No. 2 – Sunspear Energy
Jeff Kaemmerlen, CEO
Growth rate: 566.95%
Career & Workplace
Sunspear Energy, the Oahu-based solar business that started in an apartment, ranked No. 2 in this year’s Hawaii’s Fastest Growing Companies List by Pacific Business News.
The solar business started with just a few founding employees in CEO Jeff Kaemmerlen’s apartment in 2017. Today, it has 38 employees and a 15,000-square-foot space off N. Nimitz Highway. The company provides solar to commercial businesses, as well as nonprofits and homeowners.
Initially, Sunspear Energy worked as the subcontractor to larger general contractors on a lot of government projects, Kaemmerlen said. In 2017, the company helped to bring solar-powered air conditioning to public schools. A year later, it installed solar at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport as a subcontractor to Johnson Controls and SunPower.
Sunspear expanded to a residential division in January of 2020, and so far, the company has added solar to almost 300 homes, Kaemmerlen said.
What was the most exciting thing to happen at or to your company in the past three years? Obviously, the airport is a huge one to have worked on just because it’s such a big, high-profile and notable project in Hawaii. The airport is the hub of Hawaii’s economy, and it’s a high-visible project. Wet ‘n’ Wild, the water park, is a very notable [project] because that was one of the first bigger projects where we weren’t just acting as a subcontractor. We developed and designed and built the project…. We did one this year, for Capitol Place in Downtown Honolulu on the [39th] floor of a high-rise, and we had to fly a helicopter there… just to get all the equipment and stuff up on to the roof.
What is your No. 1 priority for the year ahead? It’s a really exciting time for our industry, because there’s a lot happening at various different levels from federal policy to state policy to things happening at the local level with Hawaiian Electric and stuff like that. In light of the unfortunate recent events that happened on Maui, I think there’s going to be a demand for customers to have more resiliency in terms of having back-up storage power capabilities in the event that there’s issues with the grid. Hawaii is a very unique place from a energy market standpoint because we are an isolated chain of islands.
As one of Hawaii’s fastest-growing companies, what’s the secret to your growth? Or in other words, how did you do it? I don’t know that there is necessarily a secret. It’s somewhat of a formula: analysis + capital + execution = growth. If I had to cherry pick something, the execution part is really driven down to the team and the people. We’ve grown really quickly over the past few years and growing at that rate, for sure, doesn’t come without some growing pains. One of the things that I’ve learned in my leadership position is the importance of making sure that we have the right people in the right positions, and that they’re a good culture fit for the team. … What I’m most excited about — and I guess proud of is — is the team that we’ve grown over time. A lot of our core team has worked together in the past, and so I would say as a backbone, that’s definitely been maybe one of our secrets is that at least a third, maybe more — roughly 50% of our staff — all worked at a previous company together, so there’s a certain amount of cohesion and bond that was already in place.