The California company announced this week that it has partnered with a group of local entrepreneurs on the island U.S. territory to establish a new franchise office for Solar Universe.
Puerto Rico is a great market to expand into, said Solar Universe CEO Joe Bono.
“We know that Puerto Rico has essentially a lot of what Hawaii has,” Bono said. “They have high electric rates and they have to import fuels. The bulk of their power comes from diesel and natural gas, which is not very efficient when you have to bring it in from somewhere else.”
But Puerto Rico hasn’t fully embraced solar yet. The industry is still in its infancy there, Bono said. But there’s a lot of potential for growth.
The Solar Universe franchise model was ideal for breaking into the market, he said. “We pair the locally-owned and operated flavor, which is so important when you’re dealing with a community business like this, and the bigger infrastructure and support of a much larger company,” Bono said.
The entrepreneurs who are starting up the Puerto Rico office are driven and connected, he added.
The expansion into Puerto Rico is just the latest of new offices for the company, which has 37 locations in seven states and is listed as the fourth largest solar company in California, Bono said. “Our business has been expanding rapidly”.
The founders started the company five years ago with the vision from the very beginning to use a franchise model.
“We think it serves this industry very well,” Bono said. “Franchising is extremely popular in service industries and solar is essentially a service.”
He said the model allows entrepreneurs and solar installers who are starting out and know the local market to build their business more rapidly using an existing infrastructure that provides marketing support, technology and some brand recognition.
“We felt that no one in the industry was doing this when we started it,” Bono said. “There were either big international companies or the little start-up guys trying to make it work on a shoestring.”
Bono said Solar Universe could scale up for international expansion and Puerto Rico could be just the first of many offshore locations.
“But I think we also have plenty of growth opportunity domestically,” he said.