Pre-Y2K (Year 2000), Brian Brown and his wife thrived in the information technology field. As a Network Administrator, he was helping reprogram and test computer systems to avoid a technological disaster after the 20th century came to an end. However, only a few months after the new century began, Brian was out of a job. His wife lost her information technology (“IT”) job a year and a half later after 9/11, as the “dot.com” industry took a nosedive.
Brian found himself unemployed off and on and overqualified for many IT jobs. Word about the IT gravy train had spread. Suddenly there were more applicants chasing fewer jobs. Brian decided to work part-time as a swim coach while he continued to look for full-time work. His wife was unemployed for six months and then found a job as a pharmaceutical consultant making 60% less than she made before she lost her IT job.
Money was tight. The couple had a young daughter to support. Brian looked outside the IT field and landed a job working as a fueler at O’Hare International Airport. He experienced hazardous outdoor weather and jet fuel fumes. He decided to follow an electrician career path. After all, his father was an electrical engineer and he had a degree in electronics.
Through a friend, he secured a full-time electrician job in October 2006. It was a boon as it paid more than his swim coach and fueler jobs combined. In addition, the job provided ample family time. Brian and his family had finally found financial security once again.
It was around this time that Brian learned through his wife’s European business associate about renewable energy. He aimed to make his home more energy efficient through solar power. He registered for energy seminars through the Midwest Regional Energy Association and purchased solar equipment for his house. In August 2007, one week after he installed his solar power system, a storm hit and Brian’s immediately reaped rewards for his work as his house was the only one in the neighborhood that retained power. Soon thereafter, a friend learned of Brian’s work and asked Brian to make his house more energy efficient too.
Two months later, in October 2007, a family member died. Brian’s employer refused to support his desire to attend the funeral. Brian lost his electrician job. He was devastated. His family had become comfortable and he once again found himself struggling to find work. Unemployment compensation could not keep up with the piling debt. Jobs in the IT and electrical fields were scarce. His family had no health insurance and his wife made just over the limit to qualify for state health programs.
On New Year’s Eve, 2007, fed up with his job search, Brian resolved to start his own renewable energy business. The positive experience with his friend’s home and his own home sparked an idea that he could help the environment by remodeling houses to increase energy efficiency, providing residents with tax incentives and educating them about renewable energy. Brian used all the money that he earned from the work on his friend’s house and invested it into his new company, Eco Sun, Inc.. He ignored the discouraging words from family members and forged ahead. He sought business tips and advice from the Illinois government website and worked out of his home. An accountant friend helped him with initial tax and financial issues. In less than a year, Brian’s business is booming. He is meeting his expenses and turning a profit. He continues to acquire more certifications to increase his solar installation capabilities. His family, once critical, now fervently supports his endeavor.
Brian says that when he lost his job, he could not imagine being happier than he was with the electrician job. The job provided comfort and financial security. If the electrical company hadn’t released him, Eco Sun would never have existed and Brian would not have found a better life. The loss of his job forced him to take a risk that has given the environment another champion.