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Alum’s Company, LuminAID, Steps Up for Hurricane Relief

By Anna Fiorentino
September 2017 • CoolStuff

For millions without power in the wake of hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, Anna Stork ’08 is helping provide some respite. Her company, LuminAID, made the world’s first handheld inflatable, rechargeable LED lamp and has stepped up its distribution to these hard hit areas—along with their newest product, a waterproof phone charger-lantern combo called the PackLite Max 2-in-1 Phone Charger.

“It was so inspiring for me to see my colleagues work evenings, weekends, and all hours of the day to try to coordinate relief supplies and do everything they could to spread the word and support the organizations on the ground,” says Stork, who won over her first investor, Mark Cuban, in 2015 on ABC’s Shark Tank.

Family in Victoria, Texas with LuminAID lanterns
A family in Victoria, Texas with their LuminAID lanterns. Photo courtesy of Convoy of Hope.

In response to the recent hurricanes, Stork and her business partner Andrea Sreshta teamed up with two relief organizations, Convoy of Hope and ShelterBox, to distribute LuminAID solar lanterns and chargers to over 200,000 survivors. By mid-September, her eight-person team, including summer intern Julie Lee Th'18, had pledged more than $150,000 in donations made on LuminAID.com and shipped over 10,000 lanterns and chargers—4.5 million pounds in supplies—to her charitable partners in the field.

“I can't tell you how motivated I am by all the supporters and customers who wanted to help in any way they could,” adds Stork.

Stork and Sreshta first designed the LuminAID lantern as classmates at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture in response to the 2010 Haitian earthquake. Used for disaster relief, humanitarian aid, or recreational use, the lantern produces up to 16 hours of light, takes six hours to recharge, and can be recharged up to 800 times.

Convoy of Hope donated 4,000 lanterns to those in need, and the Max Phone Charger, which Stork and her team rolled out in March, was also in high demand.

“So many are still without power and suffering from floods and need a way to charge their phones,” she says. "The Max Phone Charger is 100 percent waterproof, so it was very useful in Houston and other regions affected by the hurricanes." Meanwhile, Toyota matched contributions to provide more than 3,000 phone chargers and 750 solar lanterns.

“A core part of our company is to give back,” says Stork. “We designed this product for emergency situations and have built a strong community of people that want to help donate lights when there is a disaster situation.”

Over the past few years, LuminAID not only expanded its product line but also received a $100,000 Chase Mission Main Street Grant, a Fedex Small Business Grant Contest award of $15,000, and $50,000 in the Tom Shoes’ Pitch for Good Competition. Last year, Stork also teamed up with Adventurers for Change to help distribute solar lights to families devastated by the Nepal earthquake, and donated over 3,000 solar lanterns to Syrian refugees.

Tags: alumni, entrepreneurship, humanitarian service, innovation

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