Meaningful Business (MB:) Please tell us a bit about your background.
Mike Bellot (MB:) I am Haitian, and have studied politics and economics. I also did my Masters from Tamkang University, Taiwan, and have a graduate certificate in Community Leadership from Kyung Hee University in Korea and Ritsumeikan University in Japan. At the end of my studies, I received the Outstanding Foreign Student Award, given to the three best foreign students by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Taiwan.
MB: What led you to start Solo Group?
MB: When I was in Taiwan, I received a phone call that changed my life forever. I was informed that my cousin had fallen asleep whilst studying by candlelight, and the resulting fire caused his death. All of this happened because he didn’t have access to electricity to study. It was this tragedy that influenced me to address the alarming problem in my home country of Haiti – the lack of access to electricity.
I founded Solo Group in 2017 with our flagship product, Solo Bag, a solar school bag enabling students in Haiti to study at night, who do not otherwise have safe or cost-effective access to electricity.
MB: What is the main problem you are trying to solve?
MB: In Haiti, only 37% of the population has access to electricity. The rest have no choice but to rely on candlelight or wood to light their house at night. Solo Bag addresses this problem, as it is a backpack that provides light and recharges mobile phones.
Our Bag has an integrated solar panel and LED light system, which gets charged by sunlight while the students take their long walks to and from school every day. The bag also comes with a USB port so students can charge mobile phones and other electronic devices, and an integrated powerBank and LED lamp.
All of this enables students who don’t have access to electricity to study during the night safely and cost effectively.
MB: What is your biggest challenge right now?
MB: We want to scale our product to other markets that face similar problems. Our biggest challenge right now is scaling and penetrating international markets, as it presents logistical issues and I am still learning how to navigate them.
MB: What is your vision for the future of your business?
MB: Our vision is to create revolutionary products that fulfil universal basic needs in an environmentally sustainable way.
MB: What is your advice to other leaders who want to combine profit and purpose?
MB: Be passionate! Put your whole heart into it. Combining profit and purpose is a difficult and long-term task. It requires constant commitment, through the ups and downs. Let your passion shine through. Your customers, business partners and employees should feel it in your eyes, in your voice and in your actions.
MB – What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
MB – Do what you are passionate about.
MB – Who inspires you?
MB – Steve Jobs.
MB – How do you define success?
MB – Doing what I love and knowing that it makes a difference in the lives of others.
MB – What is something you wish you were better at?
MB – Coding.
MB – What is the one book everyone should read?
MB – ‘The Lean Startup‘ by Eric Ries.
MB – What do you do to relax?
MB – Watching movies.
Discover the other MB100 leaders recognised for their work combining profit and purpose to help achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in 2020, here.