A dead cellphone led to Desmond Wiggan’s a-ha moment. Now, his Charlotte-based business is getting a huge boost from the federal government.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Some Charlotte area companies are getting a big boost thanks to a new program designed to give minority-owned businesses in the energy sector a leg up.
One of these businesses is something that might have you asking, “Why didn’t we come up with that sooner?”
Desmond Wiggan had his a-ha moment for the company he founded while getting his MBA in China. It all started with a dead cellphone. Wiggan had no way to charge his phone to call for their version of an Uber.
That led to the founding of Battery Xchange, headquartered on the campus of UNC Charlotte, four years later.
“We have a kiosk, place it in locations and cellphone users can rent external portable batteries,” Wiggan explained. “Similar to how you rent a scooter or bike.”
Battery Xchange currently has kiosks in 62 locations across North Carolina. They’re most frequently found in places like emergency rooms and bars, where you might not have access to a phone charger right away.
“You’re out for some drinks and need to call an Uber, but haven’t charged your phone all day,” Wiggan said. “We have a varying array of users.”
The company is expanding across the country now, thanks in part to a recent infusion of cash and resources. Battery Xchange was just selected to be part of a cohort of minority-owned businesses in the energy sector.
“When it comes to certain industries it’s very skewed and clean energy is one of those, it’s not a very equitable sector,” Enovia Bedford said.
Bedford is with BOSS — Black Owners of Solar Services — and is one of the cohort’s leaders. BOSS launched the collaboration just a few weeks ago with a $6.3 million grant from the Department of Energy, bringing together 25 minority-owned businesses from all over North Carolina. While the bulk of the businesses are from the Charlotte area, there are also companies from Asheville, Greensboro and Raleigh in the cohort.
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Wiggan is thankful for the cohort and says there aren’t many people who look like him in the industry.
“There are not a lot of us,” Wiggan said. “I think over the last four years of growing it, when you meet somebody in this — we’re trailblazers, we’re unicorns — but when you meet somebody with that hunger and I feel like all the cohort members have that same type of energy, we want to be part of the change, not only in our cities, but across America.”
The cohort’s mission is to change that by inspiring minority entrepreneurs.
“Some of the resources are mentorships and technical assistance,” Bedford said. “Providing these resources, we can help them grow.”
Wiggan is excited about what it could mean for the energy sector moving forward, potentially opening a door for young people who otherwise wouldn’t consider a career in the industry.
“A cohort and initiatives like this give us education, mentorships, potential avenues to get revenue-generating opportunities to further our companies so that we can help our communities and help other individuals that look like us get into the space as well,” he said.
Wiggan also hopes it will help Battery Xchange expand beyond the Tar Heel State. He’s eyeing the Northeast, Midwest and beyond for expansion.
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