What do you get when you mix chocolate and wine? In the case of Clean Solar, Inc., you get solar. Silicon Valley Entrepreneur, Randy Zechman, is the founder of City Chocolate Fountains (the largest chocolate fountain rental company in the United States). Jeff Ritchey is a San Jose native and wine guru. He is a wine consultant for Pichetti Winery, San Saba winery, and has two of his own labeled wines. Together, they are the co-founders of Clean Solar, a Silicon Valley solar installer and integrator.
Randy Zechman will readily admit that he is a serial entrepreneur. Just over a year ago, with two successful businesses in his portfolio: City Chocolate Fountains and World 2 Do, Inc., Zechman was ready for a new challenge. Zechman and a friend of eight years, Jeff Ritchey, an award-winning winemaker, regularly attended a monthly Bay Area speaker series with a group of friends. After every speaker they would end up at a local restaurant debating the subject matter of that night’s speech, global warming and the health of the earth were often the center of those debates, which resulted in them seeing Al Gore speak at the State of the Valley conference in early 2007.
After seeing Al Gore speak on solutions for protecting our planet, Zechman began to research the solar power industry. Ritchey, while continuing to grow his label, Sensorium Wines, was also showing increased interest in the green movement, realizing that green technology was an ideal fit with his knowledge in geology, winemaking and construction.
Zechman knew that the scientific and construction skill set that Ritchey could bring to the table would be the perfect compliment to his business and marketing skills, which led him to approach Ritchey about starting a solar power company.
Zechman and Ritchey met weekly for 6 months, discussing the in and outs of the business and making sure that their ambitions would not get in the way of their friendship. “We had a heart to heart regarding our friendship versus business. We both believed we could manage both and that our friendship would not get in the way.” says Zechman.
“We’ve been friends for eight years and never thought about getting into business with each other, but this presented the right opportunity. With the market timing, our passion for doing something good, Randy’s sales and marketing experience and my technical and construction abilities, we figured it was a natural fit.” says Ritchey.
Clean Solar Inc. quickly became a reality and is now the Bay Area’s leading solar installation company. The fuel for their business growth is in the form of state rebates through the 10 year, $3.4 billion California Solar Initiative. While silicon is still in short supply, the rebates offer customers a chance to significantly lower the installation cost of a solar power system. Zechman and Ritchey are committed to staying ahead of the curve and being early adopters of new solar technology as it comes on line. “We want the Clean Solar team to stay abreast of the latest advancements in technology, maintain certifications, and educate ourselves in order to provide our customers with the knowledge they need as a solar owner.” says Zechman.
Isaac Riggins is a solar consultant for Clean Solar, Inc. He can be reached at 888-551-7652 or http://www.cleansolar.com