2018-2019 Protégés and Mentors

Stella Sigana | Founder & Owner
Alternative Waste Technologies

Assigned Mentor: Lori Kiser, Industry Insider, Trainer, Speaker

Alternative Waste Technologies’ (AWT) mission is to provide clean biomass briquettes to mitigate against climate change and deforestation while creating employment opportunities for out-of-school youths in urban slums so that they can unlock their potential, develop their skills, and create successful futures for themselves and their families. To create the briquettes, AWT sources organic waste from farmlands and markets which is then carbonized and compacted through hydraulic compact forces to create a suitable alternative to traditional charcoal. AWT offers recruited youths training and support, employment as sales agents, mentorship, and the capacity building to become managers and franchise owners, thus empowering them to create employment for others.

About Stella Sigana 

As an enterprise development specialist and consultant, Stella’s experience revolves around supporting micro- and small/medium enterprises with strategic planning to develop growth plans for businesses, while entrenching business operations ethics. She has undertaken several training projects working with entrepreneurs in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania to support their entrepreneurial activities. Most of the enterprises that Stella has interacted with are involved in agricultural activities, food processing and value addition, also in craft/trade: mechanics, plumbing, and automotive among others. In attending entrepreneurship conferences in Tanzania, which attracted participants from Rwanda, Ethiopia, Sudan, Somali, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Burundi, she learned business practices of these countries. Stella brings to the Accelerator a working experience from bottom of the pyramid, including establishing distribution models that meet the needs of BoP communities. She has served as Trainer of Trainers in sessions targeting micro- and small/medium enterprises with organizations such as The British Council and SEED Enterprise Program. In addition to university level lecturing on entrepreneurship, she has significant experience engaging with youths in entrepreneurship interventions. Stella trained at Philanthropy University, with a focus on social entrepreneurship and covered various topics such as business models and impact measurement.


Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu | Founder & CEO
Cold Hubs

Assigned Mentor: Jason Philips, Director, Strategic Accounts, CertaPro Painters Ltd.

The mission of ColdHubs Limited is to eliminate food spoilage due to lack of cold storage for 470 million smallholder farmers globally. As a social enterprise, ColdHubs designs, assembles, installs, and commissions solar powered walk-in cold rooms in farm clusters and marketplaces for smallholder farmers, retailers, and wholesalers. Their innovative solar powered walk-in cold rooms eliminate losses of fruits, vegetables, and other perishable food due to lack of reliable cold storage and increases the income of farmers and retailers due to perishable losses.

About Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu 

Nnaemeka is a farmer, an innovator, a social entrepreneur, Executive Director of Smallholders Foundation Ltd./Gte., and Founder & CEO of ColdHubs Ltd. He started Smallholders Foundation in 2003 at the age of 21, to inform, educate, and improve the livelihood of rural small farmers by using educational radio programs and leading field practical demonstrations. Using Smallholder Farmers Rural Radio Station (FARM 98.0 FM), he reached an estimated 250,000 farmers with daily agriculture, environmental management, and marketing messages. 4,500 young Nigerians were trained in agriculture and environmental management and 14 youth-owned farms were established. Through this organization, he has given out 18-month microloans to more than 350 women farmers and has distributed quality seeds to more than 7,000 farmers.

Nnaemeka recently launched the social enterprise, ColdHubs Ltd., which assembles and installs solar powered walk-in cold rooms that provide 24/7 off-grid storage and preservation of perishable foods in off-grid markets and farms. Fresh produce is placed in clean plastic crates and stacked inside the cold rooms with temperatures of 5°C, which extends the shelf life of fruits, vegetables, and other perishable food from 2 days to 21 days.

