Abe Issa lost almost everything on his real estate business when the housing bubble burst because of unsustainable increases in property values. So perhaps it's only fitting that his next venture was in a more sustainable industry--sustainable energy.
Issa started Global Efficient Energy in 2011 to provide customers with energy-efficient doors and windows, solar panels, and energy-use-reduction tips such as using compact-fluorescent bulbs and sealing windows.
Today, the company has multiple offices in Texas and Florida as well as one in New Orleans. Global Efficient Energy employs 175 people and has completed 4,000 installations. After earning $22.5 million in revenue last year, Issa projects that his company will just about double that this year. Global Efficient Energy is also in the process of signing a deal that would land the company $50 million in financing.
How is he attracting so much interest? Typically, all it takes is to show people their own windows. The average American household spends about $2,200 annually on energy--nearly half of which goes to heating and cooling, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Issa says his company, by upgrading doors and windows and improving insulation, can help families cut their energy consumption 30 percent to 50 percent.
Additionally, solar panel installations can reduce a family's energy consumption up to 80 percent, claims Issa. Federal tax credits and state rebates may also come into play. Those numbers make a compelling case for a growing number of consumers.
The 31-year-old entrepreneur and his family moved from Beirut, Lebanon, to Texas in 1987, during the Lebanese civil war. Issa grew up poor but quickly realized he could make his own way. During his senior year at Texas Christian University, he started selling homes through AC Properties. The company promoted him to vice president just after he graduated, and two years later, he started his own real estate company. By 2010, he was on his second successful real estate venture when the market crashed. "I went from being worth almost $5 million to almost nothing," says Issa.
As Issa pondered what he wanted to do next, he saw other young companies eyeing solar energy as if it were gold, he says. After several months of research on the industry, Issa was confident he'd be able to start up in the field, too. "It really wasn't that hard of a transition, because as soon as I figured out how the market worked, put it together, I knew I'd be able to figure out how to sell it," he says.
Five months after his last company nearly went bankrupt, Issa founded Global Efficient Energy with a $1,000 investment out of his own pocket. Because the company generated revenue from installations right away, the business was self-sustaining from the beginning. "It only took us two to three deals to have a decent amount of cash so we could start operating," Issa explained.
Up next, Global Efficient Energy plans to expand to about a dozen more states within the next four years. In 2013, the solar industry saw a 20 percent increase in employment over the previous year, according to the Solar Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit. If Issa stays on track with his expansion plan, he anticipates that he will help add to that growth by creating 4,800 jobs--both direct and indirect--by 2018, he says.