Colorado Springs company named among most promising social entrepreneurs

The founders of the Paradigm Project walk miles in California with stick piles on their backs.

A Colorado Springs-based company, Paradigm Project, which builds the supply chain of energy-efficient products, has been named one of the top 25 Most Promising Social Entrepreneurs by Bloomberg Businessweek.

Now, readers get to weigh in. They’ve been asked to vote online for which company they think is the most promising. Voting ends on July 12.

Businessweek will announce the top five vote-getters on the small business channel July 19.

The Paradigm Project follows a social development business model by providing clean-burning, efficient wood or charcoal cook stoves to residents in Kenya, Guatemala and Haiti. The stoves reduce deforestation and long treks for firewood.

Cook stoves allow Paradigm Project to leverage capital in carbon markets to create a profitable business and help families save on fuel and reduce toxic smoke in their huts by 50 percent on average, said Gregory Spencer, co-founder of the project.

“The way we create profitability is by developing carbon offsets from energy products – clean burning cook stoves,” Spencer said. “The stoves reduce fuel consumption by half. So, instead of using 20 kilos of wood per day they can use 10 kilos.”

United Nations-sanctioned auditors are able to quantify emissions, Spencer said.

“They award us certain offsets we can sell,” Spencer said. “Then, we find buyers. They are reducing their carbon footprint.”

Paradigm Project started after Spencer and his father Gregory Sr. visited Uganda in 2008 with the Food For the Hungry project. Gregory Sr. was the co-founder of Blue Source, a large developer of carbon offsets in North America.

Together they got to wondering how they could build a business of selling carbon offset that would benefit the people of Africa and other developing nations. They founded the company along with Neal Bellefeuille.

The issue, as they see it, is that 3 billion of the world’s poorest cook over fire and 1.9 million women and children die every year from respiratory disease due to indoor cooking smoke, said Etienne Hardre, the Paradigm Project CFO. The company’s goal is to distribute 5 million stoves by 2020, which the company founders believe will impact 25 million lives.

In 2011, the company had 14 employees and $700,000 in annual revenue. In October, Paradigm Project was featured in Businessweek when the three co-founders walked from San Diego to Los Angles with wood piles strapped on their backs to illustrate how far African women walk with piles of wood to prepare meals for their families.