Blog of Hanna Williams

Our Solar entrepreneurs in Nebbi after Lytefire training!

Posted Wednesday 20 April 2022 by Hanna Williams.

It has been over 3 months since the training in Nebbi in January and since the trainers left it has been an incredible success! With the Solar Fire team in constant contact with the ‘Smart Up Solar Bakery’ we have witnessed and experienced their passion, motivation and dedication running their very own solar bakery since the 3 week training took place!

They continue to bake every week with the team that were selected for training but they also now train other vulnerable youths in the rural area how to bake with solar so they have access to the knowledge. This has also provided an awareness for the environmental issues. Instead of relying on electricity, charcoal and firewood to bake, the Nebbi team have expanded their education of solar science to train other youths by presenting the power of the Lytefire oven and utilizing a natural resource, the sun!

It is the rainy season now here in Uganda, but the hub utilizes the sun’s energy wherever possible and has baked with the Lytefire oven nearly every day!
As Nebbi is one of the newest Smart Up Hubs, they receive so much support from their local community and the plan offices which are close by. Since January when the first 3 week training took place each week the nebbi smart up hub has been generating over 100,000ugx sales a week!


The future shines bright with the ‘Sun Light Solar Bakery!’ in Alebtong

Posted Friday 8 April 2022 by Hanna Williams.

The journey continues with Plan International’s Smart Up Factory as the team visits Alebtong, the most rural area the trainers have visited so far! In the Northern region of Uganda, a 40 minute drive west from Lira District. The surroundings of Alebtong are vast with long stretches of beautiful green land, dusty terrains and livestock farming.
The climate in Alebtong has very hot dry summers with mother Earth providing the harmony and balance of the wet rainy seasons providing a green abundance of agricultural farming.

The purpose of this project is to provide underprivileged women and youth in this very rural area in Uganda solar baking and entrepreneurship training in order for the Alebtong hub to have a running bakery to offer delicious baked bread and other solar baked goods to their local community! The Alebtong Smart Up hub location is a 15 minute boda ride from the very small town but in the close surrounding areas there is a school, the Town Council Headquarters and a police station! All of which have been very supportive during the first few weeks, visiting the hub, discovering the power of the LyteFire solar oven and buying baked goodies from the bakery!

As one of the smallest hubs the team has visited, the hub and Alebtong town embodies a spirit of a very supportive and communal family. The Smart Up students worked together in teams, advancing their many skills in different areas, always eager and yearning to learn more! The mission for this training is to deliver a unique type of education that hasn’t been provided before in Alebtong to allow the participants to gain a diverse set of training skills and knowledge other than hairdressing and tailoring which are very competitive businesses within Uganda.

We hope with this training that we provide this hub the opportunity to be an independent and running solar bakery in Alebtong as it is a district like Nebbi but on an even smaller scale! They do not have a bakery in this area so one problem we wish to help solve is creating an income for youths that suffer to find employment especially in such rural areas like Alebtong. Their bakery business will also support the local community with delicious freshly baked bread which is a cheaper alternative for Alebtong shopkeepers that will no longer need to pay for the transportation of food products from towns or cities further afield. We hope for them to build an active and loyal relationship with customers to form a trustworthy reputation within the Alebtong community where the Smart Up students can provide locals with delicious goodies baked locally with the power of the sun!

One Lytefire unit has been provided at the Alebtong hub alongside a 3-week intensive training course in entrepreneurship, technical and baking skills tailored to using a solar thermal concentration oven. Week 1 consisted of how the Lytefire technology works from a technical perspective with the combined education of solar science which introduced many participants to the effects of climate change and global warming. The majority of students were completely unaware of the damage caused to the Planet before we arrived and how climate change is affecting countries like Africa the most with drastic disasters such as flash floods and droughts.

A shocking fact is that approximately 8.2% of infant deaths in Uganda are primarily linked to indoor air pollution from unsuitable cooking spaces using charcoal and firewood. 4 million people, mainly Females and children die each year from household pollution from using unsustainable fuel sources with many other people here developing respiratory problems.
As the majority of the participants were under 24, most with families at such a young age and many of the women that attended the training had children, they were appalled at these statistics. This is where we introduced the benefits of the Lytefire technology, not only improving health but how it helps preserve the environment.

