Journey to a Pilot Plan: Soluminos
Students join SUMA Net Impact for the opportunity to work on pro-bono consulting projects for their clients. The Soluminos Spring 2020 team was particularly excited to have the chance to work with one of our classmates, a fellow SUMA student. Cynthia Leung, the Founder of Soluminos, had the vision to create portable solar charging stations using refurbished panels to be deployed as a solution for disaster relief. Soluminos had already developed an initial product design and business plan with the assistance of a previous Net Impact team. The Spring 2020 team’s key tasks were to use the last team’s work to create a pilot plan for product deployment in Puerto Rico and identify the logistical challenges and solutions in the supply chain. Our team consisted of 6 members with diverse international backgrounds. They were Amira Maryana, Greg Hopper, Joaquin Rosas, Julie Hurewitz, Niki Shah, and our project Manager was Sally Bingfeng Song.
With guidance from Cynthia, the team created a mind map to visualize the scope of our project and the key tasks that needed to be accomplished. We broke down our work into two buckets: 1) Background that can be used as input for the plan, and 2) Develop the strategic plan by using the background information as input. We focused first on background, as that would shape our strategic plan. Sally researched case studies in Puerto Rico and New Orleans to identify best practices for disaster relief deployment and the opportunities and challenges associated with local renewable projects in disaster relief situations. Greg developed a GIS map to understand the demographics of Puerto Rico and gain a holistic understanding of the local population, income, and energy sources. Joaquin focused on identifying critical policies in the U.S. and Puerto Rico that would impact our strategy and reveal new opportunities for grants. Julie and Amira concentrated on the challenges associated with shipping Lithium Ion batteries overseas and how we would overcome logistical challenges. Nikki dug into the finance plan and focused his research on the choice between a Non-profit and a For-Profit financial model. Our team knew we would need to take this background knowledge and apply it to our Strategy Plan, which included Deployment, Stakeholder Mapping and Analysis, Customer Engagement and Survey, and Business Model. We focused on the strategic plan for the second half of the semester.
Luckily, our client worked closely with us, and it was never a challenge to meet with her to brainstorm, validate ideas, and get the information needed to do our work. We found a problem working on a Pilot Plan for a product that had not yet gone through Beta testing. We quickly realized that Soluminos would not be able to launch a pilot without first conducting a beta test. With this realization, we added create beta test outline to our preparation for pilot and project deliverables.
Our final deliverables were built off the background that was conducted in the first half of the semester. Using this background knowledge and personal business experiences, we created a preparation for a pilot for our client. This preparation plan included a framework for tasks and timeline, stakeholder mapping and recommendation for collaborators, beta testing framework, and customer survey draft, logistics recommendations, and a plan for a pilot in Puerto Rico.
While our client had initially planned to launch a pilot in June 2020, the impacts of COVID-19 pushed this date back. We hope that the frameworks and opportunities we recommended for our client to use in the Beta testing and Pilot Plan Implementation provide value for Soluminos. Overall there were a few key takeaways from this project. Project members developed a fundamental understanding of beta testing and product deployment. We got experience with the challenges that start-ups face in product deployment and learned about expanding a project scope as the client work evolves.