EcoZoom cooks up Kenya office plans

EcoZoom's Ben West, Phil Ferranto and Amanda West will open a new office for the cookstove maker in Kenya.
Cathy Cheney | Portland Business Journal

EcoZoom's Ben West, Phil Ferranto and Amanda West will open a new office for the cookstove maker in Kenya.

A Portland company that makes clean-burning cookstoves is opening its second office in a very far-off market.

But it makes sense for EcoZoom to move overseas because the company’s second office will be located in Nairobi, Kenya. EcoZoom, which has sold more than 70,000 cookstoves in 14 developing countries, wants to develop its commercial market in East Africa.

EcoZoom’s leaders said the company wants to become part of “Africa’s growth story” along with such companies as Google, IBM and Pfizer. As such, the company hopes to use Nairobi as a jumping-off point before moving into spots like Rwanda.

"Our industry and Africa as a whole are both developing rapidly," said Amanda West, the company's director of marketing and communications. "Rwanda is definitely a possibility or we might open an office in Latin America, our other geographic focus area."

The physical presence in Kenya will allow EcoZoom to build out distribution networks and connect more with the cooks using its stoves, said Ben West, EcoZoom’s CEO.

EcoZoom has collected more than $2 million in revenue since launching in April 2011.

The company employs four workers, including one native Kenyan. EcoZoom will expand its staff and build a network of sales agents as it brings in inventory and raises more financing. West said the company's long-term plans include more stove assembly and manufacturing along with stove sales.

The company produces and distributes a highly efficient, durable biomass cookstove that’s designed by the nonprofit Aprovecho Research Center in Cottage Grove. The cookstoves burn wood and other dry, solid biomass. Because they save some 60 percent over what users would spend on charcoal, they’re considered affordable for people in developing countries. EcoZoom says the units are also easy to install and can be produced in large scale.

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