PHONE NUMBER: 541-602-6909
OWNER: Laura Uhler
YEARS IN BUSINESS: 7
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: Varies due to numerous local partnerships
WHAT THEY SELL: Cleaner energy, cleaner skies, and a clearer environmental conscience
WHY YOU SHOULD GO: The warm and professional service; quality design and installation by professionals who care.
You won’t have to come find Solar Ki, because Solar Ki will come to you. Home is where the heart is, and Solar Ki is sure to be able to warm your heart, quite literally, by providing your home with more environmentally friendly energy options that will power your abode.
Laura, when and why did you decide to start Solar Ki? I started my business approximately seven years ago. I was previously an electrical engineer and manager, and I resigned my engineering job to pursue and contribute to a cause that is truly meaningful to me. I wanted something I would have a stronger personal connection to, and after looking at different options, I joined an old colleague and started Solar Ki. The idea of forming a business that would supply solar electric systems to the community resounded with my strong environmental values.
Tell us about your products and services. Why should members of the community patronize your business? Solar Ki provides solar electric designs and installations for homes and businesses. Our designs are quality energy solutions that are cost effective and customer focused. We manage everything required for the project, such as paperwork and grants, so it’s easy for customers to sit back and have a great experience. Listening to what the customers need and want and fulfilling those requirements are very important to us. System customization is a large component of the service we offer, and we work to provide products that best meet our customer’s priorities. We also want to make sure that our solution is not only useful in practical terms, but also as pleasing to the eye as possible!
What challenges have you faced as an independent local business owner? Now there is a lot of competition—big national companies, as well as many new regional electrical companies. There are financial leasing options that are very popular, but that we’ve chosen not to offer; however, they do have the great advantage of enabling more people to have solar systems, which is good! We also used to do a lot more commercial installations, but with the expiration of the business energy tax credit (BETC) and reduced utility-based incentives, the financials are more difficult for business owners.
A big portion of the installs Solar Ki does is a result of customer referrals. Rural installations throughout the Willamette Valley and coast have been particularly rewarding. My background as an engineer has proved to be helpful in providing customers with technical solutions to different projects, such as custom solar patios and battery-based systems.
What do you feel is the impact of local independent businesses on Corvallis? Local independent businesses are an important part of the community, both economically and socially. As a result, Solar Ki tries to guide its practices so that money is kept within the community as much as possible. What that looks like for the business is anything from using lumber from local lumber suppliers to partnering with other local businesses to provide the services the customers desire. For instance, we partner and contract with Metzger Green Build for construction and M&W Electric for electrical work. We also work with local firms to provide services like structural engineering, tree trimming, excavation, concrete work and energy auditing.
What do you enjoy most about owning a local independent business in Corvallis? Corvallis is an amazing community, and the valley is particularly beautiful. My favorite part is the interactions with my customers in our very beautiful environment. There’s something rewarding about being able to go to a client’s home or business, get to know them, and create something they want that’s environmentally beneficial. I find that customer interaction to be very fulfilling, and it’s satisfying to enable others to have more sustainable energy solutions.
How do you incorporate sustainability into your business? Sustainability is a huge part of the business, especially because the very nature of solar electricity has to do with being environmentally conscious and empowering community members to practice sustainable energy use. The way sustainability plays into our practices depends on our customers and how we work with individual clients. For example, we encourage energy efficiency, and we partner with a company that does energy efficiency audits and will tie in our clients to that service.
(Interview and article by Sarah Joh – May 19, 2013)
The Local Business of the Week program is designed to help the Corvallis community identify our locally owned independent businesses by featuring one business each week. The program is part of the Buy Local First campaign co-sponsored by the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition and the Community Independent Business Alliance (CIBA).