We were recently able to chat with Salima Visram, the entrepreneur behind the company that creates Soular’s backpacks. These backpacks are equipped with solar panels which allow children who don’t have access to electricity in rural parts of Africa to study at night without having to use an expensive and carcinogenic kerosene lamp.
We love what this company is doing and are always eager to share about other do-good brands. We hope you are as inspired as we are after this conversation with Salima!
Sudara: What was the inspiration behind founding Soular?
Salima: I grew up in Kenya and noticed how some children my age weren’t able to do their homework every night, simply because they didn’t have access to electricity. They would use kerosene if their parents could afford it, but kerosene is carcinogenic and costs families 25% of their income. This was a huge reason why children weren’t able to get into secondary school. The inspiration behind Soular was to create a child centric, dual purpose solution to this problem. Now, we’ve grown into a brand that stands to create social impact. We have exciting new things coming up, at the intersection of fashion and tech, and can’t wait to share it with the world!
Sudara: Have there been any catalyst events that have helped shape the company?
Salima: Definitely. From the time of inception, we’ve only been able to come so far because of dots connecting and supporters who love our cause and brand and who enable us to keep going. A few milestone events were our first crowdfunding campaign in 2015 and surpassing our goal, getting Lupita Nyong’o to come on board to endorse Soular, having Disney market Soular alongside their Queen of Katwe movie, being displayed on the red carpet at the Hollywood movie premiere, but my favourite was our first big distribution event at the Kibera School for Girls in the Kibera Slums. This was the moment that culminated everything we had been working towards.
Sudara: What are your long term goals for the company?
Salima: To keep creating impact, and to keep empowering people. We just moved production of the Soular Backpack to Mombasa, Kenya and we’re super excited about that! Our long term goals for the company include building products people love and that serve humanity, all whilst being at the forefront of fashion and tech. Eventually we want to expand our reach to holistically empower people to uplift themselves out of poverty. The backpack targets education. We want to then look into food, clean water, economic empowerment and health care.
Sudara: What challenges have you faced along the way?
Salima: Lots. From building a product that is sustainable and durable to manufacturing in China, to operating in 2 continents and distributing all over East Africa. We’ve had about 8 lamp prototypes and we’ve finally found the winning design. The biggest challenge has been coordinating operations with China and getting products manufactured the way we want. We’ve finally moved production to Kenya and have a solid manufacturing partner in place. Another challenge has been quantifying impact and deciding how much impact is “enough,” because there is always more to be done, and always more to achieve.
Sudara: What is your favorite backpack style and why?
Salima: My favorite one so far is the Sand White backpack, particularly because it was our first design and we put so much into every detail of it. I love the color combination and we’ve received lots of compliments on it! I also really like the City Blue backpack (featured with Sudara goods above and below), because I personally find it more practical for every day in terms of the color.
Sudara: What advice would you give to shoppers who are looking to help your cause?
Salima: We would love any help! We’re always looking for people to join the #SoularFam, to be ambassadors, to help spread our message and to join our team. Reach out to us on social media, and get your 1:1 backpack. It’s not just a backpack, it’s a movement. We’re also launching our second kickstarter so stay tuned for that!
Lucky for us, Salima and Soular just started a vlog on YouTube with a goal to take more people on Soular’s journey, through the challenges and successes every day going forward. Check it out here for more!
We are incredibly excited to partner with Soular for a giveaway! Check us out on Facebook and Instagram to learn about how you can score a pair of the Dhana Slouch, an Empowering Tee, and the fabulous City Blue Backpack.