After the 2010 Haiti earthquake struck, more than a million people were left homeless and forced to live in crowded tent cities with no electricity. These tent cities could become unsafe at night, especially for women and young children.
“We wanted to put our skills to work designing something that would help aid those affected by this disaster,” said Andrea Sreshta. She and Anna Stork, who were design students at the time, came up with the idea for a portable solar light to help those in Haiti as well as others affected by natural disasters. They filed a utility patent in 2011, and were eager to start their own company.
“But,” as Andrea pointed out, “we were novices when it came to starting and running a business.”
Launching a company was a considerable risk, but one that Andrea was determined to take. “My parents have always supported my dreams as an inventor and entrepreneur,” she said. “They sacrificed a lot of their time to help our startup grow.” Encouraged by her parents and inspired to help others, Andrea worked with Anna to found a new company: LuminAID.
LuminAID’s Global Impact
Andrea and Anna were able to get investors to support their company, but they both knew it would take more than just money to make their business successful. “Figuring out how to adapt our skills as designers to a business-related endeavor has been a continuous challenge,” Andrea admitted. “However, we’ve learned a lot along the way, which has helped us to continue to grow LuminAID.
“Learning new things will not only set you apart,” she advised, “but it will also allow you to continue to accomplish new things you never thought possible.”
LuminAID solar lights are now used in more than 100 countries, a feat that Andrea calls her biggest accomplishment to date. “It means a lot to me that people I will likely never meet in countries I will likely never have the chance to visit are using LuminAID lights and phone chargers to better their own lives.”
Lighting the Way
Although Andrea found success in LuminAID, many women entrepreneurs struggle to find opportunities to launch their startups and products. “Only 8% of patents name a lead female inventor,” Andrea pointed out, a statistic she wants to improve. Andrea will be a featured speaker 2018 Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC 18), and hopes her story will inspire other young women to start their own businesses.
“I truly believe that you can’t be what you can’t see,” she said. “Anna and I have had the good fortune to meet a lot of successful female inventors and business owners in our time since starting LuminAID. We have learned a lot from the examples set forth before us, and it has helped us understand our own potential.
“I am proud of our issued utility patent for inflatable solar lighting technology,” she continued. “Anna and I hope to set an example for future female inventors.”