As a small rural area we came across challenges regarding marketing as the students and training team had a discussion on what methods were best to market their bakery during the entrepreneurship training. Collectively, the students decided offline marketing was to be their most favorable strategy as ‘word of mouth’ recommendations spread widely and they could promote their solar bakery with business cards, posters and a Sun Light Solar Bakery logo! Many students and locals in the area do not have smartphones, so they would use SMS and calls to speak with their customers if they had any promotional offers on!

As the students all live locally they knew the market and ‘competition’ in the area so explained to us what baked goodies they believe they could offer their customer and what would sell well. So during week 2 the first few days the students focused on mastering bread loaves and bread bun recipes. They explained many locals didn’t have access to freshly baked bread and only had bread that contained many preservatives in them that were transported from Alio, Lira or even Kampala.

The days following Hasheem, our baker trainer taught the students how to bake cupcakes, G-nut cookies, ginger cookies, sponge cakes, cinnamon buns and solar baked mandazi! The solar baked mandazi sold out due to members of the town council headquarters who made an order of 76 mandazi for their meeting the following day! Once they had one bite they could not resist the taste of freshly solar baked mandazi!

During week 2 and over the weekend mentors and mentees showed up to bake on Saturday at the hub as they had to prepare some more pre-ordered baked goods for solar baked mandazi!
The hub were selling baked treats like hot cakes! Sales made so far from the first 2 weeks and over the weekend were already over 224,000UGX (56EUROS)!

This meant Week 3 was all hands-on deck: Ready steady bake, bake, BAKE! During the last week, Hasheem, our baker trainer, dedicated one afternoon to teach the very excited participants the eagerly anticipated cake decorating class! This included how to frost a cake by making icing bags from baking paper and using specific nozzles to create beautiful decorations on a party cake! As many locals were head over heels in love with the solar baked mandazi, the students had to primarily focus on baking these as the local community enjoyed how fresh and readily available these goodies were!

The Smart Up hub had the Lytefire 5 combined roaster and oven installed so the trainers demonstrated to the participants the G-nut Roasting process. With the sun smiling down in Alebtong the students roasted 10kg of raw groundnuts in the solar roaster for a total of 3 hours. This saved roughly a total of 2kg of charcoal that would usually be used burnt for roasting the ground nuts in a pan.
The process included the rinsing and washing of the ground nuts, then adding 200g of salt with water. This mixture was then placed into the solar roaster and the outcome was super delicious! If you would like to see this process you can check out our video reel on our Instagram page!

For the last week of training the students were preparing for their Solar Demo Day where they would showcase their solar baked goods and present a demonstration of how the Lytefire solar oven worked for guests that were attending. We had family members of the participants attend, amongst special guests Pastor Caro and 2 journalists covering the demonstration day from a radio station in Lira. The sales made on that day were just over 100,000ugx (25 Euros) from the wonderful support of the local community, family and friends that attended the special day. It was a truly wonderful celebration to end the training as every single participant were very hard working and excited about the beginning of their journey with their new solar bakery!


Ojwina 2 week Refresher training

Posted Wednesday 23 March 2022 by Hanna Williams.

In 2018 the Lytefire solar oven was installed in Gulu, it was then relocated in 2021 and transported from Gulu to Lira’s Smart Up Factory location at the Lira West City Division. As part of the refresher training, the team, Callum, Hannah and Hasheem, revisited the Lira hub for 2 weeks, training the students on more technical skills of using the Lytefire 5 and helping them advance their baking knowledge and skills.
Lira is a small city, based in the northern region of Uganda where you may find yourself in the heart of the city which is energetic and frantic!

But if you take a 10 minute boda boda (motorbike ride) out of the city you are welcomed with the charming abundance of nature, vast green lands and a community life of agricultural farming. With an increasing population of 119,323 in 2022 from 99,059 in 2014 there is no wonder children are forced to work on the streets, finding ways of generating money and with the lack of parental care and neglect these children and adolescents are finding themselves with lack of employment, education and support.

Plan International’s Smart Up Factory provides training throughout many locations in Uganda that offers training opportunities to disadvantaged and vulnerable youths so they have a second chance of education and gain employment. Smart Up hub is a 10-15 minute ride away from the city center so this gives students a wonderful opportunity to engage and market their bakery with city people and the local communities close by.

