Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Vanessa Edmonds, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Utility 2030 Collaborative, located in Alpharetta, GA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Founded in January 2020, the Utility 2030 Collaborative (U2030) is a diverse family of utility professionals building the utility of the future through people-centered transformation. As a membership-based organization, our "customers" include electric, gas, and water utility professionals representing IOUs, municipalities, coops, and vendor partners. Our goal is to delight utility customers and employees as their energy and water needs evolve.
We host events and stay connected throughout the year through virtual workgroups that connect on the U2030 Collective Brain Platform, our integrated workspace, and content library. In 2022 and 2023, our areas of concentration include:
- Customer experience
- Workforce Development
- Beyond the Meter Products and Services
- Infrastructure Modernization
Tell us about yourself
My husband and I are parents to three nearly grown children. We've spent our lives traveling throughout the U.S. and abroad and are continuously awestruck by the beauty of our planet and the diverse people who call it home. The energy and water sectors face significant challenges related to the energy transition, water conservation, rising costs, self-service expectations, and so much more. I believe that the best possible solutions will be discovered by utility leadership teams that are as diverse as the customers they serve. My passion is creating safe spaces to bring them together and offering fresh meeting designs that spark unexpected creativity and belonging.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Surrounding myself with individuals who challenge and inspire me is my biggest accomplishment, along with creating opportunities to listen to the people involved in transformation—utility leaders and teams, utility customers, consultants, technology providers, and regulators—and translating their needs into a shared vision for the U2030 Collaborative.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
People today are busier than ever. With so many competing opportunities, it is difficult to build a following from scratch. This was especially true for U2030 because we were a new market entrant when Covid turned the world upside down. What I've learned is that "no" usually means "not right now." Either way, it's usually not personal. Chima Chijioke, Vice President for BGE and U2030 board member, said, "Failure doesn't define you; it refines you when you learn to fail forward." This is a great piece of advice from a great utility leader.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
In addition to failing forward (aka failing better):
- Discover your passion and build a business around it. Entrepreneurship, especially the first two years, isn't easy. You're more likely to stay the course if you care deeply about your customers and how you can help them.
- To resonate with the masses, you need to seek varying perspectives and people who don't agree with you.
- Give yourself grace and take breaks. Breaks can prevent "decision fatigue," allow you to refuel and ultimately enable better decision-making.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
The energy transition and water conservation aren't just "tree hugger" or "left" priorities. If we want to continue having access to safe, reliable, and affordable energy and water, we each need to find our "why" and "how" on start focusing on our commonalities, not our differences.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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