Toni Winston, founder of Tiburon Energy & Construction
How did you start your business?
I started my construction company late in 2008 just as the entire construction industry imploded.I was working with several very talented individuals and the thought of closing shop and everyone becoming unemployed was not a viable option for me. So I reorganized the company to focus on energy efficiency and sustainability. We concentrated our efforts on helping families and business make the most out of their energy dollars.
How did you come up the idea for your business?
My experiences in this volatile sector of the economy have forced me to focus on current market trends in order to better transition our business model. As the traditional construction market was declining I decided to put all my company’s efforts into supporting efficient growth, specifically focusing on advanced technologies and building analysis.
Our business is designed to flow with the government and industry transition; everyone is adjusting to new standards and government policies related to energy efficiency and renewable energy.All of my research suggested that most of the construction growth would be in the "green" market segment.
What resources here did you take advantage of and how did they help?
I was fortunate to participate in programs with regional and national construction companies that promoted women and minority owned construction businesses.This provided valuable learning and networking opportunities. I went on to take the LEED exam — the country’s foremost professional accreditation in sustainable best practices.
In addition to my LEED-AP accreditation, I have doggedly pursued certifications and accreditations in energy efficiency, building performance, home inspection and a number of related fields.
I also certified the company as a nationally recognized WBE (Woman Business Enterprise). I went on to participate in Bad Girl Ventures and even enrolled in Toastmaster International to enhance my verbal communications skills.
What does a typical day in your business look like?
I like to start my day early.I tend to be on the computer around 6 a.m. answering emails, working on accounting issues, and making my to-do list.On any given day, I could be visiting a job site, writing proposals, teaching a class, or making presentations to clients.There is no typical day and I like it that way.I tend to get bored with the routine.I like the unexpected; the constant challenges are what help me to continually move forward.
What’s next for you and your company?
I see an enormous potential for growth in the residential and commercial sectors.Less than 1% of prospective residential customers are aware that they qualify for government incentives aimed at increasing energy efficiency. Homeowners in our area should know that they are entitled to an energy audit at significantly discounted prices. We want to help potential clients save money, but first we have to make sure that they are adequately informed about their options.
Interview by Robin Donovan