As this was a refresher training the team were training the students with the older version of the Lytefire 5 solar oven. So there were a few differences in this machine regarding the mirrors but the overall durability of the Lytefire 5 since the transportation from Gulu was running very reliably with very little damage. A few mirrors needed replacing, which is ongoing when focusing and refocusing the mirrors during training. The overall structure of the machine was sturdy, stable and long standing with 3 mentors who were previously there when the Lytefire 5 arrived, maintained and knew how to use and look after the machine.

For the duration of training we implemented the improvement of their current finance and bookkeeping so they could record cash flow, sales profits and inventory accurately and efficiently. This also included the students learning the basics of understanding how costing and pricing of recipes work so they can recognize how to price each of their different baked goods and how to make a profit. Callum guided the team on focal training so they could really understand how to maintain, work and fix the Lytefire technology for the future of their bakery. This took 2 days while we had one main mentor who felt very passionate about the preservation and management of the solar oven monitored the Lytefire everyday making sure it was in working order!

As an already established bakery from the previous training was delivered, the bakery team named themselves ‘Sun Smart Bakery’. They were operating as a bakery before we arrived but since the refresher training they informed us since we left that they have been baking everyday with made to order cakes! We also experimented with recipes that would work in the Lira district, especially cupcakes as they were previously selling these. After the bakery team baked solar cupcakes with a new recipe, Hasheem (our baker trainer) provided them with and radically improved their cupcake recipe and they were soon selling many of these to locals! Hasheem also taught the students how to save money by making products that were readily accessible in the area such as ginger cookies, mango tarts and banana muffins.

As the location in Lira was not based in the city center and many students did not have a smartphone we explored offline marketing techniques with the bakery team. After teaching the students the entrepreneurship module we discussed Marketing and the importance of brand awareness where we asked the group to create a logo and business card. We soon discovered that this particular area worked well with word of mouth, events and networking to gain exposure of their solar bakery.
The whole 2 weeks of training the team baked completely with direct solar energy with the Lytefire oven! As the Lytefire is made with high quality materials and manufactured in our workshop in Kisumu, the solar oven has a lifespan up to 19 years with a social impact of saving many of the solar bakeries money by not relying on or using firewood, charcoal or electricity.

During demo day our guest of honor, the deputy mayor of Lira city west division came along and supported the bakery team by speaking about the Smart Up project.

Socials:
@lytefire_solar


Kampala’s training for the Solar Tech Bakery

Posted Thursday 10 March 2022 by Hanna Williams.

Kampala, the capital of Uganda is the most exhilarating city I have ever experienced! With a population of 3.6 million it is no wonder Kampala is a dynamic and fast-paced environment where you can find yourself getting lost in the hustle and bustle of the city!

The Kabalagala Smart Up hub is a KCCA (Kampala Capital City Authority) owned building. The Smart Up Factory works closely with the KCCA and they help with funding the project for Plan International Uganda. The Kabalagala one stop youth hub is a 25 minute ride from the center of town which makes it the perfect location for a bakery providing solar baked goods to local shopkeepers and the opportunity to supply and transport to the town center also.

The youth center became operational in December 2017 with partnership with Plan International from 2018. Since opening the Kabalagala hub they have trained 900 students (270 Males, 630 females) primarily focusing on young vulnerable women in cooperation with Plan International. The team arrived at the Smart Up hub where many other training sessions included hairdressing, shoemaking, graphic design and tailoring. With slow economic growth and accelerating high population rates there is a high unemployment percentage in Uganda. This is where KCCA plans to help solve this situation working alongside Plan International where they create projects such as Smart Up factory to offer free vocational training for young people.

During the first week of training, 1 Lytefire 5 solar oven was delivered to the hub where the students would learn all technical aspects of assembly and disassembly, how to calibrate and focus the mirrors to understand how the concentration of heat in the oven works. Alongside the technical training, Callum, our mission based trainer taught solar science explaining the effects of climate change and global warming. He explained the impact it has on the environment and how using the Lytefire technology can create solutions instead of problems such as deforestation from using firewood and charcoal to cook with.

