Based upon actual events with names, pictures and locations changed to protect privacy
Last year, Simon a 13-year old science wiz from Lewisville, TX had been exposed to the technology and renewable energy industry through his interactions with his uncle and mentor Benjamin. He had also picked up business acumen from spending time at his parent’s restaurants. Simon’s inquisitive mind has led him to learn a lot from interacting with the employees and customers at his parent’s restaurant and bakery.
Sundays were the busiest days at the restaurant, therefore, his parents usually let Benjamin stay at his uncle’s house for the night. Benjamin was always clouded with thoughts and memories of his parents talking about loans and approaching banks for more financing. He knew that his parents were struggling to pay their employees and had even contemplated closing down the business at one point. This had made Simon sad and also discouraged him from ever wanting to take over the family business in the future. He, therefore, at 13 years of age had already decided that he really wanted to go to college but was still unsure for what.
The Family Business and the Dwindling Fortunes
Simon’s parents are middle-class income earners. His parents run two old family businesses; a restaurant and bakery. They have about 20 employees who operate over two shifts. Both businesses are 50 years old and are an inheritance from Simon’s grandfather. Unfortunately, they didn’t really make any profits due to increased competition in the last few years. Also, operating costs have been rising and their businesses consume a lot of energy. Both parents didn’t get to go to college but they had bigger plans for Simon hoping to put him through college one day.
Uncle Benjamin Bates Inspiration
Simon always looked forward to his visits with his uncle. Whenever visiting his uncle, Simon would get mentored about financial management. On Saturday afternoons they would usually stop to check on his uncle’s electrical repair shop. Simon had also learned a lot about electrical appliances and how they operate. Simon’s uncle was savvy with fiances and so that equipped Simon with some tangible financial skills along the way.
His uncle had a common saying that he would always repeat to Simon. “If you can make easy cash without breaking your back, why not.” But his advice is that Simon should never spend his hard-earned cash carelessly, consider what he was buying, and stick to his budget unless an emergency occurs. Uncle Benjamin kept saying, “Simon, your purchases should make sense and cents.”
Making Sense and Cents
The uncle asked Simon a simple question, “Simon, what would you like to do in the future?” Still undecided, Simon responded that he was still contemplating but that he really loved science. The uncle suggested that Simon should start thinking of creative ways to finance his college education as much as possible to avoid college loans Informing Simon that college education was expensive and can take decades to repay.
That got Simon thinking. His uncle continued, “And remember, when you are studying you are not only spending money but time”. Benjamin went on to say “If you don’t go to college, you most probably will be using that time to make money. Therefore, if you go to college, you should get much more than what you paid for your college education.”
That day Simon learned a big lesson. He understood that education was an investment that should produce a return. He also learned that it’s not just the financial return that matters but also being able to give back to society. And by pursuing a noble thing means that the decision needed to make sense and worth investing in. Most importantly, he understood it would have to be something that he would be passionate about.
Simon’s Utopia Moment on Solar
All this information caused Simon to have a utopia moment. Everything that Simon had learned started to come together and so he started researching solar energy with the hope of helping his parents lower operating costs and keep their business afloat. He realized that he had already gained a wealth of knowledge at no cost and that he might be able to convert that knowledge into sense and cents.
After spending several weeks not doing what a typical 13 year old does, Simon called around to solar companies, talking with the engineers at his uncle’s electrical company and even started crunching numbers in excel. He realized that he had never felt so passionate about something before and that he may have stumbled upon his destiny.
However, he knew that the results needed to prove themselves and that convincing his parents wouldn’t be an easy task and that it could be a risk.
The Smiths Go Solar
After several weeks, discussions, and consultation with his uncle Benjamin about solar energy and its benefits, Simon was ready to approach his parents and convince them to install solar at their restaurant, bakery and home. Simon, approached his parents and explained how they were going to reduce their carbon footprint and save money by switching to solar.
Finally, he made a bold move and bet his parents that should they come up ahead from solar, he would keep the difference but if they incurred a loss, then he was to look for ways to compensate his parents.
Solar Power Profits and Simon’s Career Choice
Simon’s parents installed a 50kW solar system at their home. And a 500kW at their businesses.
In the first year of installing solar energy, Simon’s parents gave him an update. They explained to Simon that solar energy was truly revolutionary and that it had turned their business fortunes around. That their businesses were now recovering from slump that they had suffered due to high operating costs especially from their electric bills.
Although Simon never really cared about the bet and only did it because he truly wanted to help his family, his parents decided to keep their side of the bet and put aside a portion of the solar savings each month to pay for Simon’s college tuition. The total surplus put aside for Simon each month came to an avg of $795 a month. Because Simon’s parents were not paying any loans or incurring many costs from energy, their businesses were now running at a profit.
Finally, the solar experience has Simon convinced to pursue engineering within the renewable energy sector in College.