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UCLA

Light for Light

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By Jack Feuer

Published Jul 1, 2012 8:00 PM


Mike ‘08 and Becca Bateman are out to light the world.

art

Illustration: John Ashcroft.

For most of us, the power is almost always on. But 1.5 billion people—that's more than one out of every seven humans on Earth—have no access to electricity at all. And that doesn't sit right with tech sales executive Mike Bateman '08 and his wife, Becca, an ordained Presbyterian pastor.

Believing that every human should have access to light, the young couple launched Mwanga Candles, which donates an ecofriendly, solar-powered flashlight with the sale of each of their candles. And color their commitment green: Mwanga sells handcrafted candles made from 100-percent soy wax that are natural, cleanburning, safe and biodegradable.

"You can go on mission projects building one house and help one family," says Mike, a former equipment manager for the UCLA baseball team, of the Batemans' decision to launch the nonprofit. "It's a significant impact—but not for a large number of people. One of the things we discovered was that there is a huge lack of electricity around the world. So we thought, 'What if we did a light-for-light company?' We got in touch with a charity that [has] a distribution network and manufacturer and started in December." Mwanga (Swahili for "light") chose solar flashlights, not just because of their sustainability, but also because people in the undeveloped world often don't have access to batteries. They launched their company on social media sites and by cold-calling around their Pasadena neighborhood and others in Southern California. They donated about two dozen candles to get a buzz going. Now, says Mike.

"They're all repeat customers." The Mwanga product line includes normal home candles, plus aromatherapy candles and an upscale line made of coconut wax. They sell for $17 to $28 at www.mwangacandles.com and the flashlights are distributed to Tibet, Africa, South America and anywhere else there's a need.

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