Gabriel Flores 0:00
Hello, everyone, and welcome to the shades of entrepreneurship. This is your host, Mr. Gabriel Flores. today. I'm here with David Burchfield. David. How are we doing?
David Burchfield 0:10
I'm doing great, Gabriel. Thank you.
Gabriel Flores 0:12
So David, where where are we calling from?
David Burchfield 0:15
I am deep Northeast Portland by the airport,
Gabriel Flores 0:19
deep in Northeast Portland by the airport, just a stone's throw away from the southwest side of Portland, Oregon. So David, thank you so much for joining the show. I really do appreciate it. Before we get into birch energy. Let's go ahead and introduce Who is David give them a little background family education. Who is David Burchfield?
David Burchfield 0:40
Yeah, well, I grew up in Portland. I'm a Taurus. So I'm pretty stubborn. I have an undergraduate in renewable energy engineering from Oregon Tech. I have a master's degree in Engineering and Technology Management from Portland State University. I started my career as an H back controls application engineer. And then I moved on to an energy analyst position at a clean tech company called North right. And that's where I found my love for small business. So at North Ryde, I was promoted to the director of engineering with my five year tenure there. And I helped North rights sale to jewel, Jewel smart. I think that was back in 2018. And then, in 2018, I left North right and went to Nexus and started working full time, and I started birch energy services. And then in 2021. Well, actually, in 2020, April 2020, I was the first employee of birch energy services. And right now, birch energy has 18 employees, and we're looking to to pretty much double our revenue next year. Yeah, so that's the that's who I am, where I came from.
Gabriel Flores 2:02
So for the folks at home, what is birch energy?
David Burchfield 2:06
Well, I can explain birch energy with I guess you can call it the Golden Circle, the why the how and why, why we do what we do. Our vision is to normalize racial inclusivity in the clean energy economy, while mitigating the effects of climate change. You know, nowadays, they can call that climate justice, but we kind of feel like we've been doing climate justice before they got the cool name, climate justice, we live at the intersection of utility programs, demand side management programs, energy efficiency programs and the communities served by these programs. So we're we're we're we're a disrupter meaning we're trying to disrupt oppressive and racist structures in the institutions as well as encourage and bring in more minorities to the clean energy economy. And, and that's what we're, we're here to do. And that's why we do it. Now how we do it? Well, we do it through data driven. And people focus. What I mean by that is, we, we look at the data and we make decisions, but we understand all decisions are made based on emotion. And there are people behind the numbers. So we that's how we do what we do. And then what we do is pretty simple. We do demand side management, general contracting, and di consulting.
Gabriel Flores 3:28
And those are specifically for the energy field. Correct.
David Burchfield 3:32
It's specifically for the energy field. I mean, H fac for general contracting, pretty much anything that goes into the building nowadays is part of the clean energy economy, or we hope it it needs to be, you know,
Gabriel Flores 3:44
yeah, so let's define it, what would you say is the clean energy economy?
David Burchfield 3:51
Um, it's, in my opinion, the clean energy economy, any type of product service, or anything that we do, it should, it should go in the order of people, meaning it should help the people first, then it should help the planet and then we should get the profit, it should go in that order people planet and profit, we have to think about the communities we serve, not just the money we want to make, and no create a better world for all because there's no sustainable future without equity.
Gabriel Flores 4:23
That's a really great point. And, you know, I think putting the planet and the people in front of the profit is is imperative for sustainability, you know, long term sustainability. Now, you mentioned you know, you're you're starting out your team, you've grown you now have 18 employees. How difficult has it to start a business? Is this your first business?
David Burchfield 4:44
Oh, this is our first business. Yes. And we the difficulty I look back on it right now, and I'm just in awe of what we've been able to accomplish. And at the same time, I think that, you know, I was a little crazy You see back in the day, but I'm very happy that I was. It takes a stubbornness and a faith in what you're trying to do to make things make things become manifested, you know, you have to manifest your dream. And a lot of us entrepreneurs, it takes a special kind of crazy.
Gabriel Flores 5:23
So what about what about financing the start in business did you do with grassroot efforts? Did you venture capitalist? How did you kind of grow from one employee to 18?
