When Ariel Fan ’10 started her company, she never thought she would end up working alongside a Webb classmate and best friend. But she has found a trusted partner in Edman Urias ’10.
"We work as a team and it has been incredible working with one of my best friends from Webb," Fan said. "We have each other's back personally and professionally."
Urias has helped Fan build her company GreenWealth Energy Solutions
, a leading hotel energy management company providing sustainability solutions for real estate owners. They help hotels and commercial buildings capture government incentives and go green by assisting them with any of 20 different types of technologies ranging from LED lights to water-saving fixtures.
President and CEO Fan wants hotels to see that these options are economically and energy efficient. Take LED light bulbs for example. If a company switches to LED light bulbs, it will reduce electricity by 50 to 90 percent, depending on the type of bulb, according to Fan.
She started the Los Angeles-based company in October 2016 after she won Southern California Edison's Energy Efficiency Award for her impact at over 50 hotels and commercial buildings owned by Brighton Management. The award was a catalyst for starting her company.
"I realized that so many utility incentives and proven energy technologies were not being taken advantage of by the hotel and commercial real estate industry," Fan said. "There's so much grant money to get people to go green, but they don't have access to it. ... I started this company to build transparency between utilities and government institutions and help real estate owners capture this funding in order to increase their own profitability."
This company is Fan's largest business venture. She previously started an import-export company with Taiwanese jewelry while studying environmental policy, art history and economics at Barnard College in New York City, and later started an events company.
But GreenWealth Energy Solutions' focus highlights Fan's passion for the environment — something she devoted time to at Webb. She founded Webb's Project Earth club during her freshman year, organized an Unbounded Thinkers Symposium on sustainability, led Service Council beach cleanups, sold environmentally friendly tote bags called "The Inconvenient Bag” to raise money for her club, and even tried to ban Kleenex when she learned forests were being cut down to make them
She believes founding a club and communicating with people as a freshman and throughout high school made her stronger as a person.
"If I didn't have that voice at a young age, I don't think I would've been as outspoken as I am now, speaking about bigger issues and economic issues in the business world," Fan said.
Urias, who worked in the video game industry after graduating from Georgetown University, joined Fan's team early this year. He never thought he would end up working in this industry, but has "always been a supporter of sustainability and doing our part for the earth," he said.
He handles operations and vendor management for the company.
"With startups, our schedule gets crazy sometimes and we need to accomplish all tasks among a small team, so it's invaluable being able to work with someone who I trust 100 percent and have a 11-year friendship with," Fan said.
Urias echoed Fan's thoughts, noting they are accomplishing a lot.
"We know each other really well so we don't have the barriers that two brand new people would have," he said. "We have already been through it all. When we need to be business, we can be business and we also support each other emotionally, too".
Looking forward, the business is expanding to Denver and New York City, Fan said. The company is also moving into Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator
next year, an incubator that will give them access to additional resources and the chance to work alongside and develop connections with about 30 other energy companies.
Their advice for Webb students:
Fan: "Start businesses early. Don't try to be perfect, but if you have a project idea, go for it."
For VWS girls specifically: "The VWS network is the strongest of any other network I've ever seen. … People sometimes get scared and they don't want to reach out to people and it's intimidating, but taking advantage of the Vivian Webb network is super valuable. Especially if you're just trying to get mentorship or trying to figure your early career out."
Urias: "Don't worry if you don't know exactly what you're going to do right away. … In the end it really works out if you have a passion and good people along your side that are always going to support you no matter what you do. It really doesn't matter what you do as long as you're happy with what you're doing and have good people to support you."