kellen, BBOXX's shop manager in Kigali, is sitting behind her desk.
Kellen starting to distribute the BB5 to our first enthusiastic customers.

BBOXX starting operations in the Central African Republic

BBOXX has created a partnership with Energie Solutions Durbales in Central African Republic for the representation and distribution of BBOXX’s energy solutions. Olivier Udahemuka, director of sales and distribution in Rwanda, was invited by Energie Solutions Durables to elaborate and concretise a partnership to advertise our company’s culture and distribute our products in the Central African Republic where only 4% of the population has access to electricity.  

Olivier left Rwanda, his family and his four month old daughter for an epic business trip to this landlocked country above the Democratic Republic of Congo which is well known for its considerable resources of timber and diamonds.

BBOXX's Director of Sales and Distribution, Olivier Udahemuka, is showing the BB5 to the Minster of Energy in the Central African Republic.
As part of his trip he developed a strong support and contact network among the local government which has put a high priority on electrification projects. BBOXX has sent 100 BB5s from its factory in Kigali to ESD in Bangui so that they can carry out the required market research before making an order of 3,000 units within the coming six months. 

Olivier and ESD had a successful meeting with the Minister of Trade at the end of which we received VAT and import duty exemption on our solar products for the coming three years. Olivier has now returned to Rwanda where he is handling the sales, distribution and after-sale services of our products in and around Kigali.
Olivier Udahemuka negociating with the Minister of Trade and Business to get VAT and import duty exemption for BBOXX's solar products in Central Africa.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

BBOXX and the BB5 feature on BBC World News

BBOXX and our first product, the BB5, will soon be featured on the BBC's World Challenge program thanks to e.quinox, the charity at Imperial College London which the founding members of BBOXX helped to create back in the summer of 2008.

Take a look at: to get a sneak peak of the video and see the BB5 in action! Also don't forget to vote for e.quinox in the final of the World Challenge using this link.

The full video will be aired on BBC World News on the 6th of November, at 0130 and 0830.

Update 02/11/2010: Youtube link has been updated

Thursday, 14 October 2010

BBOXX at the Shell LiveWIRE 2010 Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards

The BBOXX team returned from the 2010 Shell LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award last night after presenting to business experts and experienced entrepreneurs about our achievements in Rwanda and our plans for the future.

The BBOXX UK team at the 2010 Shell LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards
Although we didn't win (many congratulations to Jessica Grosvenor who did!) We gained a lot from the experience and developed some valuable contacts who could help us with our aim of electrifying some of the poorest people on the planet. Our solution and vision gained wide praise from the judges who recognised the impact and potential this could have in developing countries around the world.

Many thanks to the Shell LiveWIRE team for organising and supporting us at the event and best of luck with your business/project to all the people we met in London.

In other news, production in Rwanda is in full swing under the direction of Justus Mucyo and his team of workers. We've now completely sold out of our first batch of products and have some exciting deals to be signed over the coming months. We'll keep you posted with any developments from Rwanda or the UK over the coming weeks and months.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

BBOXX through to final of Shell LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award

BBOXX is delighted to announce that it has made into the final eight competitors for the Shell LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2010.

Shell LiveWIRE News Item

The BBOXX team will be travelling to London on the 12th and 13th October to present to the likes of renowned entrepreneur Duncan Bannatyne and others in pursuit of the £10,000 top prize. Wish us luck!

Friday, 10 September 2010

UK team departs Rwanda

The UK based team said goodbye to Rwanda on Thursday after nearly 6 months of combined man-hours in the country. Mansoor, Chris and Laurent have achieved nearly all their aims of sorting out the business paperwork, setting up the local production facility, employing the local management and production team, testing the market potential of the product and opening a facility in which to grow the business (as well as other achievements too numerous to mention).

We are glad to be leaving the day-to day running of the business in the safe and competent hands of the local management team: Justus Mucyo, Olivier Udahemuka and Hubert Rutage Ruzibiza; the team have a diverse set of skills that complements each other well and with the constant support they can expect from the UK based partners, we are confident they will suceed in the growing and developing the Rwandan branch of the business.

UPDATE: In recognition of the hard work the team have put into setting up the company and its potential for the future, the "Shell LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year" has shortlisted the company for the final of the 2010 awards.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

BBOXX Shop Opens for Business

The BBOXX team welcomed about 40 people to the opening  of their shop in Kigali on Wednesday night. The short gathering was to celebrate the enormous amount of work that the BBOXX team have achieved over the past two months in Rwanda, as well as to look forward to the exciting times ahead of us as we officially open our Rwandan operations.

The shop will also be used to assemble and produce the BB5 products and is an ideal collection point for larger distributors in the East African Community. BBOXX aims to keep you updated on the progress of our Rwandan operations over the coming months.

Director of Production Justus Mucyo speaking with a guest at the opening of the BBOXX Rwanda office
BBOXX saleswoman Kellen getting to grips with the office computer

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

BBOXX Shop Gets Ready for Business

Time for an update: BBOXX has been hard at work over the past two weeks, getting everything ready to produce, market and sell our first batch of 1000 units of the BB5. We've now received pre-orders for over 400 battery boxes at the Rwandan Expo, have generated extensive interest from distributors within Rwanda and around the East African region and have the team and facilities set-up to assemble and distribute the boxes over the coming months.

BBOXX's founding partners in their new shop and production facility
BBOXX's shop will be opening tomorrow (Wednesday 8th September) at our location on Avenue de la Justice in Muhima, Kigali. The shop will also comprise the assembly/production and storage area for the BB5 products, whilst giving distributors a convenient location to collect our products for sale around the country. Keep following the blog over the coming days to see how the shop opening went.

With the opening of the shop our initial business trip will be coming to an end, as BBOXX's UK based partners will be leaving the country on Thursday, returning to the UK to plan the future of the business and investigate potential new markets and products. We plan to return regularly over the coming months to ensure the business is progressing as we've planned.

The hard work doesn't stop here though; BBOXX's Rwandan team are now fully up to speed with all the aspects of the business and as of this Thursday, they will be the main contact point for BBOXX in Rwanda. They'll be working on finishing the production of the boxes (a 20ft shipping container is arriving on Monday with the remaining products), selling the boxes to distributors and individuals and most importantly, getting feedback on the reaction to this exciting new product.

In summary, these are exciting times for the business - the initial response to our product has been great and over the coming months we'll be keeping you updated on the blog with our progress and exciting plans for the future; stay tuned!

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Rwandan Expo: 150 and counting

BBOXX today sold its 150th unit at the 2010 Kigali Expo on its third full day of trading. The BB5 product has been extremely well received by the general public, with many customers wanting more than just one!

An interested customer checks out the BB5 at the 2010 Rwandan Expo
Employees John-Claude, Pacifique and Claver have been working hard to demonstrate the potential of the BB5 in powering lights, mobile phones, shavers and radios. At times the small stall has been swamped with customers interested to learn more about how the product can benefit their lives and give businesses and individuals access to electric power.

Tomorrow BBOXX will be continuing production of the BB5 and putting the finishing touches to its new factory outlet in Kigali. The Rwandan Expo goes on until Monday Septemebr 6th in Kigali - if you're in the country, why not check us out?!

BBOXX employee Claver demonstrating the potential of the BB5