Next Step Living was founded by Geoff Chapin in 2008 with the goal of making it easy for New England residents to make energy efficiency improvements in their homes. Since that time, the unique set of assets Massachusetts offers for starting and growing clean energy ventures has helped the company to grow dramatically – to more than 185 people now employed throughout the state helping homeowners achieve greater energy savings.
In the beginning, Massachusetts native Geoff Chapin commuted from California, spending nights on friends’ sofas (and even occasionally in his former office), while he put a capable team together to launch Next Step Living. He knew his nascent company had a bright future in Massachusetts, and deliberately located it to capture the greatest opportunity for success. “For one thing,” Chapin says, “I knew that people in Massachusetts were like me – they were ready to make a difference – that fact, in combination with the abundance of old houses and long winters led me to believe that the Massachusetts market was ready for the services we planned to provide. And when the state’s aggressive energy and environmental policy framework was passed, it sealed the deal.”
What Chapin and his colleagues couldn’t have envisioned was the full extent to which Massachusetts’ new legislation would help foster their growth. For example, the state’s “least cost procurement” policy, passed in 2008, creates an unconstrained market where energy efficiency competes with power generation to meet consumption needs at the lowest possible cost. This policy makes energy efficiency the “first fuel” by requiring that all utilities meet the energy needs of their customers using all energy efficiency resources that are cost-effective or less expensive than supply. Chapin and his team at Next Step Living realized that utility partnerships offered a unique opportunity to bring their programs to a broad base of customers, while also helping the utilities meet their efficiency goals.
The company has since partnered with some of the state’s many workforce development programs, including the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center-funded Pathways out of Poverty program, to tailor curricula that trains workers specifically to suit industry needs. Many of these training programs serve veterans groups, workers who have been laid off from other industries, and other disadvantaged or otherwise underemployed individuals. According to Chapin, “The training programs help us bring qualified workers on board. Our goal is to help them develop skills within our business to transform that first clean energy job into a successful clean energy career, right here in the local community.”
In the fall of 2010, Next Step Living received an Energy Efficiency Service Innovation grant from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. The grant supports the continued growth of the company’s core residential energy efficiency business, while enhancing its potential to provide additional services that will achieve deeper energy savings for their customers. They are also expanding into offering renewable energy and helping other new technologies find markets in the homes they serve. Next Step Living found that such grants are just one form of financial support available in the Massachusetts clean energy community. They were also able to attract financial investment from local investors, like Rob Day of Boston-based Black Coral Capital. In explaining his choice to invest in Next Step Living, Day says, “It was a no-brainer to see their growth potential. By locating in Massachusetts, they clearly had access to a sizeable market and could apply lessons learned here in scaling up to additional locations.”
The Next Step Living success story exemplifies the goals the Governor had in mind when establishing a clean energy center in the State. “At the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, we’re investing in and working with the whole clean energy community to advance all forms of clean energy technology from the drawing board to the global marketplace,” said Patrick Cloney, Executive Director of MassCEC. “Working as a partner with Next Step Living helps us to build a strong workforce and create jobs—helping to create revolutionary change that will benefit our society, economy and environment for generations to come.”