Written by Olivia Putnal Tuesday, April 10 2012
Snapshot: Eden Full, Founder of Roseicollis Technologies Inc. and Inventor of The SunSaluter
San Francisco Bay area resident Eden Full knew from the ripe age of 10 that solar energy was her calling. In 2011, Full was awarded a “20 Under 20” Fellowship by the Thiel Foundation, granting her $100,000 to pursue her dream and further the development of her product, The SunSaluter. Her company, Roseicollis Technologies Inc. has produced The SunSaluter, an energy-conserving tracking product with rotating solar panels to follow the sun and thus, create energy by using no electricity itself. The SunSaluter has also won the Mashable/UN Foundation Startups for Social Good Challenge and Full received runner up in the 2011 Postcode Lottery Green Challenge. The SunSaluter has been installed in two Kenya-based pilot projects and Full hopes to expand her invention to Peru and southern India this year.
Womenetics: You became interested in solar panels at the young age of 10. When did you first know that you wanted to make a career out of it?
Eden Full: I’ve always known. That’s the beautiful thing about passion — everything just came naturally to me, as if I was supposed to be doing it all along. As I explored this passion more and more, it opened up other passions to me as well. I hope that more people will pursue their childhood passions with a desperate hunger even though there is no certainty of success. If you are genuinely pursuing happiness and only happiness, everything else will naturally fall into place.
Womenetics: What is your favorite aspect of running your own business? What do you enjoy the most?
Full: I love being able to share my ideas with others, and constantly iterate upon my prototypes and designs according to my own deadlines. This is what the real world is like — there are no strict deadlines, nothing is ever really final and progress is made through teamwork. A great feeling comes when you can convince someone else to be as or more excited about your work as you are because it means that you might actually be onto something!
Womenetics: As a young entrepreneur, what challenges have you faced? How did you handle them?
Full: Regardless of how old you are, it is hard to get into an unfamiliar field, but it is definitely harder to start when you’re younger and inexperienced. It can be difficult to get access to the resources that you need to execute. For a while, I struggled to find funding and mentors who were familiar with either the solar industry or rural electrification in developing countries. It all came down to realizing that a lot of my greatest mentors and opportunities happened to me because I worked hard for them and I never gave up. Plus, a little bit of serendipity never hurts. I hope that I will get the chance to mentor others through similar experiences one day because none of this could have been possible without my own mentors — the least I can do is pay it forward.
Womenetics: Who or what inspired you?
Full: My parents have been my greatest inspiration, through and through. I am thankful to have had such great parents who passed on their ideas of love and freedom to me, and never asked me for anything in return. Whether it was buying me my first solar car kit or driving me around to different parts of the city to buy parts for my prototypes, they have been nothing but unconditionally supportive. I hope that I will make them proud one day. Other inspirational people I look up to include the founder of Ashoka, Bill Drayton and the founder of Free the Children, Craig Kielburger.
Womenetics: Tell us about your plan for expanding your invention use to other parts of the world. How would you like to get the word out?
Full: I would like to partner with organizations that are interested in solar energy, rural electrification, off-grid solar installations and social enterprise in order to get the word out there. I believe that the most powerful way to share ideas with others is to put the technology in their hands, in a way that is directly and immediately tangible to them.
I’m still figuring all of this out, but I think starting with relevant organizations and individuals is a good way to go. I’ve already received emails from many people all around the world who are interested in working with me, and it’s a great honor to hear from them.
Womenetics: In addition to the Fellow Award, how did you secure funding for you business when you first began?
Full: I received second place in the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge, which was a pitch event in Amsterdam. It was such an amazing experience, and I met a lot of great people who are passionate about changing the world and solving the climate change crisis. It was my first time in Europe, and the first time that I was competing against others in my industry. It wouldn’t have been possible without all of my mentors and friends who helped me revise my presentation materials.
Womenetics: What advice can you give young, entrepreneurs like you?
Full: Passion prevails. Always. There is not one right path in life. Some of us figure out who we are younger in life and some of us need a little more time to explore it all. Different experiences will mean different things to everyone, so it’s all about doing what is right for you and what makes you want to wake up in the morning. Don’t ever do something you don’t want to do because you think it is the right thing — it’s not.
Womenetics: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned through all of this?
Full: Nothing is ever the end of the world. There will be challenges along the way. Sometimes it will feel like everything is going horribly wrong, and some days you will want to give up. What makes all the difference is whether or not you pick up the pieces and keep moving forward (after first taking a couple days to mope). There are always bigger and better things waiting for us in the future as long as we try our very hardest.
Womenetics: In your spare time, what are some of your favorite things to do?
Full: Being a coxswain for rowing is probably my greatest passion in life, and I’m thankful for the chance to cox even while I am away from college. There is a master’s club close to me in the San Francisco Bay area.
I’m also passionate about music since I play the violin, and I have a lovebird that I named my company (Roseicollis Technologies Inc.) after. None of this matters of course, without all of the wonderful people in my life. I always make sure I take time to remind them how much I care about them and that I spend time with them.
Read about more women with a passion for empowering others:
Also dedicated to bringing electricity to African villages, Solar Sister follows an "Avon-like" model that utilizes social capital to distribute solar lamps.
After experiencing 9/11 firsthand Janine Maxwell left the corporate world behind and founded Heart for Africa, a nonprofit that serves mothers and children who have been affected by AIDS.
Under Melissa Bertenthal's direction, ARZU is changing lives and breaking the cycle of poverty for Afghani women by giving them gainful employment and promoting education and literacy.
Olivia Putnal is a writer and editor in Atlanta. She formerly wrote web articles and blogs for WomansDay.com in the areas of health, fitness, beauty, fashion, entertainment, news and food.