The XTorch, featured on episode 22 of ‘Shark Tank’ season 12, made an interesting proposition that combined a practical product with philanthropy. The creators of the solar-chargeable torch, which doubles up as a lamp and an emergency phone charger, claimed that their product helped provide nighttime lighting and mobile communications in areas with unreliable electricity connections.
A product that not only seems perfect for a camping trip but also aims to help raise literacy levels in underdeveloped countries truly intrigued us. We took a look at how the folks at XTorch were spreading their light around the world, and here’s what we found out.
XTorch: Who Are They and What Do They Do?
Gene Palusky, the co-founder of XTorch, had an interesting journey before he came up with his multifunctional torch. Initially a struggling artist, the Minnesota resident slowly built his fortune by developing properties. After selling the last of his apartment buildings, he turned his attention to charitable work. While volunteering in 2001 in the Dominican Republic and later in Equatorial Guinea in Africa, Gene was struck by the dangerous and unreliable electricity supplies in many of the areas.
The children in these areas who were receiving an education were forced to study in low lighting conditions or using kerosene lamps and candles. Additionally, charging mobile phones, which were sometimes the only form of communication, was an issue. Using his on-ground training, Palusky teamed up with engineer Bob Sweat to design what would go on to become XTorch. The device addressed several of the pain points that he had seen people in the villages suffering from and contained a flashlight, a reading lamp, a USB charging port, and a solar panel.
The long charge battery was also designed to run for roughly 48 hours on a solar charge and could be charged using a wall socket in an hour. The longevity of the product was also key, and according to Palusky, an XTorch can last for 7-10 years, take on more than a couple of drops to the ground, and also float on water. Armed with his uplifting new device, Palusky and his wife Keidy, who grew up in the Dominican Republic, launched a for-profit company called EJ Case that would allow them to subsidize XTorches for those that needed them most.
By partnering with non-profit organizations, the couple behind XTorch planned to distribute hundreds of thousands of XTorches to poverty-stricken parts of the world. XTorch’s philanthropy incentivizes retail buyers who buy the torches at full price by donating 25% of the retail sale profits to select non-profits. It is positioned as a handy torch and camping product that can be used in a wide variety of situations.
XTorch: Where Are They Now?
Since 2015, the Paluskys have invested more than $300,000 into XTorch. He claims that in 2018, EJ Case gave away 1,500 torches and sold about 200 torches at their full price of $60. They also sold 1,200 torches at cost to non-profit organizations. Retail sales picked up in 2019, and in 2020, the couple was reportedly planning on sending another 2000 of the solar-powered torches to Haiti and the Dominican Republic. So far, they have donated more than 4000 XTorches in total and essentially donated most of the profits they have earned from the business so far.
Testimonials from their happy beneficiaries have also poured in regularly, with one of Keidy’s favorite instances occurring in the wake of Hurricane Maria in 2017. Weeks after the disaster, the couple got an email from a survivor telling them how the XTorch had helped them charge their phone amid the long blackout and tell their family that they were safe. In Haiti, the organization Medical Ambassador International used the torch to train midwives during their nighttime visits.
The far-reaching goodwill of the product also resulted in a wide coverage of the XTorch in local media outlets, including The Star Tribune, which is the largest newspaper in Minnesota. The couple is shooting to double XTorch sales every year and hopes to have annual revenue of about $3.2 million by 2024. Being a true family business, Palusky and his wife are being helped by his mother as well as his two young kids as they push to raise their online sales.
The device retails for $49.95 on the company’s website and for up to $60 on Amazon. They are also moving towards making the XTorch available in brick-and-mortar stores. Their device is now reportedly present in more than 30 countries and the Paluskys seem to be getting closer to their goal of being able to distribute hundreds of thousands of XTorches to impoverished regions. Talking about the goal, Keidy said, “We are little by little making a difference in the world.”
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