The advent of solar has brought a flood of companies trying to capitalize on this energy-saving technology. Often, it’s hard to tell one from the other.
Pablo Quintero, owner of Clean Initiative, wanted to distinguish himself from all the other single-focused solar entrepreneurs. So he stepped back, tapped his Colombian values and created something unique: a company that incorporates solar into a broader view, working to empower customers to reduce home energy use and move toward sustainability.
“I grew up in a small Colombian town where there’s a deep appreciation for nature and conserving natural resources,” said Pablo. “I wanted my business to incorporate those environmental ideals.”
Pablo’s business model is holistic. Rather than offering just solar, he focuses on helping homeowners “reduce and produce,” which involves generating energy, but also improving energy conservation and efficiency via a variety of retrofits, including improved insulation, smart-home technologies, LED lighting and battery storage.
Differentiating itself from competitors, Clean Initiative grew consistently for five straight years until the Covid-19 pandemic arrived, creating difficult financial challenges that many small-business owners faced. Pablo had to lay off several employees and his office lease was expiring in just a matter of months. Motivated by the looming deadline, he went on a hunt for new space.
Location, location, location.
That century-old phrase never rang truer for Pablo in 2021. He fell in love with an office-warehouse facility in Riverside, CA, about an hour east of Los Angeles. It was ideal for being able to efficiently store his equipment, vehicles and product inventory all under one roof. Initially, Pablo considered leasing the new-found space, but quickly discovered it was also available for purchase.
Securing the financing to buy the facility brought initial disappointment. A large, national bank wanted a large down-payment and then denied his loan request. Still willing to help, however, the bank referred him to Momentus Direct Capital (MCM). The loan team jumped in to help.
“I felt their sense of urgency and professionalism right out of the chute,” recalled Pablo. “They moved quickly because they knew I was in a time crunch.”
In addition to responding promptly, the MCM team noticed that Pablo’s building was located in a designated low-moderate income (LMI) area, a key qualification criterion for a unique loan product developed by CDC called “Impower”, created to help small business owners buy commercial real estate (CRE) in communities that traditional financial institutions tend to avoid or consider too risky.
Impower provides a necessary option for borrowers, like Pablo, who are turned down for traditional SBA 504 financing for commercial real estate.
“Too often, the dreams of small-business entrepreneurs, especially those of color, fail to materialize due to traditional financial industry products and policies that have reinforced racial inequality,” said Ellis Carr, president and CEO of the Momentus Capital branded family of organizations. “Our ability to offer both traditional financing, as well as more equity-based options such as Impower will help ensure we can meet the needs of a wide-range of borrowers.”
The Impower loan offers 90 percent financing on California CRE purchases up to $4 million and monthly interest-only payments for the first three years of the loan.
In short order, Pablo qualified for the Impower loan and was on his way to making his Riverside property Clean Initiative’s new, permanent home. The warehouse space allowed Pablo to take advantage of volume discounts on product inventory and store it, saving him approximately $20,000 to $30,000 a month.
Business development officer Martin Wong explained that the goal of the Impower loan is to give entrepreneurs equitable, nimble, streamlined financing to help them grow and invest in their future.
“Pablo was able to expand, stabilize his occupancy costs and set the stage for creating new jobs at Clean Initiative,” Martin said. “He is also helping to support economic development in a disadvantaged area of Riverside.”
Now fully moved into his new building, Pablo is already seeing an uptick in new business. In fact, he projects his revenue in 2022 will exceed 2021 by 300 percent. And he anticipates hiring more than 20 new employees in the coming year or so.
“I feel like I’ve come full-circle, from humble beginnings to starting a small business that creates new jobs,” said Pablo, ever grateful for the opportunities afforded him in the United States. “I love this country with all my heart.”