A baby boy inspired Jennifer Kearney to launch her business — and a dedication to people has powered it ever since.
Kearney founded Energy 360 in 2007, soon after taking maternity leave from her job as director of energy programs at the New York Presbyterian Healthcare System. The new mother was surprised when her request for more flexible hours was declined. Instead, management suggested, what if she started a consulting business and made the hospital her first client?
Kearney, who had previously worked as a consultant, seized the opportunity for professional control and autonomy. She signed the hospital as a client and quickly added Columbia University as well. By the end of year one, Energy 360 had more business than Kearney could handle herself. So in 2008, she merged it with Gotham Energy Advisor, a two-year-old consulting firm with offices in New York and Boston that had staff, infrastructure and a book of commercial real estate business, creating Gotham 360.
“I started my company six months after having my first child, and it felt like giving birth to two babies,” Kearney says.
From the start, Kearney, who is 47, dedicated herself to building a business with high ethical standards. The firm, which charges a monthly retainer, has resisted adopting the broker model that has taken over the energy-management field. By staying independent of suppliers and contractors, Kearny says, Gotham 360 can deliver objective recommendations about how clients can best meet their efficiency, conservation and sustainability goals while strengthening bottom lines.
The model has worked. Gotham 360, which has 13 consultants in offices in New York and Boston, is built almost entirely on client referrals and repeat business and hauls in $1.8 million in annual revenue. Next year, the company plans to expand into government contracts.
Success her way
Kearney says Gotham 360’s growth has been slower than it might have been because of her commitment to maintaining work/life balance — she lives on the Jersey Shore with her husband and eight-year-old son and loves to surf. But steady gains are fine with her. “Success to me is the delivery of goals on my own terms,” she says — including being good to clients, having time with family and mentoring the next generation of women engineers.
Indeed, mentoring women is now at the heart of Gotham 360’s operations. The firm has as internship program that has hosted 20 female interns to date. Interns gain real-world experience working with clients and help with industry networking. Most land “dream” jobs in large institutions at the end, and some help fill Gotham 360’s own needs for energy and talent.
Kearney says young female graduates often lack the resources and confidence needed to advance in the male-dominated engineering and energy industries, and she is determined to build them up.
“Women tend to overthink, overplan, hold themselves back and say ‘I am not ready yet.’ Men plan less and play the rest by ear. They are not afraid because they know they will figure it out later,” she says. “Women must have the confidence and conviction of ‘you can do it, even though you thought you could not.’”
Why do you deserve to be on the Power List?
“I have built a highly successful energy-management consulting firm with a vibrant mentoring program designed to help other young women succeed in their chosen fields. We are committed to “paying it forward” and, as we have been afforded tremendous opportunities, we believe in offering opportunities to the next generation.”