By Constance Thompson
September 16, 2021
The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) is pleased to share the fourth installment in our “Accelerating Renewables” blog series.
Each installment features industry leaders and topics related to accelerating an equitable and just transition to a renewable energy economy. In recognition of National Hispanic Heritage Month, our September features highlight how three Hispanic-owned Accelerate member companies are thriving in the renewable energy sector.
What inspired you to start SUNTEX?
As a natural-born leader, I always set high expectations for myself and always look for opportunities to serve others – be it by providing exceptional customer service, language translations, or simply sharing knowledge with others. My personal goals and desire to help others led me to work in the renewable energy sector, where I can pursue this dream on a larger scale.
Tell us about SUNTEX?
Our company’s mission is simple: we want to make solar easy and affordable every step of the way. We largely serve the Hispanic community in Texas. That is what we do best – help Spanish speakers understand and adopt renewable energy as a way of life, helping generations to come.
Please share with us more about your journey toward establishing SUNTEX. Was there an “aha moment” when you decided to focus on solar?
Back in August of 2018, my business partner and I had the opportunity to join a very promising small solar installation company in Houston. Through this work we saw the opportunity available to bring solar into our (the Hispanic) community. As a result, my partner and I combined his experience in selling to the Hispanic market with my customer service expertise to create SUNTEX where “the customer is the reason we exist as a company”. Our focus is connecting the Hispanic community and our customers with excellent customer service.
Why is focusing on the Hispanic community a priority for SUNTEX?
Number One: it is in our blood. My business partner and I are native Spanish speakers, and we can identify well with our people and their worldview. Number Two: in the past, we have personally experienced a lack of care and communication from those that cannot identify with our culture. We knew that solar benefits everyone, regardless of race or background, and that our people would need a lot of support to understand how to acquire this benefit for their homes.
What challenges do you face? Why?
Being a small company with a high level of service expectations for our customers comes with its own set of challenges. However, the greatest challenge we face is shared by a number of small businesses: turnover. Additionally, even though solar energy has been around for a while, the basics of these jobs are not widely taught in school. So, we have to spend a lot amount of time training sales staff to make sure they are able to provide a high level of customer service.
How are you making an impact through SUNTEX?
By simply living up to our honest values. I have learned throughout my life that in business, there is no other way to do it right but to be honest. While others may take shortcuts, the truth always prevails.
Please share with us a recent company success story.
Recently, after helping a client “go solar” in two of her homes, she referred a new client named Angela to us. During our initial appointment, I noted that they could only achieve about 56% of solar energy offset due to their home’s consumption rates and shading from trees on the property. We discussed a few additional energy efficiency upgrades to the house to reduce energy consumption, which could provide a higher energy offset. Angela initially cringed at the thought of investing more money into the home, but eventually she called me back and said she wanted to move forward with the solar and energy efficiency upgrades. We completed a Home Energy Audit to see why her usage was so high and found that her home needed a larger AC unit, plus additional ducts to distribute the AC evenly throughout the house. We also told her that the finance partner could add the cost of that upgrade to the solar loan – and that in doing so, she could qualify for a lower interest rate than any other home improvement loan for that AC upgrade. She took my advice and decided to move forward and was, in fact, able to reduce her loan interest rate.
During the installation, we ended up paying for Angela and her elderly mother to stay in a hotel until their upgrades and inspections were complete to ensure they were comfortable throughout the process.
Now, Angela’s solar system covers 100% of the electricity used in her home. Thanks to the AC upgrade, they have reduced their energy consumption greatly, and she has a flat, predictable solar payment each month that is less than she was paying before installing solar. This is what we mean by “customer service.”
From a national perspective, how can we improve access to renewable enery?
From my experience, there is a vast gap in access. Most of the homeowners that we visit are fortunate to own a home, yet many of them have not qualified for solar due to several combined or isolated factors such as subprime credit score, lower annual household income, self-employment, or a lack of knowledge of available loan programs. These communities need more support and education on the importance of installing a solar system that can save them money. We need to provide more people with opportunities to adopt renewable energy with fewer hassles.
How has your Accelerate membership helped your business?
By empowering us to believe that there is someone there to support our growth in this industry, and giving us the opportunity to meet others in the same boat. Now I know that there is hope for minority small businesses in the renewable energy industry.
How can potential partners do business with you?
It is important that we share the same values and mission to help others, even if it means getting out of our comfort zones. It may cost a little more for us to do business, but it’s worth it in the end for our customers. If you’re willing to start there, we’d love to meet to discuss possible collaboration opportunities.
Is there anything else you would like to share with ACORE members and partners?
We are truly grateful for the Accelerate membership program and for all of the opportunities you have provided. I know this is only the beginning, and we have a long road ahead of us; however, I look forward to becoming a sponsor to help pave the way for other Accelerate members in the future – with a special thanks to all of my customers and collaborators at SUNTEX, since they are the fuel that drives the mission!
To learn more about SUNTEX, visit https://suntexllc.com/.