Emerging Enterprises

“It has been so helpful working with the great legal team at Sidley to work through our corporate structuring needs. We wouldn't have been able to access this level of support without the pro bono program.”
Claire Mongeau, Director, M-Shule; M-Shule clients pictured here
Project Overview

Our Emerging Enterprises Pro Bono Program aims to support sustainable and economic growth across the developing world by providing quality legal services to help social and environmentally focused businesses expand operations, access new markets, and seize investment opportunities. In doing so, we contribute to the realization of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically its Goal 8, which aims to “promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.” During its ten years of existence, the EE Program has supported 200+ micro, small, and medium sized enterprises, trade associations, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) across 55+ developing countries. Our pro bono clients come from a diverse set of sectors, including food and agriculture, manufacturing, education, technology, health, finance, clean energy, water and sanitation, and work tirelessly to solve the world’s most pressing problems. More than 1,050 Sidley lawyers and specialists have contributed more than 56,500+ hours of work to the EE Program since 2012, advising our pro bono clients on such issues as: reviewing contracts; supporting clients in negotiations and investment rounds; advising on corporate structuring and restructuring; assisting with intellectual property and data protection; addressing and removing trade barriers in regional and international markets; reviewing regulatory requirements for health, safety, packaging, and product standards; and more.


M-Shule is a personalized knowledge-building platform in Africa that connects students to tailored learning, evaluation, activation, and data tools via SMS and messaging. M-Shule combines artificial intelligence to reach offline or marginalized communities with self-paced, interactive, and personalized resources. Students can learn new skills, receive tutoring on subjects at school (such as English or Math), take courses on business development, and empower themselves. M-Shule’s platform has processed 1.25 million messages and positively impacted more than 20,000 households.

Our lawyers have advised M-Shule on convertible note agreements, company restructuring, setting up a Delaware Corporation as the holding company of M-Shule’s Kenyan entity, and setting up a Series-A fundraising round.

“M-Shule’s mission is to make educational and training tools available to everyone to help unlock new opportunities, no matter where they are or what phone they have. It would not have been possible without the work of my phenomenal, innovative, and dedicated team working together with our learners of all ages. It’s been such an honor to hear that our users are rural women that can now learn how to open small businesses from their homes, or parents who can help their children practice their homework. It has been so helpful working with the great legal team at Sidley to work through our corporate structuring needs. We wouldn't have been able to access this level of support without the pro bono program.”

— Claire Mongeau, Director, M-Shule


Osei-Duro is a fashion design and production company based in Los Angeles and Accra, Ghana. Using traditional textile techniques to produce contemporary garments, the company aims to support local apparel industries and artisanal communities in Ghana to become more sustainable, while applying traditional techniques of local designers, such as hand dying and weaving.

Sidley is providing Osei-Duro with legal advice in handling contract breaches, debt collection, and related issues, as well as providing legal support concerning investment and other structural/financial changes.  

“We are a small business and we don’t have much power when it comes to dealing with larger clients. When a department store went bankrupt after placing a large order, Sidley helped us recoup lost revenue.”

— Maryanne Mathias, Founder and CEO of Osei-Duro


Sidley represented BioLite in structuring and negotiating a secured credit facility repayable in carbon offset credits. Sidley helped BioLite review the privacy policy of their website, and provided assistance on a supply agreement with a prospective partner.

Founded in Brooklyn in 2006, BioLite is an energy company that develops and manufactures breakthrough technologies to help customers in emerging markets cook, charge, and light life beyond the grid, empowering people to power themselves. The company sells portable grills, carry packs, kettle pots, camp and base stoves, power lights, energy bundles, nanogrid products, site lights, and flex lights. Its products are compatible with various devices, such as cell phones, smartphones, GPS, LED flashlights, headlamps, rechargeable battery packs, and other devices.

BioLite reaches their customers through a robust and growing network of last-mile distribution partners who both market and offer consumer financing to their end consumers. In 2021, BioLite managed to provide safe and reliable energy to three million people across 23 countries in Asia and Africa.

“Sidley provided world class expertise to a complex transaction involving pre-financing of carbon credits from BioLite’s super clean-burning stoves. Sidley’s work was central to the success of the deal, resulting in clean energy access to some 1.2M people in East Africa.”

— Erik Wurster, VP, Environmental Markets and Sustainability, BioLite


StrongMinds is a social enterprise that empowers impoverished African women, providing life-changing mental health services for women who suffer from debilitating mental illnesses such as depression. StrongMinds provides group talk therapy delivered by community health workers to provide a cost-effective solution to the depression epidemic in Africa.

“StrongMinds is working with Sidley on a number of projects that will ultimately help us provide vital mental health services to tens of thousands of individuals in Sub-Saharan Africa and in the United States. With Sidley’s help, we are taking critical steps to expand our operations into the United States, improve the agreements that govern our working relationships with our affiliate organizations, and protect our intellectual property. In 2021, we treated over 42,000 individuals affected by depression, with plans to serve 300,000 more in the next three years. Sidley’s support is crucial to helping us meet our ambitious goals.”

— Jennifer Bass, Manager, Brand, Content and Creative of StrongMinds

Babban Gona

Babban Gona offers an innovative technology platform and program to make farming more profitable for smallholder farmers in Northern Nigeria. By improving crop yield per hectare, reducing cost of production, and increasing unit price at market, Babban Gona doubles small farmers’ profitability. By turning unemployed youth at risk of conducting violent acts into successful agricultural entrepreneurs, Babban Gona contributes towards ending the downward spiral of youth violence in Nigeria.

Sidley has provided Babban Gona with legal support for fundraising activities, establishing a philanthropic fund based in the United States with the objective of providing a means for individuals and organizations to make funding donations relevant for Babban Gona’s work. Further, our lawyers have reviewed and amended intercreditor agreements, drafted and structured agreements for capital raising cycles and equity investment rounds, and represented Babban Gona in investor negotiations for The Raise Out of Poverty bond.

“Sidley’s Pro Bono Programme supported Babban Gona to establish a more cohesive structure among our lenders via our Intercreditor Agreement. With this structure, we have been able to raise tens of millions of dollars of financing to support hundreds of thousands of undeserved smallholders, improving their livelihoods and food security in Africa. The commitment and professionalism of Sidley’s lawyers has been fundamental to our business. We are grateful to have worked with a team that understands and responds quickly to the needs of a fast-growing company.”

— Adaeze Usoh, Head, Corporate Finance, Babban Gona

ATEC Biodigesters

ATEC produces, sells, and distributes the world’s first commercial biodigester that can be installed in any environment. Designed for last-mile farmers, each system converts animal, green, and kitchen waste into clean cooking gas and organic fertilizer for crops. Carbon positive and sustainable, ATEC’s products currently benefit thousands of families in Cambodia and Bangladesh.

Sidley has provided legal advice on the company’s corporate structure for international expansion, reviewed funding mechanisms for carbon financing, worked on contracts with international suppliers, and advised on structuring a new debt facility for pay-as-you-go services.

“Solving clean cooking is not easy. And that is why ATEC is tremendously grateful to Sidley for providing first-class pro bono legal services and advice, allowing us to continue providing sustainable, affordable, and accessible clean cooking products for base-of-pyramid households. The Sidley team worked professionally and tirelessly to support our issuance of convertible notes as we raised funds from investors in multiple jurisdictions with differing requirements and views. We could not be happier with Sidley’s Pro Bono Program.”

— Philip Barrow, CFO, ATEC Biodigesters