Ronit Kanwar, CEO and co-founder of Empower Energy

Ronit Kanwar is the CEO and co-founder of Empower Energy. Empower Energy is a social enterprise start-up which provides electricity to the most excluded in India through our Solar ATMs. Our franchisees, rent out torches and battery packs allowing customers below the poverty line to access energy without any upfront costs. 

Empower Energy has won the Morpheus Cup (European Universities and Graduate Schools Championship) in Paris. In addition to this we have been progressing through the Hult Prize, an international competition run by the Clinton Foundation which asks students to solve world issues using for-profit models. We have won the Oxford round and having won the London Regionals, we are 1 of 16 regional finalists from over 100,000+ entrants. In summer we will be taking part in the Hult Accelerator, before which we will begin our pilot round. We have are currently crowdfunding at: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/empowerenergy.

What is your background? What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
My entrepreneurial spirit was ignited at school during which I became Managing Director of a Young Enterprise company called Snack?. The company went on to win 11 awards including personal recognition as Best Managing Director in the West Midlands. Moreover, we received celebrity backing from people such as Karren Brady. 
This venture exposed me to entrepreneurial ventures and was a key reason for me applying to read Economics and Management. It is a degree which combines my passion for entrepreneurship whilst equipping me with economic models and skills to tackle real life problems such as poverty.

What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
Entrepreneurship is taking risks in order to leverage scarce resources. It is daring to try something new whilst being constrained by resources.

How and when did you know your idea was good enough to develop it?
During our brainstorming sessions we knew we were onto a great idea. This feeling was only strengthened as we researched the market, competitors and developed the idea. Two critical events also contributed to knowing the idea was good enough. This included being offered investment at the idea stage very early on in addition to winning several prizes and awards.

What would you say are the top 3 skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?
Risk Taking- This is what distinguishes each entrepreneur. If no risk were involved, there would be no opportunity to form a start-up. 
Determination- Without determination and goals, each start-up would fail to become a success. Determination is crucial to push through the struggles.
Optimism- It is unfortunately true that most start-ups fail and face numerous setbacks throughout their lives. Therefore, it is critical to be optimistic so that whenever a setback is faced, you can counteract it with optimism.

What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?
Being able to work for myself and see my vision be transformed into reality.

What individual, company or organization inspires you most? Why?
Bill Gates- Bill Gates has single handedly changed the world and improved it in numerous ways. He has had an impact on poverty in a macro level due to the success of his business and this is something I would like to emulate.

If you had 5 minutes with the above indiv/company/org, what would you want to ask or discuss?
Please can you mentor me!
I would ask about the people he surrounded himself with and his mentors. Moreover, I would ask about the best ways to tackle poverty and how he has been able to maximise his impact on the world.

What would you say have been some of your mistakes, failures or lessons learned as an entrepreneur?
Lessons definitely include learning to balance between preparation and action. I truly believe that you learn the most by going out there and trying something. A few mistakes include not taking enough time to sleep which can sometimes hamper my productiity.

How have you funded your ideas?
Crowdfunding, winning competitions and prizes.

Are there any sector-specific awards/grants/competitions that have helped you?
Morpheus Cup- Competition
Hult Prize- Social Enterprise Global Competition.

What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire? Bad?
Good- Support and networks offered in the community.
Bad- How decentralised all of this information, support and advice can be.

If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship resources, where would you send them? (Anything Oxfordshire especially!)
Hult Prize for creating new ideas. SKOLL Foundation, Enterprising Oxford, SBS, Foundry.

Any last words of advice?
Keep going and never give up. Mistakes are your income and you'll learn a lot.