How This African Entrepreneur Built A Multi-Million Dollar Business From Solar Energy
Stable electricity in Africa remains the continent’s greatest energy problem. Most cities run on less than 4 hours of electricity a day, and this results in an uninterrupted derail of productivity and many other activities.
People can’t study in darkness. Factories have problems running their machines, because of the extreme cost of procuring and maintaining large electricity generators. And businesses experience difficulties running their daily operations. Especially internet companies.
This mayhem has plagued Africa since the very word, “electricity”, was coined.
How then does Africa get out of this dark mess? Well, someone chose to do something about it in his country, and in the process, grew a multi-million dollar business before he clocked 30.
His name? Patrick Ngowi.
Who’s This Patrick Ngowi Anyway?
Ngowi, is the founder and Chairman of Helvetic Group. One of the leading solar companies in East Africa. His company supplies, installs, and maintains solar systems all around Tanzania, and several other African countries.
So How Did It All Start?
Ngowi was born in Tanzania in 1985. Though raised by scholars, he grew up not looking in the direction of a career in academics, but with the absolute mindset of an entrepreneur.
At the age of 15, Ngowi was already selling airtime top-up vouchers. This venture was okay at that time because, the telecoms industry was just getting started in Tanzania, and the only places to get these vouchers then, was at shopping malls and phone stores. Which were usually far away.
Spotting this business opportunity, Ngowi raised a loan of $50 Dollars from his mother (May God bless all mothers who do this), started purchasing airtime vouchers from large dealers, and finally re-selling to the locals. Saving them both the time and stress they originally experienced.
After finishing high school, Ngowi took a trip to Asia, where he discovered yet again, another business opportunity.
The mobile phone industry in Tanzania back then, was still relatively young. Mobile phones sold in the markets were expensive and difficult for the common man to afford. This high-cost problem prompted Ngowi to act on an impulse to venture into low-cost trendy mobile phones.
With this new opportunity, he approached his mum for yet again, another loan. As a woman who believed in her son, she loaned him $1,800 (Once again, these mothers deserve the best). This loan helped Ngowi ship low-cost mobile phones, which he in turn, sold to the locals for a minute price of $20 each.
At just about 18 years old, Ngowi’s mobile phone business already had a yearly turnover of $150,000.
The Aha Moment!
While on a trip to China, Ngowi got to acquire insightful information about Solar panels and renewable energy. Since the electricity problem in Tanzania was nothing to make a show of pride about, and with millions of both families & businesses relying majorly on electricity generators, Ngowi knew that he had discovered gold.
To expand his knowledge and insight of this new discovery, Ngowi enrolled in Denzhou University, China, with some of the funds he had saved up from his business, to study Renewable Energy.
Business savvy as he was, Ngowi started exporting building materials to his home country in Africa, Tanzania, while he was schooling in China.
Upon graduation, Ngowi used the income he had made from his export business to purchase Solar and Thermal equipments, which he shipped back to Tanzania to start a business. As with every other eventual successful business, he started out of a small store.
As months passed by, doubts filled his mind about his venture. Low sales got him thinking for many nights. But his mother’s words of encouragement and belief, got him going. By the time an awareness started about solar energy been a good alternative source of electricity, Helvetic Group, been the only solar energy company at that time in Arusha, Tanzania, enjoyed a tremendous monopoly.
As the solar energy awareness soared in Tanzania around 2007, his business began to grow. Ngowi started supplying more solar panels to small clients. Overtime, government institutions began to signup to his services.
By 2011, his company had generated $2.8 million dollars in revenue. In 2012, his company generated $6.8 million dollars in revenue. And by 2013, at the age of 28, his company broke the $10 million dollar mark, by generating $10 million dollars in revenue.
Being a visionary, Ngowi plans to take his company to greater heights by eventually generating $100 million Dollars in yearly revenue.
Today, the Helvetic group has multiple business hubs in Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya, Congo, and several other parts of Africa. With top clients like the Tanzanian army, The United Nations, and more, the sky is indeed Ngowi’s stepping stone.
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What do you think about Patrick Ngowi’s success story? Please leave a comment below.
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