Dozie Igweilo is a technophile. Before he launched my startup, he used to repair mobile phones. Being an entrepreneur never crossed his mind. But through experience and reflection, he discovered what he wanted to become: An entrepreneur and a passionate innovator in renewable energy, consumer electronics, circular economy and sustainability. His startup Quadloop in Lagos, Nigeria is a social enterprise company that aims to develop solar lanterns and home systems designed and produced for rural and peri-urban communities. OCHQ interviewed him to know more about the success of Quadloop.
I strongly believe in self-development and constantly looking for better ways to get things done.
Could you tell us a bit about your upbringing?
“I grew up in Lagos but visited several rural areas for my job as an installer. I noticed that not many people there had basic electricity. One day, I saw a gas station with a generator, where multiple sockets were installed. People would go in and charge their phone. The business model was straightforward, but not sustainable: Would someone come in the next day, the upcoming weeks, only to charge their phone? That inspired me to do something more sustainable. Solar energy seems to be the perfect solution, with solar radiation being abundantly present in Nigeria.
When I was done with high school and university, I discovered that I loved to use my hands and went to the school of electronics which was a very hands-on experience. Subsequently, I worked as a sales associate, site engineer, solar power consultant and participated in the semicolon technpreneurship programme, creating innovative solutions to know more how to bridge the technology knowledge gap in Nigeria.”
Could you tell us a bit more about Quadloop?
“We are a team of four, with three other employees working for us on a part-time basis. Together, we build solar lamps and solar home systems to deliver energy in distant areas. Electricity across the world and in Nigeria is very expensive. People cannot access it easily, and therefore we try to make it more affordable for them by selling solar wall lanterns called ‘’ÌDùnnú,” meaning joy in Yorubá. These are 6 watts portable solar wall lanterns with bright white light, allowing users to charge their phone and light up their rooms, shops, hospitals and small businesses. We use electronic waste and transform it into lightning and electricity. Our pride is to design all our products from scratch and get the most value out of it, without creating more electronic waste than needed, as this is unnecessary and not sustainable.”
It is amazing, I never thought of working for myself. I worked a lot in the energy sector. But now, I actually see myself employing young people whilst educating myself.
When did you first launch your first product?
“Our first product was launched in 2017. It was a bit tacky but we still sold over 10 of them to hospitals. as they needed it during the night shifts. They received several solar panels and lanterns. They could use any type of remote to turn the lanterns on, which is really convenient, as we don’t create more electronic waste by developing an extra remote.
For the moment we launched our first product, we started to improve our products day in, day out. Last year for example, we introduced our SHS series with a 300wH lithium-ion battery and hybrid charging capability, suitable for big businesses.”
What did you learn during the Orange Corners programme?
“We entered the programme in January 2021. I personally found that the classes really make me see things differently. I suddenly understood my market and target group better, and found a niche on the market that helps me to sell more.
If you were selected as one of the winners, you got 5000 euros. I wasn’t part of the winners. But I was able to get a partnership with a supplier in London who provides us with batteries. The association was looking for people that can reprocess and reuse their battery product, that we could. We use it for the outlook of the wall lanterns that are made from electronic waste of batteries for example. In this way, we contribute to the circular energy economy together, not letting anything go to waste and at the same time leverage their product.
It is amazing, I never thought of working for myself. I worked a lot in the energy sector. But now, I actually see myself employing young people whilst educating myself. Isn’t that amazing? I want to create my future for myself instead of thinking: what do I do next? What will I be doing?”
What are some of the difficulties you face?
“We are trying to cut the prices of the lanterns, with some mounting up to 45 dollars. That is quite expensive. To decrease the price, we need to improve technical skills that can help us to advance our productivity, but also think about outsourcing the production to a third party and buying raw material in bulk. We are currently working on this.”
What do you like the most as an entrepreneur?
“I can sleep whenever I want to and stay awake until whenever I want to. I work any time I want, take a break any time I want. I don’t have a boss that looks after you and that gives you a lot of freedom. Being an entrepreneur is also a continuous learning curve. I want to keep learning on a personal and professional level.”
As an entrepreneur you need to understand who you are, what your purpose is and keep chasing them. You don’t want to look back at your life and regret the choices you didn’t make.
What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
“We are an electronic manufacturing company that makes products out of electronic waste and contributes to the waste-to-value process, unlocking the potential of non-recyclable waste material. The goal is to be the forerunner in terms of renewable energy and circular energy in Nigeria. Let’s make it happen!”
What kind of advice would you give other budding entrepreneurs?
“As an entrepreneur you need to understand who you are, what your purpose is and keep chasing them. You don’t want to look back at your life and regret the choices you didn’t make.
The right training will give you the confidence to keep working on your startup. It requires determination and a lot of trial and error. My mum always told me: start looking for a real job. Now I know I had to take the risk and become an entrepreneur and not listen to her. I had to do what I wanted to know. Years ago, people would find it difficult to see that what I did actually works: Now people buy my product and have it home and are self-sufficient citizens. It is so great to see that it all worked out, eventually.”