(Installation of the Lytefire 5 & the traditional stick burning test)

Kampala weather conditions were hazy and the sun shone later in the afternoon. The hub surprised us when we found that they had previously baked briquettes before the Lytefire 5 solar oven arrived. Briquettes are composed of commonly found organic household or agricultural waste, such as peanut shells, banana peels and matooke leaves etc. The students at the hub compressed these by hand into small dense products that can be used instead of charcoal and excess amounts of wood harvested from nearby forests.

As the Smart Up hub was a 10 minute walk from one of the busiest roads with an immense selection of shops, restaurants and bakeries, we split the groups to conduct market research and recognize their potential competitors! When we discussed this as a class, the students understood the importance of having high quality products at affordable prices to attract customers! So of course we had to organize a taste test where the students would try products from local shops and bakers and what they would do differently to make their products taste more delicious!

They realized that to sell their own baked goods they must experiment with recipes, comprehend the costing and pricing of ingredients to determine their price per product. The market research also gave students knowledge on marketing, branding and selling techniques for their own solar bakery!
The students at the Kabalagala hub were so excited about making doughnuts as Kampala had a market for them but not a recipe as exciting as solar baked chocolate decorated doughnuts! Amongst experimenting with doughnuts, the students had also baked G-nut cookies and cupcakes during the second week of training so to test their selling abilities we gave all students a selection of each product to sell over the weekend to generate sales. To our surprise they ALL sold out of the products and between them made a huge profit of 204,000!

(Chocolate decorated solar baked doughnuts and cupcakes!)

Week 3 of training was the combination of all aspects of the modules taught to the students where they continued lots of baking for solar demo day and working out the costing and pricing of each individual product! They were educated in the importance of record keeping, inventory and cash flow to understand how to sustain a bakery business. A few students who were advanced in graphics were taking images and using these for marketing techniques on the brochures to showcase their unique products and attract new customers.
The students were so excited and inspired their sales and the entrepreneurship and marketing module that they begin straight away with the name of the bakery calling themselves ‘Solar Tech Bakery’. After the marketing module was taught we asked students to create a logo, business cards, food labels and brochures! They even created an Instagram account to display off their new baking knowledge and skills from the Lytefire training with images!

(Brocheres, business cards and food label stickers created by the students)

The launch of Solar Demo day had the students exhibiting their established solar bakery with an impressive display of delicious and tasty baked goods! These included a wide variety of products of decorated occasion cakes, cookies, cupcakes, doughnuts and pizza. From the previous week they had made to order decorated occasion cakes from customers in the local community which were on display for many officials of Kampala to feast their eyes on!
The sales they made were 91,000 in total with the guest of honor, the minister of Kampala buying 200 G-nut cookies at 50,000UGX (12 EUROS)! The day was full of joy, accomplishment and celebrating the success of Lytefire 5 solar oven at the Kabalagala hub with the 15 students graduating with a set of new skills and a mind of solar baking knowledge!

An article from the Kampala Solar Demo Day: https://www.kcca.go.ug/news/515#.YiiLd3xBzrc

Socials:
@lytefire_solar
Kampala’s solar bakery IG: @solartech_bakery


Smart Up Factory is the only bakery in Nebbi!

Posted Monday 7 March 2022 by Hanna Williams.

After an energetic 3 weeks training course with the inspirational students in Nebbi, Uganda, it has been an incredibly successful experience! Nebbi’s Smart Up Hub enrolls 40 students at a time, so 15 students were carefully selected for the first ever solar bakery training in the district. We felt very fortunate to have such a motivated and focused group to train as every student was super eager to get involved with all aspects of the training!

Nebbi experiences many power cuts throughout the day which can cause great difficulty for many restaurants in the area that rely on electricity. Using the Lytefire solar oven meant when the team baked they did not need to worry about this occurring issue and as long as the sun was shining they could carry on baking all day without any interruptions.

The majority of local shopkeepers and hotels in the area heavily relied on electricity, only few with backup generators. So the only other methods they had to rely on for cooking were charcoal, which was accessible but around 60kg for 35,000UGX (12 EUROS). Charcoal was used daily in Nebbi and 60kg of charcoal would only last a week of cooking. That is a LOT of money and it would mean street vendors would barely make a profit from the products they sold and produced.

