We first met Krystal as part of a collab with Zero Waste Daniel. It was a photoshoot of people that he identified as changemakers in the city and he wanted to share what they were doing. While they were all very interesting Krystal’s solar panel charges really got our attention and we were thrilled that she agreed to a chat with us.
Krystal Persaud grew up in Oakland, New Jersey before going on to study industrial design at Georgia Tech. In college, she learned that she had the power to create everyday objects, like phones and sneakers, in a more environmentally conscious way. After quitting a job designing toys, she founded Grouphug Tech, a tech company running on solar power! Whether you’ve seen it on Shark Tank or hanging in a window in a TikTok room tour, you’re probably wondering how exactly solar power fits into your life and efforts to be sustainable. We asked Persaud all about this and more.
No Kill/Maria: When did your personal sustainability journey begin?
Krystal Persaud: For me, it began in college! I distinctly remember Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth coming out & watching it in one of my classes. I was studying to get a degree in Industrial Design at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. Industrial design is the design of objects and everyday things – from phones, toothbrushes, sneakers, literally any product. I remember thinking, “As an industrial designer, I’m responsible for a lot of garbage! Ack!”. In school, we’re taught about choosing materials, product life cycles, how to injection mold plastic, everything. It’s a lot of responsibility to bring a product into the world. And from that day on I’ve tried to be as conscious of a designer and consumer as possible.
How does our energy consumption tie in with “low-waste” and “sustainable” living?
It’s directly related! Reducing your energy consumption or switching to renewable energy is directly tied to lowering your emissions. I think we have a long way to go to making renewable energy more accessible and easy to jump into. In my dream world, switching to renewable energy is just as easy as switching to a reusable water bottle!
When did you realize other people would be interested in solar power / when did you decide to make it into a business?
I really started by solving a problem I was having. At the time, I lived in an apartment in Manhattan and didn’t have access to my rooftop. I had just quit my job as a toy designer for 7 years with the intention of getting a new job in the sustainability space. I didn’t really know what I was doing at that point, I just knew I wanted my values to better match my work. So one day I was sitting at home, thinking of all the ways I could make my space more sustainable and I thought “oh! I should get solar panels!”. And I couldn’t figure out how to do it. And that frustration really made me zero in on solar.
When did you officially start Grouphug?
Grouphug officially became a business when we launched on Kickstarter in June of 2019. Crazy to think that was two years ago already! Before that, I had made prototypes of our Window Solar Charger product and sold it to about 20 friends. Kickstarter was the real test to see if people would buy a beginner’s solar panel.
How has business changed since being on Shark Tank? What did you learn from that experience?
It has grown a lot! We launched on Kickstarter right before Shark Tank so the timing couldn’t have been better. It was basically like getting a big commercial for our company to get us off the ground. We’ve sold Window Solar Chargers in all 50 states. We did win an investment from Mark Cuban, which was SO exciting. Mark & his investment team are really helpful!
What has been most rewarding about Grouphug?
I love hearing from our customers! Especially seeing the photos of where they hang their solar chargers and what they charge with them. One customer sent us a photo of her powering her record player to play Mariah Carey’s Christmas album with our solar charger and I thought that was just magical.
What can we expect for the future? Any new designs or products on the way?
We’ve got some exciting things coming up! One question we hear from customers or people who write in to us is, “How do I go solar? What should I do? I’m so confused!”. I think of Grouphug as an educational company as much as a product company. We always answer any solar questions. We’re taking this insight and building out an educational platform to make it easier for anyone to find the best renewable energy option for them – stay tuned!