Daniel Sullivan, the president and founder of Sullivan Solar Power, shared valuable insights and tips about how he built Southern California’s leading solar power company with an eager audience at San Diego Startup Week.
Sullivan appeared June 13 on a panel discussion titled “Growth by Revenue from Bootstrap to A-Round” along with Stephan Chenette, CEO of AttackIQ, Inc., and Andrew Gazdecki, CEO of Bizness Apps. A standing-room-only crowd of 125 people crammed into a conference room in a downtown San Diego high rise to hear Sullivan and the others share their advice about how to grow a company from the startup phase to a larger enterprise.
Sullivan recounted the early days of starting his solar power company in 2004, including how he slept on a couch in the garage of a home he was renovating and ate Cheerios for breakfast every day to make ends meet.
"When I started the business 12 years ago, I had zero dollars,” Sullivan told the audience.
Even after hiring his first couple of employees and moving to a small office in the Miramar area of San Diego, Sullivan said he continued sleeping on a hide-a-bed in his office and showering at the gym to keep his business expenses low.
“Those are the things you do,” Sullivan told the audience. “It’s all about building the business.”
Sullivan and the other entrepreneurs shared other helpful tips with the audience, including how to find cheap office furniture on Craigslist or at IKEA and the benefits of running your small business out of your home, which offers better pricing on things like internet service.
When Chenette said the only downside of running his business out of his home until it got off the ground was the fact that his home electrical bill skyrocketed, Sullivan had some helpful advice.
“You should have gone solar,” Sullivan said, eliciting laughs from the audience.
Sullivan cautioned the audience not to rest on their laurels when they get a startup company to a stage where it is growing and seems to be successful, because doing so can leave the business unprepared for future growth and allow the competition to pass you by.
“That’s good (that your company is growing), but you need to prepare for growth,” Sullivan said. “Remember, the company you start is not the company you end up with.”
Sullivan earned hearty applause from the audience when he said that for him, owning Sullivan Solar Power is not about making money, as much as it is about changing how the world generates electricity. Sullivan has dedicated his life and his work to leading the solar energy revolution across Southern California and helping more people break away from dirty fossil fuels for renewable energy sources, including solar power.
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