"Charcoal, which was accessible but around 60kg for 35,000UGX (12 EUROS)"

During week 1 the trainers introduced the expectations of what the training would involve and how the Lytefire would influence them greatly within the baking market here in Nebbi town.
In the first week of training the students were already selling solar buns, cupcakes and cookies without any influence from the mission trainers!
One of the challenges during the first week was that Nebbi being such a small rural town, ingredients were hard to find so they had to travel across the border of Congo and buy their equipment.

We soon realized that Smart Up hub had a very huge advantage in town being the ONLY bakery in Nebbi! Through market research, the students recognized that all local shopkeepers that sold baked goods like bread, cakes and cookies were all transported from Aura or Kampala! This was a disadvantage for shopkeepers as they had to consider transport costs and wholesale prices. From the local market research the students had already made connections with shopkeepers and were ready for business to supply these local shops with their solar baked goods using the Lytefire solar oven!

"We soon realized that Smart Up hub had a very huge advantage in town being the ONLY bakery in Nebbi!"

During week 2 of training the students learnt how to market their bakery by creating a bakery name as a team, naming themselves ‘Smart up Solar Bakery’ and designing a logo, flyer and business card to attract customers and create brand awareness.
In a group discussion we spoke about the products the bakery wanted to produce, they explained that mandazi was very popular and that they were deep fried in oil. So as a group they decided they wanted to recreate a healthier version using the Lytefire solar oven! Our baker trainer, Hashimu, produced an oven baked mandazi recipe with the bakery team that the students experimented with. We can proudly say using the Lytefire 5 solar oven that these were the very first ever solar baked Mandazi in the world! (You can check out our solar baked mandazi reel on IG)

The temperature was perfect for baking with solar, averaging at 35°C every day! The bakery team wanted to learn how to make bread loaves as they had lots of interest from the surrounding community and shopkeepers as this was what most shops sold the most of out of baked goods. When the team placed the bread loaves in the oven they soon realized the temperature was too high so the bread didn’t rise. This was one unfortunate experience that they learnt from so the second time round, when they made the recipe again the oven was kept at a stable temperature with 2 students supervising the Lytefire oven consistently so the bread rose beautifully!

During week 3 of the training the students had full autonomy with baking, selling and marketing their products!
They understood the concept of how to run a bakery when they were baking with Hasheem as they were understanding the costing and pricing of their products which encouraged students to produce high quality goods that were also affordable for the local community.
Throughout the training the students were competent in producing sales and there were many orders from locals, for the solar baked mandazi, bread buns and occasion cakes.

Our ‘Solar demo day’ took place on Thursday in conjunction with the graduation of students here at Nebbi’s Smart Up hub. Amongst the students’ family and friends, Plan International officials attended along with politicians and the Nebbi district Mayor and district councilors were all present! They presented certificates to the newly established solar bakery team and celebrated by cutting the graduation cake they ordered from the Smart Up Solar Bakery and sharing the cake with the audience! There was such a wonderful turnout with the bakery team selling out of cookies, bread and cupcakes! It was a huge success and the awareness of the bakery is now well known amongst the local community

The team provided attendees with their newly creative business cards and flyers whilst showcasing their marketing skills.
The demonstration of the Lytefire 5 impressed the locals as they were used to charcoal being sold in immense quantities on the street. This gave the bakery such a great advantage to showcase the solar oven and promote its direct solar energy! Westnile TV covered the day and it was broadcast on live TV in Uganda! You can view this video on Youtube which is linked in a previous article if you would like to check out the success of Nebbi’s ‘Solar Demo Day’!

Check out our journey with the projects we are collaborating with for Plan Internationals Smart Up Factories on our social media channels!!

IG: @lytefire_solar

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Lytefire.solar/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/38140646


Smart Up Solar training in Nebbi

Posted Tuesday 18 January 2022 by Hanna Williams.

We are beyond excited to start our 2022 training projects with Plan International’s Smart up hubs in Uganda beginning here in Nebbi! After a successful training program at the Kamuli hub in December 2021 the team is now in Northern Uganda. As a relatively small town, Nebbi is busy yet alive with exuberant energy! The sun smiles immensely during January and February but very frequently throughout the year with temperatures rising up to 35 degrees, it is truly a superb location for the Lytefire technology!

Nebbi is busy yet alive with exuberant energy!

