Brighter World Energy: Cheryl Latham
Named as one of our top new businesses of 2016, find out how it all started for Cheryl Latham and Brighter World Energy
Tell us what your business does:
Brighter World is the UK’s first buy-to-give energy provider. We believe affordable, reliable electricity is a right, not a luxury. Our UK customers not only get a great deal on their energy here at home, they will put positively life-changing power in the hands of those who need it most in the developing world.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
There is a clear correlation between access to energy and inequality, yet more than one billion people around the world are still without access to electricity.
Here at home, UK customers are consistently overcharged in a broken market that thrives on a false price war. Customers are acquired on cheap fixed tariffs and reverted on expensive standard tariffs a year later – instead of just charging a fair price all the time.
Brighter World Energy is helping to solve both problems by using the power and consciousness of the British consumer to provide access to clean energy for those who need it most, while getting a competitive price for their own energy.
How did you know there was a market for it?
We conducted extensive research, speaking to thousands of people. We wanted to get to understand our customer as well as possible.
It’s important to note – our research showed Brighter World is not for everyone. Our customers are outward-looking, global citizens who want to make a positive impact on the world using the power of their purchase. They know they are not being rewarded by their loyalty to their current provider, and they want to make a difference in the world.
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What were you doing before starting up?
Before Brighter World I studied an MBA, and before that I was a consumer journalist and deputy business editor. I was fed up of the same old story coming out of the energy industry. I believe it’s time to do something new and inspire those who are stuck on Big Six tariffs to make a change today.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
My family is made up of small business owners, so I grew up inspired by their determination to succeed and with an understanding of what it takes to get up every day and forge your own path in the world.
How did you raise the money?
We approached investors everywhere we could, via our own networks, and the networks of others. We also approached a couple of groups of impact investors, who helped us make contact with like-minded angels.
Our investors’ belief in our mission gives me confidence for the future of businesses like Brighter World. It’s a positive step in the right direction that doing business in the right way, addressing global challenges with a fair and transparent business model, does attract high quality capital.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
We work with a not-for-profit, Ofgem regulated energy supplier to provide energy at a fair price and be able to fulfil our promise in Africa. We do not use comparison sites, who charge up to £70 a switch. People have to come to us direct.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Brighter World began life over 18-months ago and there are challenges every single day! We overcome them because we believe wholeheartedly in what we do, and in the impact we can make on the world together with our community of customers and supporters.
What was your first big breakthrough?
On an island in the middle of Lake Victoria, Kenya, I spoke to a woman called Lilian who told me how the island needed power for the health centre, so vaccines such as malaria and polio could be stored safely and so fewer children would die of preventable illnesses.
If Lilian had power, they could start a hatchery and sell eggs on the island, and children at the school might be able to get a computer to study and understand about the outside world. It was then that I fully realised the real, lasting impact we can all make on the lives of others and how our choices matter.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
Giving all customers currently with the Big Six a consistently good deal on their energy, and empowering our customers to pass on the power to millions of people in the developing world.