This Woman and Her Sister Are Taking Solar Energy to the Next Level
This post is part of a series of branded posts sponsored by Verizon. The focus of the series — part of a paid partnership between Verizon and CircleAround — is on women small business owners, and how they are navigating the complexities and challenges of contemporary business, from the pandemic to the economy.
Solar energy is better for our environment, and it can be accessed anywhere in the world thanks to the power of the sun. Today, solar energy is becoming more of a household investment thanks to people like Lauren Carson, who’s been working in the solar industry for over a decade. Her company, Kinect Solar, is one of the fastest-growing renewable energy companies in the world, and Carson shows no signs of slowing down.
While working in Hawaii, Carson learned there was an entire industry for equipment brokering — reselling used materials from various companies. The advantage is that businesses can get industrial equipment at more cost-effective prices, as the products are usually overstock or considered liquidation.
American solar power offsets over 70 million metric tons of carbon dioxide every year, yet solar energy only accounts for 1.6 percent of total U.S. electricity generation. When Carson first started out, renewable energy was gaining more traction for larger corporations, but the solar equipment market was still relatively untapped.
Based on her experiences, business knowledge, and brokering expertise, Carson launched Kinect Solar in 2015 with her sister, Annie. “I love the solar industry,” Carson said in an interview for EnergyBin. “We are at the beginning of a period of accelerated growth.”
Her intuition paid off. Between 2015 and 2019, Kinect Solar experienced a growth rate of 2,811 percent with $13.3 million in revenue at the end of that period. All of this came from an initial investment of $10,000, plus a positive reputation with customers and companies across the industry. Thanks to such stats, Kinect was ranked in Inc. magazine's list of the 5,000 fastest-growing private companies in the U.S, and ranked as No. 4 in the energy industry, the No. 2 fastest-growing private business in Austin, and No. 6 in Texas overall. As of 2020, the company has moved up to the 130th spot out of the 5,000 companies listed.
"Being an entrepreneur is about getting to know a market and identifying a problem that needs a solution," Carson told CircleAround. "At the time, there wasn’t an easy way for solar installers to resell solar panels that they no longer needed. Kinect solar was born out of the need to 'Kinect' buyers and sellers of solar panels in the secondary market."
“You have to let it roll off your back,” Carson said in an interview with The Solar Maverick regarding how she stands out in a male-dominated field. “If you hold onto that and think about how it’s setting you back, then I think it starts to become a reality.” She added, “In general, we have a great industry with great people and I have looked at it as a positive.”
From Texas to the South Pacific
Today, Kinect has expanded beyond just brokering deals to importing product, warehousing inventory, and coming up with customized procurement solutions for solar developers to build their projects cost effective. Kinect Solar’s customers can be found within the U.S., Latin America, Asia, and the Caribbean. She and her relatively small team — there are currently less than 20 employees — provided regions in these areas with the chance to build their businesses using solar energy in sustainable ways. Their company matches these businesses with overstock solar equipment, transformers, electrical cable, and power generators. They provide for a variety of businesses, from local installers in Austin to farmers in Belize to hotels in Fiji.
Despite current environmental policies, Carson is still optimistic about the future of solar. “There’s been a massive jump in solar-panel efficiency,” she told The Solar Maverick. “I think there’s still a lot of people sitting on the older wattage panels and I think we’re going to continue to see those prices go down for the more legacy wattage panels.”
Carson is also the CEO of SunLogix Global, a company that focuses on the logistics of getting renewable energy products and equipment to locations around the world."Because solar energy is a relatively new industry," Carson told CircleAround, "there is a lot of opportunity for innovation resulting in a lot of entrepreneurs and small businesses in the space."
It’s an exciting time to be part of this industry, and her insights have certainly paid off. As the world becomes more dependent on alternative forms of energy, Carson’s company is only likely to grow faster and pave the way for more female-driven renewable energy partners to come.