In today’s job market, it is common to get a degree in one field and find a career outside of your studies. Regardless if you studied for the industry you are in now, your education will lend itself to whatever field we end up pursuing. So if you are a communications major working in construction, don’t count it all lost, you are using skills, whether you know it or not, that you gained while in school.
Meet Brandon Williams.
Mr. Williams received his MBA from CU Denver in Finance and Marketing. He anticipated spending his career sitting at a desk and handling finances. Instead, he started a business, and not just any business. Brandon and his wife Maggie decided to make batteries. Not your run-of-the-mill AA remote batteries. Rather, batteries that enable you to live off the grid. Power outage because of a storm? You want to build a tiny house in the mountains, away from civilization? Interested in installing solar panels to your home and don’t know where to start? No worries, Iron Edison Battery has got you covered.
I started by asking Brandon about how he and his wife got started. How did he go from earning his MBA in finance and marketing to building batteries and competing with companies like Tesla and Mercedez-Benz? Yeah, you read that right.
Brandon: [Maggie and I] were on our honeymoon. We had just graduated, and in 2009 finance majors were being let go because of the recession. We decided to start on a solar off-grid business evaluation...we never had investors or outside funding. It was the right time, right place and we worked really hard.
Brandon didn’t always see himself as an entrepreneur. He feels as he was coaxed into this lifestyle as an effect of the recession. Regardless, Brandon and his wife bootstrapped their way to where they are now; starting first in their spare bedroom, and growing slowly but steadily over the years.
As I walked around the battery filled warehouse with Brandon, I have to admit I was a tad overwhelmed. Between the technology filled lingo, the stacks of large batteries and the gentlemen working with wires, I knew I was out of my element. Brandon did a great job of breaking down concepts and making them relevant. He went on to tell me about how he and his employees did the same thing for clients every single day. He called it “social engineering”.
Brandon: Clients will ask us “I have a house, how many batteries do I need?” We have to break it down and ask them questions like "Where do you live? Do you like your house hot or cold? Do you need a battery that will support all ten rooms of your home or one room in a tiny home? What is your budget?"
The Iron Edison team does a great job of meeting the clients' needs. Ensuring that they work with various budgets, homes and backgrounds. They take the time to help their clients understand what it is they have purchased after installation and will often spend hours answering emails full of questions as well as talking to clients over the phone. Each battery is custom to the customer and will last 30 years.
While we would all love to believe that success happens overnight, that is not the case. Don’t despair! Brandon has some great advice on how to get started well.
For those of you who are still in school, dreaming of what the “real world” has in store, the CEO has this advice…“Whatever you are studying in school; math, accounting, software, find a place to get real world skills and start applying what you have learned. Get experience! Find a position that gives you hands-on work. Write a cover letter that is specific to that job. Walk through the door with a resume and cover letter. Show up!”
To the aspiring business owner… “Have a solid business plan. Write it out. Ours was 30 pages without answering any questions. Do market analysis, research SWOT analysis, it forces you to evaluate the opposition. Pick a product that generates a lot of revenue per sale. Having capital allows for wiggle room and mistakes. Be prepared to work crazy hard. I work two shifts a day; here and at home”
Being an entrepreneur takes an immense amount of work and dedication. You have to be dedicated to your product, committed to its success, and understanding of the responsibility tied to it all. Years after their launch, Brandon now sees that this company is so much bigger than himself and Maggie.
Brandon: What was eye-opening was last year when we rented a ski house in Keystone. We invited all 14 employees, total of 24 of us with families. I really saw that it was not just about me now. More than clients or batteries, I now had employees that were counting on me. Iron Edison pays for their life.
It is amazing to see what an ambitious couple can accomplish. From a two-person company working out of a spare bedroom to a 14 person company with an office and a warehouse. We are all so much more capable than we think. Wherever you are in your career journey, keeping pushing forward and working hard, you never know where it could lead you.