She bags it!
A DESIRE TO MAKE AN IMPACT on the Caribbean and fulfil a life-long dream was the inspiration behind Pascale Demangles creation of the Solar Day bag.
While it may seem like a trendy handbag with its bold colours, for Pascale it was important to be the perfect mix of form and function. Not only can it hold a woman’s valuables, but the solar panels on the front come complete with USB ports so you can charge your smartphone, tablet or other device.
“For the last two years I’ve been thinking about starting a company in the Caribbean. I’m originally from Haiti and I studied in the [United] States to be an electrical engineer,” Pascale said.
“My dream has always been to return to the Caribbean and with what’s going on in Haiti, it’s not the best environment to start a business, even though I’ve been able to contribute some.”
“When I started coming to Barbados a couple of years ago for Crop Over, because I’m a recording engineer as well and so a couple of my friends asked me to come over when they do the music and that’s how I found out about Barbados. I was surprised to see it was so developed, and so the wheels started turning.
“I also found out that Barbados is very encouraging when it comes to renewable energy initiatives.
“With that I started doing some research and found that the biggest problem people have is that they’re interested in solar energy but afraid of the initial cost. I wanted to design something that was very ergonomic and yet practical, affordable and attainable.”
Hence the Solar Day bag.
“You can get in any colour, and it’s latex and waterproof and you can choose the lining as well,” she said. “It can lock and it has a pouch that you can keep your devices in, but the main thing is this five-watt panel.”
According to Pascale, the five-watt panel is exactly what the USB devices need.
“The Blackberrys, Androids, your tablets, your GPS systems can be charged here,” Pascale said. “We also have a whole lot of other mounting systems that are being developed now, so if you want the charger by itself you can get that. The charger is available by Suntactics.
The entire panel and circuitry are waterproof, corrosion proof. So if you have it plugged in and you get caught in the rain, since it’s an outdoor bag, with any type of condensation you just leave it out in the sun and it dries and it’s still functional.”
Pascale said its expected lifetime is 20-25 years.
Coming up with the idea for the bag was born out of her own needs and ideas.
“I’m an island girl and I spend a lot of time away from New York City and in the country or outdoors,” she said.
“Though like that time away I still have obligations with the city life, checking my emails, turning in projects.
“So if I’m on the beach and doing my assignment, the worst thing that can happen is to run out of battery, so that’s where the idea came from. It took about two years to research and materialize.”
While the idea has taken hold with many of her friends in New York, Pascale is determined to market it as a summer bag, because of its colours and how it’s made.
“As a summer bag, I’m finding it easier to market,” she said.
“In Barbados you have summer all year long. Although there are similar products on the market, what sets this apart is if your battery is completely dead it charges within an hour. That’s the edge this product has over other products which take up to eight hours to charge. It’s as powerful as plugging it into your car charger or socket.”
While Pascale will admit that she deviated from her engineering just a tad with this product, it has caused her to touch on skills and areas that were otherwise untapped by her.
“With my development it’s been very surprising, I’ve never seen myself as an outgoing person. I chose engineering because I wanted to be in a lab,” she said.
“But now having to share information and communicate about the product it’s making me more outgoing and helping to develop those necessary social skills. So it’s more than just working at what I studied; it’s like finding my life’s path and it just seems so natural.”
For the short term, Pascale hopes that these bags are charting a course of success.
“I want to see these as more than just a woman’s bag and be seen as something that’s universal, and something that brings to solar power to the forefront,” she said. “Solar power doesn’t have to be expensive or such a huge paradigm shift. I would like to see people carrying these bags. Maybe it would inspire people to make other products. I would like to see this as a Barbadian-branded thing.”