David Burchfield 5:34
Yeah, that's a good, great, great, great place to start. So back in 2017, I started birch energy. First, as a home energy auditing firm, I was going to do the home energy audits because Portland just came out with the home energy auditing score that was had to be a part of every house that was sold. So I thought it was a good way in but I quickly found out that that wasn't my it just wasn't me. When quazy, while Tang came on, as my first partner at Birch energy services, he brought more of a business side of us of what we're doing. And I was a technical might. So we started looking at more at commercial property, commercial properties and commercial the commercial industry. And we pretty much financed it on our own. And then doctor to show me who came in and brought more technical expertise to our team. And we continue to just try to create, get our first job, you know, get that first contract, even if you have to pay for it, you got to get it to make it, you know, be a part of birch energy service make put it under our belt. But um, yeah, it's just been a it's been a lot of scrapping and hustling just to tell you the truth, when it comes to starting the business with no, no venture capital, or, but from there, we've obtained loans and in pretty much you know, finance the company based on our cash flow, and in projects, and we've put in we've, we've put every extra dollar back into the company.
Gabriel Flores 7:21
You know, you mentioned some of the difficulties in particular, like some of the financing, right? What would you say, has been one of the most difficult things that you're experiencing? As a first time entrepreneur, what would you say? is like, this is the hardest part I didn't think about, would it be this difficult?
David Burchfield 7:42
That's a That's a? That's a great question. So, you know, when you first become an entrepreneur, you like, yeah, I want to be my own boss. But at the end of the day, you figure that being an entrepreneur is not about being your own boss, it's about being a servant leader. And at the same time, I find out that I have about 15 bosses because all of those bosses are my are my customers. So you know, me being a people pleaser, by nature, it was really easy for me to transition into that servant leadership type role. But the hardest thing for me as you know, I don't always get my way. And I'm a stubborn person. But I have to have the humility, and as well as the just wisdom to know when people are talking good sense into my head. So you know, it's just getting out of my own way.
Gabriel Flores 8:36
Yeah, great. Okay. Yeah, that's a great, great point. You know, sometimes I think, you know, getting out of our own ways, you know, what sometimes gets stuck in our own head sometimes, you know, now, what would you say has been easy, hasn't been anything easy about this process?
David Burchfield 8:50
Oh, I love the process of looking at a project that has never been done before, and then completing it and being successful. And, you know, just smiling and showing that we, we've accomplished our goals, just the problem solving nature of who I am, has always been the fun part. And yeah, that that has been, that has been a blast. Also, it hasn't been it wasn't super easy, but a lot of the skills that I learned at Portland State University in the Engineering and Technology Management, a master's degree I was able to apply out of the gate. So the scaling part, the internal processes, the operations, you know, time cards, all the business administration you have to do. I knew that was important from the beginning. So it's been a it's been a it's been a savior to us because we've been able to scale so fast and everybody's like, how are you growing so fast? Well, we put these processes in place. out of the gate. So that to me, as you know, it's a good feather in my cap, you know?
Gabriel Flores 10:06
Yeah. And you know, you brought you brought up Portland State University and I'm gonna give him a, we're gonna go and put them on a pedestal real quick, okay, because I graduated from Portland State University actually met my wife, Portland State University. And I really enjoyed the business program, as well, I felt that the professor's were very engaging and extremely knowledgeable. They're very part of the system. They're part of the entrepreneurial ecosystem, right? They're really, really part of it. Now, what would you say? You mentioned it briefly, what would you say was the most impactful thing about attending Portland State for you, especially kind of preparing yourself for this business or entrepreneurial journey? What would you say is like one of those things you learned from Portland State that you're really glad you attended, and were able to have that opportunity to learn that topic.
David Burchfield 10:51
Um, the confidence that Dr. Dr. Dime, who runs a department over there, the ETM department, I remember one of our first classes, he said, he said, if you're in the Engineering and Technology Management Program, and your plan is to just be a cog in the wheel of a cog in the machine of a company, then you're probably in the wrong program. But if you want to lead, and run a company and have the understanding of how to do that, this is the program for you. And when when he said that, I'm like, Okay, I'm in the right place. And I was super focused on every class. And it just gave me the motivation that when I get through this, I'll be ready.
