I had the pleasure of sitting down with the owners of Energetek; the women-owned, Philly startup that is taking the energy world by storm. They are the experts in cost containment for commercial energy supply, merchant processing, and solar.
“We were tired of standing in the shadows of our own work,” says Kristin DeBias, President of Energetek. Kristin and Eva Gerrits, founding partner and CEO, ran their previous company’s commercial department before going into business together. They shared the same vision, but also experienced the deafening struggle of when you get to the top only to find the proverbial glass ceiling. You can see through, but not get through. “Hearing a constant ‘no’ from those absent through the entirety of the process, is soul crushing,” says Eva. Decisions made were sometimes undermined; something they did not see happen to their male counterparts. They wanted to have full control of decisions and move away from a revolving door sales company. Creating a company that would provide them a lifelong career, led them to make the decision to branch off.
So they left. Energetek officially launched January 1st, 2019.
“We had to keep in mind that at least 75% of startups fail. That kept us humble for sure.” Kristin said. So why do that many new businesses fail? “When you start a business you’re in the honeymoon stage. Everyone agrees, you share the same 5 year plan, and you don’t foresee issues- it’s all going to work! If you don’t take yourself out of this mindset to plan properly, it will be detrimental.” Eva explained.
What most of you don’t know, Energetek wasn’t originally a duet, it was a trio. “We had another partner, actually.” Kristin says as she shakes her head and twirls her pen. “We learned quickly that it just wasn’t the right fit.” Their goals and vision just didn’t align anymore. However, with the right legal contracts and preparation for what-if situations, Energetek launched without missing a beat. “The most ironic part of it is that our attention to detail which most of the time, gave us anxiety was ultimately what saved us. It has molded our company to be who we are and how we want to interact with everybody else. We cover our bases when it comes to partners and clients alike.” Eva stated. They had learned their first lesson as business owners: always prepare for the worst, hope for the best, keep your head up and keep working.
Being a business owner is rewarding but the glamorized startup life is an illusion. Luckily, they had kissed the 9-5 mentality goodbye a long time ago. “When something is your own, you just find yourself totally consumed by it. If you don’t wake up in the middle of the night with some type of manifestation or business related nightmare, something is wrong.” Kristin says laughing. The first 2 years they said is dedicated to “special ops mode” per their advisor. The main goal of their company is to break barriers: break barriers between supplier and consumer, for women in the sustainable energy world, and for working moms starting their own business. The world of energy brokering is tainted. It’s tainted with the many “bait and switch” models that so many companies utilize. “It gives the good guys a bad rap” Eva explained.
The bloodline of Energetek, at its core, is the long-term relationships they have with their clients.
“I mean, we would be nothing without them. We inherently care about their business”. Energetek’s contract transparency, competitive fixed rates, and ongoing expense monitoring isn’t what our clients will get anywhere else. “Our entire careers have gone to the tune of learning along the way and this is something we will continue to do”, says the CEO. Their tune of success is slightly different, however. It’s not the globalization that so many companies crave. The Energetek Partners simply want to create a company that does right by their clients, to create a work environment that their employees thrive in to build careers, and to build a legacy. So far they are on the right track, although the road wasn’t paved with sprinkles and rainbows. In the words of the President’s favorite song; “it was all a dream”…until they made it a reality.
Interviewed and Written by David Alexander