June 12, 2018 · IGG

Bringing light to those who need it most: Studio Unite becomes first non-profit to win $10K in Flash Funding from Ingram Micro.


Solar Lights is the latest Indiegogo campaigner to receive flash funding from Ingram Micro Commerce & Lifecycle Services. Learn their story and how entrepreneurs can access flash funding and other benefits from Ingram Micro.

After her son was diagnosed with asthma, Alice Chun, CEO and Co-Founder of Studio Unite, was inspired to use solar energy as a way to reduce pollution and improve the environment. Since then, Chun and the team at Studio Unite have been using the power of the sun to bring light to those who need it most.

Enter the SolarPuff™

When the Haiti earthquake hit in 2010, Chun, who was teaching an architecture studio at Columbia University, decided to share her solar energy and materials research with her students. That’s when she realized that affordable solar energy could have an even bigger impact around the world.

“Haiti was really a microcosm of what was happening in the rest of the world,” explained Chun. “Only 12 percent of the country was electrified, most people were living on a few dollars a day and having to spend 30 percent of their income on kerosene, which is a lot of money considering they could use that money on food, clothing or education for their kids.”

Wanting to help, Chun and her students began focusing their research on solar lanterns, but were unimpressed with what they found on the market. “They weren’t good — they were big and bulky and they were plastic,” explained Chun. “They were also extremely toxic if you try to recycle them.”

So they took matters into their own hands and created their own version. “We designed something that was self-inflating,” recalled Chun. “It took many, many prototypes but then we came up with the SolarPuff.”

The lantern, which is made out of PVC-free, recyclable PET material, is a 4.3” cube that folds flat to a mere .25” thick and is completely waterproof. Set it in the sun for 8 hours and it will provide up to 8-12 hours of light  It also features three light settings — low, high and blinking from 10 bright white and warm white LEDs.

Chun then created Studio Unite, a non-profit dedicated to creating innovative solutions for sustainable living in poor and vulnerable communities around the world. To get the SolarPuff manufactured and in the hands of those who needed it most, Chun also created the for-profit company Solight.  

“I started a for-profit so that I could get it [SolarPuff] manufactured and now we give back to the non-profit,” explained Chun. “The non-profit, Studio Unite, is our partner — they distribute the lights and work with other NGOs to get the light in regions where there’s no electricity.”

Today, the SolarPuff is a bright spot for people around the globe. The packable lantern is not only self-inflating and buoyant, it’s reducing pollution and bringing 10 million rays of light to people impacted by poverty and natural disasters.

Crowdfunding for a cause

Last fall, when hurricanes Harvey, Maria and Irma hit, the Studio Unite team shifted their focus from Syrian refugees in Greece and Iraq to the devastated Caribbean islands. Realizing that these destructive storms left the area completely without power, Chun and her team knew they had to do something. In order to maximize their impact, they turned to crowdfunding.

“It’s [crowdfunding] the trend of investment, explains Chun. “If you have great idea, it’s a very convenient way to raise money and test your product.”

As a champion for communities, crowdfunding also fell right in line with Studio Unite’s beliefs. “We believe in diversity — we don’t believe that one person can make the answer,” explained Chun. “We’re about community and collective will and collective participation — that’s how we’re really going to change the world.”

Doing more good with Indiegogo

Concentrating on heavily populated Puerto Rico, Chun and the Studio Unite team turned to Indiegogo. Campaigning for good, Studio Unite has been able to raise more than $58K with tax-deductible perks on Indiegogo.

Thrilled with the amount of support and contacts they’ve made through Indiegogo, Studio Unite continues to raise money in order to help Puerto Rico and Dominica while in InDemand. To date, they have been able to send over 100,000 SolarPuff lights to the area — thanks to contributions from Indiegogo backers and other non-profit partners, such as Operation Blessings and The Hispanic Federation.

Solight also plans to launch another Indiegogo campaign in the near future, one for a larger solar light that features phone charging capabilities. “In regions where there is no electricity, people have three phones because one is always charging… it’s a survival thing,” explained Chun. “People have been asking for the phone charger for a long time — it’s taking us a long time to get the prototype ready so that we can launch it on Indiegogo.”

The impact of flash funding from Ingram Micro Commerce & Lifecycle Services

Ingram Micro recently awarded Solar Lights $10,000, making them the first non-profit recipient of flash funding from Ingram Micro. Jean Francois, head of Commerce Development for the Ingram Micro Commerce and Lifecycle Services group, said, “We have seen the devastation of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. And we are humbled to back Solar Lights and help them in their efforts to help those affected by this natural disaster. Business is business but people come first, always. Standing idly by can never be an option.”

Shocked, amazed and completely floored, Chun and the Studio Unite team were absolutely thrilled to receive the latest round of flash funding from Ingram Micro. The $10K will go towards their mission of bringing light to more people in need.

We are going to be able to get more solar lights to people that need them,” said Chun. “Since Dominica is still so bad right now, we’ll send more lights [there].” With another hurricane season on the horizon, Chun and Studio Unite also plans to use the funds to set aside inventory so the lights are ready to go when they are needed most.

“We love working with Indiegogo and Ingram Micro,” exclaimed Chun. “Thank you so much for all of your support and kindness to help us help the world!”

Are you an entrepreneur interested in learning how to ship smarter and how to qualify for flash funding opportunities? Ingram Micro provides fulfillment expertise, bulk shipping discounts, and flash funding opportunities to Indiegogo campaigners. Connect with Ingram Micro Commerce and Lifecycle Services today to receive a free consultation. Learn more about Indiegogo’s partnership with Ingram Micro here.