Nebbi’s Smart Up hub is one of the recent sites constructed by Plan International, opening just over a 1 year ago with 6 mentors enrolling and training 40 students every 3-4 months. Although being the smallest hubs in Uganda, it delivers a very communal and more intimate space where students receive attentive education supporting and catering to each individual need. Due to the struggle of the Covid pandemic, they have had many obstacles to face as an emerging start-up hub as schools in Uganda have been closed for 2 years with them finally opening in January 2022. Plan International reopened their doors during the pandemic in June 2021 offering many disadvantaged young people the chance to carry on skilled training in sewing, beadmaking, business and hairdressing amongst many other subjects.

Plan International reopened their doors during the pandemic in June 2021

The training will progress over the course of 3 weeks with Callum (Mission based trainer), Hanna (Mission based trainer) and Hasheem (Expert baker from Tanzania!) educating trainees in the technical aspects of using and baking with the Lytefire technology, entrepreneurship, baking theory and practical. The trainees will have the opportunity to Implement their educational training knowledge on ‘Solar demo day’ using the Lytefire 5, combined oven and roaster where they will bake delicious bread, cookies and cakes! They will showcase their newly established solar bakery to friends, family and the local public at the end of their training where they will be able to sell these delectable baked goods.

The trainees will have the opportunity to Implement their educational training knowledge on ‘Solar demo day’

If you would like to keep up to date with our training program in Nebbi follow our social media channels!

Instagram: @lytefire_solar


Kamuli Youth Solar Bakers!

Posted Thursday 13 January 2022 by Hanna Williams.

Welcome our new Kamuli Youth Solar Bakers!!

After an exciting collaboration with Plan International back in 2018, the team arrived at Smart Up Factory in Kamuli where we were beyond thrilled with the entrepreneurial spirit the students displayed! Smart Up Kamuli were provided with 1 Lytefire 5 the combined oven and roaster where they could bake bread, cookies and cakes whilst also having the opportunity to roast peanuts! During the course of 3 weeks the students learnt many skills such as the technical maintenance and installation of the Lytefire, entrepreneurship, baking theory and practical.

During the entrepreneurship training, the Smart Up students were taught how to market and promote a business where the students learnt how to create their very own promotional flyer in hope to get regular clients, taking orders, as well as locals passing by. For now, they don’t sell at any market but take private clients. But for sure, there will be quite a development branching out to the markets in the future when they look further into it!

The purpose of the Smart Up Factory is to empower youths by promoting free educational training for youths especially young girls that have been victim of teenage pregnancies and forced to leave school due to caring for their child. Smart Up Factory inspires, motivates and transforms the lives of many vulnerable youths by giving them a second chance at education with a diverse range of trainings! This is where the Lytefire team makes an appearance! One of the training the Smart Up Factory wanted us to get involved with is Solar baking!

"Smart Up Factory inspires, motivates and transforms the lives of many vulnerable youths"

The group with their now defined roles (baker, inventory, sales, technical team..) work for the bakery at the Smart Up Hub in Kamuli. They agreed to work for free until there is some profit. There is this bakery committee who supervises the whole process/the bakery while the manager of the overall bakery that oversees all roles within the bakery is one of the mentors of the Hub who will manage the team making sure the team all work and communicate together.

The new “Kamuli Youth Bakery’’ on the very last day we called ‘Solar demo day’ sold many products earning a profit of 75,000 UGX (around 19EUR)! There was a very long and excited line of parents and visitors which meant the bakery team had a lot of solar baking to do! During the demo day we showed the audience the traditional stick burning test which gathered a huge crowd around the Lytefire!

“Kamuli Youth Bakery’’ on the ‘Solar demo day’ sold many products earning a profit of 75,000 UGX (around 19EUR)!"

The students had also baked a very impressive 3-level-cake for 150’000 UGX (around 37EUR), from one man from Plan International as he had ordered from the Kamuli Youth Bakery to pick up on Saturday! Asupas, the manager of the Kamuli Youth Bakery informed us that the team has been baking 2 cartons of bread buns a week! This is around 500 delicious solar baked bread buns which are sold to friends and families of the students at the Smart Up hub in Kamuli! They have even had order requests for occasion cakes such as governmental events, birthdays and graduations!

The community of Solar bakers is constantly growing! What a special way to end 2021!


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