Nnaemeka is a multi-award winning social entrepreneur who has been recognized worldwide with more than 27 local and international awards for his innovations which improve the yield and income of smallholders. He is one of Nigeria’s most prominent young agriculturists. His awards and recognitions include, 2008 Ashoka Fellow, 2010 Laureate of the Rolex Awards for Enterprise, 2010 Laureate WISE Awards, 2011 Future Awards Nigeria’s Young Person of the Year, 2012 Fast Company USA 100 Most Creative in Business, Laureate of the Niigata International Food Prize, Japan 2012 and 2013 Laureate of the prestigious Yara Prize for Green Revolution in Africa (now the Africa Food Prize).

His work has been supported by The World Bank, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, UNDP, UNHABITAT, IFAD, FAO, UNESCO, The Mulago Foundation, Perry Foundation, Halloran Philanthropies, Stem van Afrika Foundation, The French Government, The Qatar Foundation, and The Clinton Foundation. His work has been profiled on local and international media including BBC, Times, and CNN. He is on the board of many organizations, including continental organization Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Research Network (FANRPAN) and Einstein Rising USA. Nnaemeka is a member of 13 international associations, including IUCN CEC, Society for Conservation Biology, and Chatham House.


Sabrina Habib | Co-Founder & Chief Exploration Officer

Assigned Mentor: Peter Holt, CEO, The Joint Chiropractic

Kidogo is a start-up social enterprise with a mission to improve access to high-quality, affordable early childhood care and education for low-income families in East Africa. Kidogo uses an innovative "Hub & Spoke" model that combines best-practice Early Childhood Hubs (owned & operated by Kidogo directly), with a social-franchising program that supports quality improvement and growth of local childcare micro-businesses. Founded in 2014, Kidogo has grown to a staff of 33, serving over 1,000 families per day across 4 communities in Nairobi. Their goal is to be the largest network of high-quality, affordable childcare centers in East Africa by 2025 so that every child has the opportunity to reach their full potential.

About Sabrina Habib

Prior to Kidogo, Sabrina spent three years working with the Aga Khan Development Network in East Africa, managing an Integrated Primary Health Care Project and the Social Innovations portfolio of a $13.5 million maternal and child health grant. It was during this time that she first encountered the childcare crisis taking place in Nairobi's informal settlements (slums). Dissatisfied with the status quo and traditional approaches to development, Sabrina launched Kidogo as a sustainable and scalable social enterprise. It has since provided over 1 million hours of play-based, holistic childcare to children aged 6 months to 6 years. She holds a Masters of Public Administration in Development Practice from Columbia University, was named a Top 30 Under 30 by Forbes Magazine, Canada's Female Social Entrepreneur of the Year by ELLE Magazine, and the HRH Prince of Wales/Unilever Young Social Entrepreneur for 2017.


Amit Saraogi | CEO & Co-Founder
Oorja Development Solutions India Private Limited

Assigned Mentor: Greg Starbird, Founder/Principal, Starbird Consulting LLC

Oorja’s mission is to substantially and cost-effectively scale last-mile distribution of decentralized renewable energy solutions to revitalize the rural agrarian economy, alleviate poverty, and fight climate change. Oorja deploys smart solar mini-grids that generate and distribute three-phrase AC electricity to power income-generating appliances along the agricultural and small-scale manufacturing value chains in rural India. They offer standardized and pre-configured mini-grids packaged together with solar pumps and appliances within a shipping container for ease of installation and training of operators.

Oorja offers two product/services; the first is a solar AC mini-grid that powers community solar pumps for irrigation. They design, install, and maintain these mini-grids and sell water as a commodity with ‘pay-for-use’ business model to smallholder farmers. Each pump allows 15-20 farmers to access water on demand using a smart pre-paid card. The other offering is a solar AC mini-grid deployed at rural highway marketplaces to power small agroprocessing units (grain mills, spice grinders, oilseed presses), cold storages, dairy chillers, cottage industries, and nearby low-income households. Uninterrupted electricity is sold on a per-unit basis to low-income business owners. They facilitate asset-backed financing to replace currently used diesel motors with efficient electric appliances. Technical training of operators and community engagement is provided to elevate customer awareness and increase adoption of services.

