But Anna says even with that early success, they still “weren’t actually sure what would come out of it.”
“We knew we had a good idea but weren’t sure if we could reach the right customers and what the end result would be,” she says. “Cartier really helped us share our idea and get more invested in it.”
Anna, 30, traveled to Paris where she met the other finalists, an experience she says helped create a community of likeminded social entrepreneurs who, in the years since, helped serve as reliable mentors. The startup DayOne Response, for example, a company that distributes water and sanitation products globally to relief organizations, proved valuable in helping answer distribution questions and even sharing customer lists. “It ends up being a really small world,” she says. “Every entrepreneur does things slightly differently, so it’s really interesting to learn the process about how they are growing and what steps they are taking so you can figure out how to work that into your growth.”
LuminAID launched as a response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, an event that produced the need for portable light in tent cities during the ongoing relief efforts. Since then, the company’s products have served relief workers during Hurricane Sandy (2012), Typhoon Haiyan in Southeast Asia (2013) and the recent earthquake in Nepal (2015). In 2012, the company donated 2,000 lights to relief agencies; by the end of last year it has donated more than 25,000 lights to organizations around the world.