I would say stay curious and push yourself to do something new and different. Take risks. Not only about your business, but about other things you’re passionate about and people in general.
Insightful, driven, and passionate, Jason Jannati is a devoted brand strategist and leader in energy efficiency. As a founding member of the Howard County Business Council, he plays a key role in fostering the development of important relationships within the energy efficiency industry.
As co-founder and chief communication officer of greeNEWit, Jannati is responsible for defining the high-level strategic direction of marketing and affiliate partner initiatives. He has helped greeNEWit reach revenue goals by communicating concept-to-reality ideas that bring brand awareness and sales to new heights.
Recognized by the Baltimore District’s SBA office as the top young entrepreneur of 2011, Jannati is devoted to developing social programs that have an environmental focus. Some of his endeavors include co-creating the first solar-powered music festival in 2008, starting the OUR Schools Program and Agents of Change Division within greeNEWit, and establishing the Baltimore franchise of AArrow Advertising in 2009.
Jannati was recently recognized at the White House for his contributions to entrepreneurship and the nation’s economy and by the Association of Fundraising Professionals for his philanthropic work at greeNEWit.
What are you working on right now?
As one of the co-founders of greeNEWit, I head up a great deal of the business development and strategy. As an energy-efficient company promoting sustainability, we’re a leader in the Multi-Family Quick Home Energy Checkup (QHEC) Program implemented by the Public Service Commission. This allows single and multi-family homes to get lighting-, energy-, and water-saving upgrades at no additional charge to the monthly utility bills of tenants, property management, or the building owner. The upgrades include installation of energy-efficient CFL light bulbs, aerators, low flow shower heads, hot water heat wraps, and pipe insulation. Through this collaborative effort, we’ve installed 94,891 compact fluorescent light bulbs to more than 19,434 residences in the state of Maryland and are saving 6,472,715 kWh of electricity and 163,567,892 gallons of water annually. I’m also responsible for planning our 2013 regional expansion plans.
Additionally, I’m active in the startup community and work closely with organizations such as Startup America Partnership, the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), and I recently joined the Extreme Entrepreneurship Tour (EET). I’m excited to start traveling the nation helping to inspire young entrepreneurs to succeed.
Where did the idea for greeNEWit come from?
As young entrepreneurs who started our company in 2008 on 0% credit cards, we know how nitty gritty running a startup can be. We had no money, but believed that energy efficiency and sustainability was a matter of common sense—and that if we got into the business of saving people money and improving the impact on our planet, we would stay relevant.
What does your typical day look like?
Working for a startup, there is no such thing as a typical day. But my day-to-day tasks usually involve meetings to develop new partnerships/business opportunities. Internally, I act as a cheerleader for our management, creating dialogue to continually see what we can improve on to make greeNEWit a better place to work.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I’m a firm believer that collaboration breeds innovation. I enjoy working with talented others who might have valuable insights or other ways of looking at a topic. If we can fine-tune the idea in a way that innovates, I take it to the whiteboard and draft out the concept. Once it’s on the whiteboard, I will note what resources are necessary to ensure implementation and continued success.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
It’s been interesting for me to see that companies solely based on advertising revenue are starting to falter. Not to mention how much social media and the move toward digital is a game changer in marketing. I’m a firm believe that the concepts/companies that survive are ones that provide actual value, matched with hard work and a determination to succeed. Too many entrepreneurs try to turn small ideas into something that will yield a quick return but don’t necessarily solve a problem. Short-term home run ideas usually don’t last long enough to build upon, and hard work is always rewarded.
What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?
I would say the toughest job I had was selling windows and siding door-to-door. I was 14, and it was rough, to say the least. However, I certainly learned from the experience, and it never deterred me. I heard the word “no” hundreds of times, had several doors slammed in my face, but I never gave up. I also learned what it takes to actually bring a customer value. Just asking a person to buy something is never going to work, as they have to feel like they trust you before they are even willing to hear you out. That just takes a little bit of time to foster and develop a relationship.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would honestly say I wouldn’t do anything differently. Each mistake has taught me and my business partners something that we wouldn’t have learned otherwise. We might not be in the position we are now if things had been different.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I would say stay curious and push yourself to do something new and different. Take risks. Not only about your business, but about other things you’re passionate about and people in general. The more excited you are to learn and the more willing you are to experience new things, the more you will gain. Opportunities might present themselves that otherwise wouldn’t if you stayed within your comfort zone.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Our first attempt to raise funding for a software product that we developed was not as successful as we initially had hoped. But because of this outcome, we re-strategized, better developed the business model, and got creative for how we could come up with that money without an angel investor. We decided to develop a new service offering line that ended up generating millions in revenue for our business. Now, we are self-sufficient, have full control over development, and still maintain ownership of the platform. That’s why I think it is really important that even when something might not initially turn out as you planned, it can still lead to something positive.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Most of my ideas gravitate toward helping people either solve a problem or change the way things are currently being done. Following the lines of energy efficiency, I think there’s a tremendous potential in giving consumers more access to their utility data so they can make more informed decisions about their energy usage to save money.
The model of incentivizing using less energy is not new, but the way to connect with consumers on making that shift is—especially the younger generation. If you think more about how you and your peers use energy and connect with energy usage, you will find endless opportunities.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
If I could change one thing it would be the amount of support that is provided to the educational system across the nation. Parents rely on teachers to educate their children, and teachers rely on parents to provide basic behavioral and parenting skills. I feel like there is an evident gap, and that students living in lower income neighborhoods could benefit from more support being provided to their families. Not to mention that a greater appreciation of the teachers trying to educate our next generation of leaders is a must.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources, and what do you love about them?
All Google products and TED Talks. With the ability to virtually Google anything, never before have we as a society had access to information so quickly. TED Talks because I love gaining perspective from people with experience in their field. “Smart people learn from their mistakes, geniuses learn from other people’s.”
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
greeNEWit – Providing energy-efficient tips and ways to save money.
Guy Kawasaki – Successful entrepreneur and bestselling author.
Startup America Partnership/YEC – Resources and advice for all your startup needs.
Who is your hero?
I can’t say I have a specific hero, but the people that I admire most don’t look for extra praise and don’t concern themselves with their egos. They just accomplish their goals because the outcome means something to them. Whether it’s supporting a family, making a difference, helping elevate people out of a certain situation, or assisting others. I look up to people that work hard every day and don’t complain or act negatively. They merely conduct themselves with pure, honest grit combined with hard work.
What advice do you have for someone who is considering starting a business but isn’t exactly sure how?
The want is much more important that the how. And if you want it bad enough, you will figure it out. A lot of people let the “how” paralyze them, and they don’t ever actually do anything.