Oorja’s revenue model is to own and operate the mini-grids through a B2C model, whereby water is sold on a pay-for-use basis and electricity as a service on a post-paid per-unit basis. In the next 12 months, they plan to move to a B2B model by rolling out a franchise distribution model, whereby Oorja’s revenues will come from franchise license fees and sale of mini-grid systems on a lease-to-own model to local franchisees. Their goal is to attain scalability by leveraging the franchise model and profitability through powering productive energy appliances as anchor load, that generate stable and higher revenues.

About Amit Saraogi 

Amit is Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Oorja. His role includes business strategy, financial management, fundraising, and partnership building to deploy distributed renewable energy technologies in agrarian rural communities. He has over 15 years of diverse experience in business and economic consulting (PricewaterhouseCoopers and Analysis Group), investment banking (ABN-Amro), and development practice (UNICEF) across four continents. I also have prior entrepreneurial experience of launching a franchise retail enterprise to provide affordable clothing and promote livelihood opportunities in small towns in India. There I was engaged in business planning and supply chain management and I also led the raising of a friends-and-family investment round.  I obtained a Master's degree in International Development with a concentration in poverty alleviation from Columbia University, New York and a professional certification in Social Entrepreneurship from IDEX. I also bring to Oorja a deep understanding of the complex social, cultural and political context in which Oorja operates in India. My work with Oorja has also brought me a few accolades including an Echoing Green Climate Fellowship 2015 and a SOCAP17 Scholarship. I was selected to participate in the GSBI Online Accelerator Program and named among the SE100 list of the most Inspiring Social Entrepreneurs around the world in 2017. My personal goal is to champion distributed energy systems to reach the last-mile in BoP communities and increase the share of renewables in India's energy mix.


Markey Culver | Founder & Co-Director
Women’s Bakery

Assigned Mentors: Marla Rosner, Senior Learning & Development Consultant, MSA Worldwide and Lisa Sparacino, MSA Worldwide

In East Africa, where education, nutrition, and jobs are scarce, The Women's Bakery (TWB) trains and empowers women to profitably manage local businesses that nourish communities and spark economic growth. They specialize in locally sourced, highly nutritious bread products that are affordably priced to grant lower-income families purchasing power.

TWB believes all women have the right to earn an education, sustainable gainful employment, and opportunities to improve their own lives and their families lives. They exist to give women access to those opportunities and choices and believe a slice of bread has the power to change the world. By providing comprehensive business education and vocational training, TWB trains women to launch and profitably manage nutrition-centric bakeries in their communities.

TWB's specially tailored training program is 150+ hours of theoretical and practical education modules delivered in the local language; bakery infrastructure is built during training. These bakeries are built in urban, peri-urban and/or rural communities and are designed to meet local demand with local supply. Ingredients for breads are sourced from each bakery's community, thereby sparking and sustaining local economies. Bakeries are given the tools and management support to become operationally profitable in 18-24 months. Specializing in producing and selling highly nutritious breads that are affordably priced, lower-income families are granted purchasing power.

About Markey Culver

Markey views business as a medium, a solution-providing agency that consciously works for people. Building bakeries has become her means to creating access to opportunity, namely financial independence and social empowerment, for women globally. Markey is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Rwanda, 2010-2012) and recently graduated with her MBA from Washington University's Olin Business School. A compelling orator and communicator, Markey has innovatively fused her educational background in communication with her unwavering commitment to bring access to opportunity, for all. Catapulting the launch of The Women's Bakery, Markey bound her continued motivation to social enterprise through the simple mantra of, "we can, therefore we must."

With a background in business creation and administration, technical training, and strategic communication, Markey co-leads The Women's Bakery team with competence and zeal. Markey oversees operations, manages personnel, implements strategic partnerships in the US and abroad, and manages business development initiatives. Invested not only in the success of the women with whom she works and the bakeries launched, Markey is a strong advocate for all TWB’s team-members and staff, ensuring that the work-place is one that is equitable, thriving, and supportive.