Jason Delaney, founder and CEO of Solar Sage, shares his journey of starting and growing a business and offers his owner-insights to aspirant SMME start-ups.
Jason, what motivated you to start your business?
With a sturdy background in engineering and a real passion for renewable energy solutions, I set up Solar Sage. I saw a big need for honest and dependable solar installers in South Africa. There was a lot of wrong information out there, and many installations were not done correctly. I felt it was time to step in and provide a service that people could truly trust.
One doesn’t have to look far without seeing the devastating effects that load shedding has had on South Africa. People are fed up and this made me realise just how vital green energy solutions are in order to help everyone adapt. It became my mission to help individuals and businesses find new ways to keep the lights on, all while being efficient and affordable.
In just a short span of time, we managed to power our enterprise to a staggering 600% revenue growth in just 12 months. A testament to the dire need for our services and the quality we provide.
But my vision isn’t limited to South Africa. I’m a firm believer that solar power is the way forward for everyone, everywhere. It’s not just about coping with power cuts – it’s about stepping into an exciting and sustainable future.
“There was a lot of wrong information out there, and many installations were not done correctly. I felt it was time to step in and provide a service that people could truly trust.”
What was the best business advice you’ve ever received?
If I could advise my younger self, it would be to “Start sooner and fail fast.” Each “No” is simply a stepping stone towards a “Yes.”
Could your business survive and thrive if you were absent for six months?
As the sole proprietor, the success of my business depends heavily on my presence. However, it’s equipped with a robust framework to sustain itself during my absence. The automated billing process, underpinned by an advanced metering system, ensures seamless operations without human involvement. I’m well aware of the inherent risks in running a business, especially in an industry as dynamic as solar energy, but believe in my ability to manage them, maintaining healthy cash flow and generating sales when necessary.
Do you see your business as an asset of equivalent significance to your house in your personal financial portfolio?
My business is more than just a source of income; it’s a significant asset. I aim to sell it at a later stage with a healthy debtor’s book and a consistent revenue stream.
“In just a short span of time, we managed to power our enterprise to a staggering 600% revenue growth in just 12 months. A testament to the dire need for our services and the quality we provide.”
What are the challenges your industry faces? What specifically has your business faced? How were these challenges overcome?
The solar industry, while promising, is not without its challenges. Increasing competition and escalating equipment costs are big ones. Indeed, equipment alone accounts for a significant 80% of our cost of sale, a challenge we’ve addressed by implementing a 60% deposit policy for our clients.
Another significant hurdle we’ve faced is the education of our prospective customers. Installing a solar system can be quite a financial commitment, and unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation out there. This has necessitated a substantial amount of back-and-forth with our clients to help them fully understand the benefits and costs involved.
To tackle this, we’ve taken a proactive approach to customer education. Our team is deeply involved in educating our clients, taking the time to explain the ins and outs of solar energy, and offering personalized consultations. This allows us to better align our services with their budget and needs, while also demystifying the solar installation process so they can make an informed choice.
What is your brand USP and payoff line?
As an engineer, my unique selling proposition is in my technical expertise. We not only eliminate the need for a capital outlay, but we also provide an invaluable service of eliminating load-shedding. Our brand distinguishes itself by delivering real value to customers, supported by our reputation and the quality of our products.
What is the key to sustainable growth in the industry?
Sustainable growth in the industry hinges on a strong brand and delivering actual value to customers. Constructing a reliable upstream supply chain is a journey of learning from experience, gaining referrals from colleagues, and navigating the inevitable mistakes along the way.
How has access to funding helped or hindered the growth of your business?
Funding in this industry and economic climate can be an uphill battle. However, leveraging my extensive professional network has been instrumental in obtaining the financial support necessary for our operations and growth at Solar Sage. This access to funding has allowed us to invest in cutting-edge technology, maintain a high-quality service, and continuously innovate to stay ahead in this dynamic industry.
Nevertheless, funding limitations can occasionally hinder growth. Constraints in financial resources have made it necessary for us to make tough decisions and prioritize certain aspects of the business over others. But it has also taught us the value of being resourceful and efficient, reinforcing the importance of strategic planning and prudent financial management.
“Our brand distinguishes itself by delivering real value to customers, supported by our reputation and the quality of our products.”
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