UNLV EMBA Alumnus Completes Assignment with Bankers Without Borders

Photo of woman using a cookstove.

A household on the tea plantation enjoys the benefits of a wood fueled clean cookstove. The stove saves the family time, uses less fuel and reduces smoke compared to the previous cooking method. The installation is a modification of the existing fireplace to accommodate the EcoZoom cookstove, a collaboration between Finlays Tea and EcoZoom to create healthier lifestyles and eco-minded solutions.

Apr. 4, 2019

(Las Vegas, NV) March 2019 - UNLV Alumnus, Las Vegas Publicist and Philanthropist Mary Vail, MBA recently completed a 9-month international, goodwill assignment with Bankers Without Borders (BwB), a Grameen Foundation initiative that harnesses the skills and services of the world’s brightest minds and institutions to accelerate the progress of social entrepreneurs dedicated to connecting the poor to their potential.

The volunteer assignment tasked Vail to work with EcoZoom, a social enterprise based in Nairobi, Kenya. Founded in 2011, EcoZoom manufactures and distributes improved cookstoves and portable solar lights; two products that are extremely valuable in improving the lives of those who need them, as well as reducing deforestation and CO2 outputs.

Based on Vail’s expertise, she was selected from a vast resource of volunteers for the role of Corporate Marketer and Storyteller, to help the business expand globally more quickly by helping EcoZoom create and communicate a comprehensive understanding of our progress and impact to investors, end-users and the wider general public.

In a correspondence from BwB Director Sabrina Quaraishi, she stated, “Dear Mary, … While we have over 23,000 volunteers in the BwB database, sometimes I come across a profile that makes me stop and look in awe at the people we are able to attract. And your profile is definitely one of them.”

A graduate of UNLV’s Lee Business School EMBA program, Vail believes insight acquired during her Cohort’s International trip to South Africa in 2013 helped to prepared her for this assignment, specifically with regards to how cultural influence plays a strategic role in international business.

At the request of EcoZoom CEO Oli Raison, Vail traveled to Kenya to gather first-hand knowledge about the organization, its products, and the impact it is making across the globe. Joining her on the research trip was her husband, David who performed the critical role of production assistant. Vail insists that David’s technical competence and persistence in the challenging environment (frequent power and internet outages), allowed her to be successful in gathering vital interviews, data, and imagery necessary for future evaluation and marketing elements.

Part of the 17-day research trip included visiting organizations that benefit from EcoZoom’s cookstoves. There were two major tea plantations Unilever & Finlays (Kenya is the 3rd top tea producer in the world) and Cherry Children’s Educational Centre, a non-profit school in Kibera (Kenya’s largest slum).

“It is overwhelming to realize that two of the most important components of a household: the cooking unit and lighting are also the most harmful to the family (and the environment) as well as being a major financial expense of the home,” explains Vail.

“Many households still use a 3-stone fire or rudimentary cookstoves to prepare their daily meals and kerosene lamps are frequently the only source of light. Byproducts from each of these causes’ lung cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. But, substituting those components with advanced products such as an improved cookstove and solar lights generates an immediate impact on the family’s quality of life both financially and health wise; as well as positively impacts the environment by reducing both deforestation and CO2 output.”

The Clean Cooking Alliance https://www.cleancookingalliance.org , hosted by the United Nations claims that close to half of the world’s population rely on open flames and inefficient fuels for their cooking needs.

To further enhance Vail’s knowledge of the culture, people and lifestyle, Dave and Mary visited some noted destinations including The David Sheldrick Wildlife Elephant Sanctuary, the Giraffe Center, Snake Park, Karura Forest, Maasai Market, the Karen Blixen Home Museum (author of Out of Africa), and the Maasai Mara National Reserve, known for its abundance of lions and the great wildebeest migration.

These excursions gave them greater insight into the culture and environment of the country, as well as an understanding of how important positive collaborations between for-profit, non-profit, social enterprises and government entities are to ensure the sustainability of natural resources and preserve the global environment.

Following the Kenya trip, Vail submitted two lengthy reports detailing her findings and recommended strategy. They continued to work remotely, communicating via email and WhatsApp as well as holding weekly Skype meetings. An 8-hour time difference made for additional challenges in communications, 10pm Thursday in Las Vegas – 8am Friday in Nairobi.

The original assignment contract obligated Vail to 6-months and a minimum of 200 hours to devote to the project. However, as the end approached Vail realized she would need more time to implement many of the marketing elements she had recommended. A request was submitted to BwB for an extension of 3 months which was granted. By the end of 2018, Vail had devoted over 400 hours and generated over 132 GB of research and content to assist the organization.

“Vail has far exceeded our expectations in her deliverables, going well beyond the tasks of the assignment, providing imagery, creative design, valuable materials and extensive knowledge to ensure EcoZoom’s success,” states Raison. “We are sincerely grateful for her expertise and commitment, and we are very optimistic about the future of EcoZoom thanks to Ms. Vail’s work with our company.” The EcoZoom Team created a video to express their appreciation. https://youtu.be/8EsIUDIvSRo

One of the major achievements of the project was launching a global website, https://ecozoomglobal.com . Since completing the BwB assignment, Vail continues to work with EcoZoom as a consultant.

About Bankers without Borders
In 2008, Grameen Foundation launched Bankers without Borders (BwB) to create an efficient, operational framework to mobilize, engage and leverage the talent and skills of the private sector to help support both its own mission and the missions of other poverty-focused social enterprises. We are on a mission to end abject poverty around the world by powering a global "skillanthropy" movement. https://www.bankerswithoutborders.com

About EcoZoom
We are a social enterprise and Certified B Corporation delivering clean burning, portable cookstoves and solar powered lighting solutions. We believe that cooking should be healthy, efficient and eco-friendly for everyone, regardless of socio-economic status. https://ecozoomglobal.com

About Mary Vail, MBA
Mary Vail is an award-wining philanthropist, photographer and publicist. Known as the “Philanthropic Publicist”, she provides services pro-bono to assist nonprofits and special interest groups. She is the author of “What’s Your Philanthropic Footprint?”, a guide for positive community activism. Vail earned an EMBA from UNLV, a BS from the University of Hawaii-Manoa and a Certificate in Social Sector Leadership from Philanthropy University. She resides in Las Vegas, Nevada and holds a UNLV Alumni Lifetime Membership. https://www.maryvailpublicist.com