Nathaniel Peat is the co-founder of GeNNex – a company that sells portable solar chargers and home power systems to people in the developing world. With a focus on empowering women and young people, Nathaniel has big dreams for the wider benefit his business could have – and it isn’t going unnoticed, having recently earned a place on a Virgin Unite Leadership Gathering. We caught up with Nathaniel to find out more

Let’s start with a brief summary of your business – what does it aim to do and why?

Gennex is an innovative, renewable energy company that operates with a deep social foundation. We produce solar products that charge phone devices and provide power to homes, using our off grid systems. A huge focus of our work is on empowering communities – we do this by teaching them how to build, assemble and maintain our devices, and by doing so, create a workforce that supports commercial sales, while providing education, learning and jobs.

We also teach STEM (Science, technology, engineering, mathematics) in schools, where young people who are disengaged with science are taught how to build solar lanterns. These are then shipped out to partner schools in Africa whose pupils have no light. But this is just an overview – we are combing technologies to create greater impact in lots of other areas too.

We aim to create a disruptive impact on five levels:

  1. Gender equality 
  2. Climate Change
  3. Energy poverty
  4. Youth unemployment 
  5. Education and entrepreneurship 

Why do we do it?

Almost 80 per cent of women in Africa are educated to a level that is less than primary school development – this hinders their ability drastically. There are also almost two million children that die prematurely due to smoke inhalation from the bio fuels used for indoor cooking and for light. 

In developed countries where at-risk, young people have become disengaged in the curriculum, we feel that practical learning is the best way to teach. 

Why do you think being an entrepreneur is so important?

Being an entrepreneur is very important. As an entrepreneur you have the ability to change direction any time you wish and you can develop strategies easily without the constraints of a job description.

You recently won a place to attend a Virgin Unite Leadership Gathering on Necker Island due to your participation in our Entrepreneur Programme - what were the top learnings you took from the speakers during the gathering and why did they strike such a chord with you and your business?

1. Leaders eat last. 
This was a message reinforced for me during the gathering. For sometime, my business partner and I have sacrificed a lot to make sure that our staff are looked after and that their needs are met first. It was great to hear the same message echoed from such successful people – it means we are doing something right!

2. Keep the human touch in your business.
It’s easy to get into the habit of just send emails to people, but the human touch is so important – face-to-face contact, a note instead of an email, and otherwise.

3. When expanding internationally place quality and excellence at the top. 
When seeking replication partnerships it's important that you have a thorough quality check completed before engaging in business. It’s really important to maintain excellence as a top priority at all times.

4. Listen and take note.
And lastly, is something I learnt from Richard himself – every time I saw him, he was writing down notes from everyone speaking. I found this amazing and thought to myself, ‘he is not missing a thing’. Too often we miss opportunities because we are not listening properly and after seeing Richard so mesmorised by other speakers, I believe more than ever that, ‘opportunities are never lost, they are only given to others’.

If you had to summarise your experience on the trip in one sentence, what would you say?

The trip was inspirational, fun and simply amazing! Wow!

(Nathaniel started his entrepreneurial journey through Virgin StartUp - check them out!)