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Transforming the Solar Energy Landscape

Joe Chenoweth is the founder and CEO of Smart Roofs Energy, one of the companies in the renewable energy sector. Joe takes us on a journey through his career, starting from the innovative solar power generators he patented and developed to the thriving business of rooftop solar installations.

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Interview with Joe Chenoweth, CEO of Smart Roofs Energy

Dunja Jovanovic: Could you please explain to our audience how renewable energy and rooftop solar can contribute to addressing climate change?

Joe Chenoweth: Renewable energy offers a significant advantage in tackling climate change as it does not rely on finite resources like fossil fuels. While opinions differ on the exact timeframe for their depletion, it is widely acknowledged that fossil fuels are not an unlimited source of energy. 

In contrast, harnessing renewable energy, particularly through rooftop solar power, presents a more sustainable alternative to burning coal, oil, or gas. In fact, we assist approximately 90% of our commercial customers in meeting 100% of their energy requirements with renewable sources. Some customers run out of usable space for a full energy offset.

DJ: Can you tell us a bit more about yourself and your company, Smart Roofs Energy? How did you get involved in this business and what led you to focus on rooftop solar installations?

JC: Our company is based in Connecticut, and we have been involved in renewable energy, specifically solar power, for over 11 years. When I initially started the company, it was really small, and we had two main purposes. 

Firstly, we patented and developed a solar power generator designed to provide clean water and reliable power to people in developing nations, without relying on diesel fuel, gas generators, or unreliable grids. Secondly, we also ventured into rooftop solar installations. 

Interestingly, our rooftop solar installations gained tremendous traction and became our primary focus. We initially tried to expand the solar power generator aspect of our business, but we realized that without the support of a large organizations like World Vision or the Red Cross, it was challenging to scale as a smaller business. 

Since then, our focus has been on commercial rooftop installations, ground mount systems, and carport solar. Over the past 11 years, we have built a strong team and I'm incredibly proud of the work we have accomplished so far.

DJ: What would you say sets Smart Roofs Energy apart from your competitors or colleagues in the industry?

JC: It's good to have competition as it helps us improve and provide better service to customers. One of the things that sets us apart is that we do all of our work in-house. We have an engineering team, project managers, and support staff right here in-house, which allows us to complete projects without delays and ensure they are done correctly. Additionally, we are able to provide services nationwide. 

While we work with installation partners for projects that require a nationwide or regional presence, we remain a small enough company to be agile and continuously improve our business processes. We have a relentless pursuit of making our processes more efficient and delivering on what we promise for our customers. If we can't do that, we won't remain in business or be a reliable resource for others.

DJ: What do you feel are the biggest challenges you face in building your brand and positioning yourself in the market, especially considering the industry's growth?

JC: As the market grows, we do see the number of competitors doubling each year. However, many of these competitors don't last long because they underestimate the hard work involved in this industry. 

One of the biggest challenges we face is finding enough skilled individuals who not only want to be in this business but also have the necessary abilities to succeed in it. Our commercial and industrial projects often take over a year to complete, so having people who understand and can support a project throughout its duration is crucial. 

We want everyone in our organization to have an impact and be proud of their work. Finding great talent is always a challenge because we are a growing company with an awesome team that we'd love to expand.

DJ: Can you share your insights on emerging trends in the clean energy marketing space? Also, did marketing initiatives help you overcome the challenges you mentioned?

JC: One notable trend in the industry is the increasing focus on environmental social governance (ESG) factors. Companies are placing a greater emphasis on people's well-being alongside profitability, which is a positive development. While profitability remains essential for business, prioritizing ESG is seen as crucial. 

In terms of marketing, our main source of business has been referrals. When customers go through the process with us and have a positive experience, they are more than willing to refer us to others. We have a marketing director who works on our brand identity and explores various marketing platforms to remain relevant. 

However, referrals have been a significant driver of our business. We aim to serve our customers well, and that ultimately leads to positive referrals.

DJ: What advice would you give to other marketers, CEOs, and founders in the clean energy industry who are looking to grow their businesses?

JC: If someone is starting an environmental business, it is important to engage with industry experts and explore multiple channels for reaching potential customers. Marketing plays a crucial role in this process. 

Having conversations with people in the industry, even if they are not ready to proceed, can provide valuable insights. Staying informed through podcasts, reading materials, and other sources is essential. Testing different business approaches and being responsive and adaptable is key. 

Attention to detail and continuous learning are important factors for success, not just in the environmental sector but in any business venture.

DJ: What advice would you give to founders in the early stages of solar startups who may face similar growth challenges as you did?

JC: One important piece of advice is to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you and learn from them. Also, establishing smart key performance indicators (KPIs) for each individual and regularly monitoring them allows for timely adjustments and course corrections. 

Continuous improvement is vital, and processes should be fine-tuned with the understanding that perfection is not achievable, but progress can be made each day.

DJ: How can people learn more about Smart Roofs Energy and get in touch with you?

JC: The best way to get in touch with us is through our website, We also have a LinkedIn page where you can connect with me. We're happy to answer any questions and provide assistance to anyone interested in our company and the clean energy industry.

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