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The world is full of fearless innovators. Meet the Rising Stars making a difference in their communities and industries.

Who is Jared McKenzie?

Jared McKenzie is the CEO and founder of Headline Solar. At only 24 years-old, he has been working in the solar industry for three years, accumulating the majority of his business experience in marketing. In 2019, he and his business partner, Kevin Gillespie, helped their startup garner $5.2M in revenue in a matter of 9 months.

Going Solar in Illinois

Headline Solar is one of only a handful of solar companies that practice in-house marketing and installation in the U.S. Solar renewable energy is still a growing market, but certain states like Illinois have incentives that pay owners to go solar by selling SREC credits. According to Jared, what makes Headline Solar so successful is that it knows its target audience. They work with customers who are fully interested and/or educated in solar energy and find ways to develop price systems that benefit their clients.

Solar panel installation on home. Photo courtesy of Headline Solar
Solar panel installation on home. Photo courtesy of Headline Solar

One of the ways Headline Solar accomplishes this is by looking at electric bills and ensuring it is financially feasible for clients to enter into solar energy. By matching the price for installation with their current cost of electricity, Jared’s team helps their clients save money from day one. What makes Jared’s endeavor so unique is that he is trying to change the lives of not only his customers, but all subsequent generations by providing affordable solar renewable energy.

Falling in Love with Hard Work

Jared grew up in Houston, Texas and was prepared for entrepreneurship at an early age. Every morning, his father would wake at the crack of dawn to go work in construction. His mother, who used to be a stock broker, taught him how to open and manage a savings account when he was a kid. Because of his father’s hardworking demeanor and his mother’s guidance in financing, Jared always knew he wanted to be a business owner.

Every summer of high school, Jared worked at his father’s construction company doing 50-60 hour weeks under the Houston heat. Once he saw what people were willing to endure to provide for their families, Jared fell in love with hard work and came to respect manual labor. He briefly attended the University of Arkansas to study entrepreneurship before discovering that college was not for him. He left school to pursue his desire in business and founded his own marketing company in 2016.

According to Jared, obtaining a degree was never necessary for him. What matters most in running a business is the experience and mindset to follow through. While he may only be 24, he has been working for nearly half his life. That experience has proven invaluable. Jared is also passionate about ensuring his generation and the ones that come after are living in a stable environment. This passion is what first led him to enter a position as a marketing consultant for Residential Solar in Houston.

Growing Headline Solar in 2020

Jared McKenzie CEO of Headline Solar
Jared McKenzie CEO of Headline Solar

In 2018, while attending an entrepreneur meetup in Austin, Jared met his future business partner Kevin Gillespie. Jared got Headline Solar off the ground by bootstrapping and taking jobs one at a time. He set up shop in California for one month before eventually setting his sights on Schaumburg, Illinois. Jared states the climate in Illinois is identical to Germany where the solar industry is thriving. Illinois’ incentives for solar renewable energy also made it the most logical place to grow his business. It was then Jared brought Kevin on as company president.

Through Jared’s marketing knowledge and Kevin’s operations experience, they managed to turn Headline Solar into a profitable startup in less than a year. And word of mouth for their business keeps on growing. But Jared says every accomplishment isn’t without hardship. “Part of overcoming those obstacles is managing stress. The fact of the matter is, if you’re not stressed out all the time growing a business, you’re not doing something right.” In order to overcome that stress, you have to take time to address it. This means reflecting on why that stress is present and figuring out what you have to do to eliminate it.

For Jared, 2019 was about learning. As for 2020, his goal is all about growing. Jared aims to help Headline Solar reach $30M in revenue and hopes to expand business to North and South Carolina. His advice for startup hopefuls in 2020 is to look at the bigger picture. Rather than trying to make a profit, focus on making an impact. This means treating customers well and everyone else around you with respect. In his words, making a big impact on your community is what truly leads to success.

What Keeps Him Up at Night?

“What keeps me up at night is how much I look forward to growing this company and making more of an impact. Changing the lives of people…that’s just super exciting to me.”

What is Jared’s GREY Style?

This article originally published on GREY Journal.