A Big Bet on Solar That Paid Off

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The first time Daniel Sullivan was introduced to solar, he was hooked. He said he knew right away that it would take off, even though it was an expensive and somewhat obscure technology at the time. He was an electrician, so he brought the business opportunity to his employer.

"I went to my boss and I said, look, this is something that I think is going to be a big deal," Sullivan said.

His boss shut him down. And that was just the first time someone told Sullivan that his big solar bet was a loser.

In the latest episode of I Made it in San Diego, a podcast illuminating the stories behind the region’s businesses and entrepreneurs, Voice of San Diego’s Lisa Halverstadt sits down with Sullivan to talk about how and why he went all in on solar despite the naysayers' warnings.

Sullivan got a slow start, but his persistence eventually led to the creation of a solar company that now pulls in $50 million a year and operates in San Diego, Orange County and the Inland Empire. He says his main motivation to build the business was the California energy crisis, the oil and gas industry and his newborn son.

"So it all came together for me that this is what I need to do," he said. "This is what makes sense and we can't continue to be beholden to an industry that wreaks havoc all over the world."

Sullivan's road to success wasn't smooth. He explains how he went from sleeping in a garage and living paycheck-to-paycheck to running a multimillion-dollar business.

"It was really a sink-or-swim situation," he said. "You know when you don't have a backstop, when you don't have a safety net, when you don't have a means to provide for yourself unless you succeed at every stop, you're very mindful of every decision you make. ... There's no room for error."

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