This story features Lauren Carson, CEO of Kinect Solar headquartered in Austin, Texas. Kinect is a successful female-owned business offering services in inventory resale, procurement and logistics. Contact Lauren on EnergyBin for help with reselling your excess stock or buying equipment.
What’s it like to build a solar equipment brokering business in a rapidly growing industry? Lauren Carson, CEO of Kinect Solar, knows first-hand.
“I love the solar industry. I think we are at the beginning of a period of accelerated growth.” Lauren speaks from her background in finance and economics. “Prices will continue to come down, and more states intend to make renewables a priority.”
Kinect Solar was formed in 2015. While working in Hawaii as a project financier, Lauren was introduced to the equipment brokering market. She noticed the massive amount of products flowing from overstock and liquidations. Alongside her sister, Annie, she launched Kinect Solar.
Nearly five years later, the company has grown to 18 employees and seven warehouses throughout the United States and Panama. Kinect has mastered transportation logistics to fulfill equipment needs of installers, businesses, consumers and farmers in the U.S. and abroad.
Recalling her intuition to start her own business, Lauren smiles. She was right to pursue the opportunity of solar equipment brokering. In fact, Kinect is recognized by Inc. 5000 as the 162nd fastest growing private company in the U.S. Kinect ranks 20th place for fastest growing female business and 4th for the energy sector.
In total, Kinect has experienced a growth rate of 2,358% in the last three years. The company’s growth is tied to the team culture Lauren and Annie have built and nurtured.
“I love our team. Everyone on the team cares about our customers and the company. We have an attitude of ‘work hard, play hard’. It’s fun to watch everyone grow with the company and in their roles.”
Solar equipment brokers – not your average distributor
Serving customers throughout the U.S., Central America and the Caribbean, Kinect strives to make it as easy as possible to purchase equipment. Whatever customers need – new or used panels, inverters, or other PV system equipment – Kinect works as an extension of their teams to fulfill their needs.
But Kinect should not be thought of as a mere distributor. Rather, Lauren has established her company as a prominent brokerage firm offering services uncommon to the typical distributor.
For instance, Kinect works with many solar companies to resell their excess stock. Sellers have the option of accepting a cash buyout or listing on consignment. For larger companies holding many different SKU numbers, Kinect employees are able to come in, take inventory, pack, and ship miscellaneous lots. Kinect leverages its renewable energy expertise of secondary markets to maximize ROI for their clients.
Lauren recalls working with a company in this manner that was storing pallets of older panels for five years. The panels were 290W Mono 72-cell. Her team handled the logistics of this project on-site at the company’s facility. Kinect’s strength in logistics positions Lauren’s team to handle a variety of projects like this case with special care.
Logistical services span beyond excess inventory collection. Kinect customers enjoy such services as shipping and handling, warehousing, equipment testing and warranty guarantees. To date, Kinect is the only solar-specific logistics company operating in the U.S. market.
Other value-added services Kinect offers include procurement and credit. Over the years, Lauren’s team has formed many relationships with manufacturers, which provides Kinect the unique ability to act as a purchasing agent on behalf of buyers. Plus, buyers can apply for credit direct with Kinect and receive approval within 24 hours.
Skills of a successful solar equipment broker
Thriving as a solar equipment broker in a competitive landscape takes skill. In Lauren’s opinion, a successful broker must:
1. Connect to market information,
2. Know pricing in the market,
3. Offer excellent customer service and follow-up, and
4. Have integrity to always do right by customer expectations.
To access market information, Lauren joined EnergyBin – the industry’s only B2B solar equipment trading community – in 2017.
“EnergyBin is very valuable to see what material is available and where people are selling it. I refer to EnergyBin to gauge market pricing and communicate equipment Kinect has for sale, which gives us market visibility.”
Lauren recommends companies spend quality time getting familiar with product history on EnergyBin to learn which members are looking for what products and brands. She has found success in regularly posting inventory as a way to keep Kinect’s name in front of the EnergyBin community. Lauren also stresses the importance of knowing who the market players are on EnergyBin – who’s buying, who’s selling and who’s doing both.
“EnergyBin is the primary place to go to post buying or selling needs. It is the connecting point – the market hub – to see what equipment is out there. And it’s the #1 place to go for pricing data.”
Market insight leads to new deals
Having market insight at the tips of their fingers gives Lauren’s team a competitive advantage to quickly move inventory – new and used – to customers in the U.S. and abroad.
Not every customer is looking for the latest PV technology. Many customers are in the market for lower wattage panels that better align with their budgets.
“We sell many used panels to rural areas for financial reasons but also for the fact that many customers have no need for a system to last beyond 30 years.”
Lauren notes that the cost savings of going with a lower wattage panel, new or used, affords more consumers the buying power to purchase solar. As legacy panel prices continue to decline, solar energy will become a mainstream commodity.
Market insight coupled with integrity equips Kinect to fulfill customer expectations. Lauren lives by the principle of integrity and has established it as a core value in her business.
What’s next for Kinect?
Anticipating more growth to come, Lauren is preparing for the next evolution of Kinect. Over the last four years, her team focused on building infrastructure. Now, they are ready to scale. Lauren is looking for new team members to join Kinect’s sales department.
When asked what keeps her going in her fast-paced environment, Lauren turns the attention back to her team.
“I love the people I work with. They care so much for one another, for our customers and for the company. Kinect wouldn’t be where we are today were it not for our team’s effort.”
A special thanks...
To Lauren Carson for sharing about how you built a successful solar equipment brokering firm ----- Kinect Solar.