Gabriel Flores 11:33
Have you ever had a moment of self doubt?
David Burchfield 11:36
Oh, man, self doubt is, it creeps on me round every day at 8pm.
Gabriel Flores 11:45
I didn't get over it.
David Burchfield 11:47
I know it's temporary. I know that all emotions are temporary, you know, I've been able to self reflect and see that, hey, every day later at night, I get kind of tired. And then when I get tired, I'm not able to, you know be as motivational or as stubborn, and I start doubt starts getting into my head. It's more like the bad guy on my shoulder, the little devil on my shoulder. So like, I'm able to distinguish between, hey, don't listen to that guy on my on my left shoulder. And let's just let him talk. And we'll wake up in the morning and do this again.
Gabriel Flores 12:25
You know, one of the things you mentioned is being motivational. You know, waking up what, what motivates you? What wakes you up every morning and gets you going?
David Burchfield 12:35
I really feel like that. Okay, so here are backup. When I started college, my second time, I was going to be a drug and alcohol counselor. So I always love talking to people. Now, my father in law at the time or my perspective, Father law at the time, he has a PhD in geotechnical engineering. So he's the one who said, David, you're good at math, why don't you go be an engineer. So he coached me and helped me through my whole college career. His name is Tom McCormack, and, and if it wasn't for him, I wouldn't understand the dynamics of the professional world, especially as it is an engineering. So this man came into my life, mentored me, and supported me and my family as I went through college. And then after it was all over, I was like, Tom, what can I do for you, because this, what you have done for me is, is priceless. And he says, David, this is what family does. And all I want you to do is to take care of my grandchildren and pay it forward. So when I had the opportunity to really go in to the into orbit, when I first got the contract from Energy Trust of Oregon in 2020. And it was because of the color of my skin, meaning you won this contract and you it's not like we have skills, but the reason why I was so sought after was because the color of my skin, I made it as part of my personal integrity is like okay, birch energy is going to be all about bringing more minorities to the clean energy economy. So paying back all my mentors, paying back the people that got me here is really my motivational factor. And I just love watching people grow.
Gabriel Flores 14:25
Yeah, yeah, like, so energy company. How do you how do you grow it? You know, you're talking about building it and for the future? How do you build an energy company?
David Burchfield 14:36
Well, the energy company, it's a consulting company, and we consult for the demand side management of the grid. This niche or this industry has been around since before energy savings was cool, right? I mean, it's been around since the 90s. Engine energy engineers have been going into buildings and assessing the buildings from With energy perspective for a very long time. So I say it's all about people. So when it comes to growing a consulting company, you have to have a solid vision and mission, it cannot just be, hey, you're gonna come in, put your eight hours in, do your engineering work in skate, because the generations growing up today, they don't just want to make money, they want to make a difference, right? So having that guiding light of our vision as like, this is our purpose. And then being able to leave with that vision unapologetically, as made birch energy, a place that people want to be. And, and it's, you know, again, I'm in awe of the talent that we have at Birch energy services. And it's all been because of the mission and vision that we're going after, is authentic, and I hope it stays righteous.
Gabriel Flores 16:01
Yeah, and I'm looking, I'm looking at your team, you know, you got James, Jacob, James, you're gonna get your Philip. You got Matthew, you got you got a whole squad of folks now, how important has it been to build this team? To make, like, make your team successful? How important is a team to be successful?
David Burchfield 16:22
It's the it's the it's the number one factor, especially in a consulting in a consulting role. The team birches, all the team is birch and birches, a team if it wasn't for the team, if I didn't take care of my employees, and my employees can't take care of our customers and our customers wouldn't be happy. So birch energy standpoint is we are a people first company and it starts with our employees. And so as long as we keep the employees happy, we expected that it's more of like a trickle up effect. It's, you know, pay it forward. So it's, the team is the most important thing at Birch.
Gabriel Flores 17:03
Now, how do you how you've, you've been working with a lot of folks, right? Let's you know, I mean, you mentioned the Oregon or industry Trust, the Energy Trust of Oregon, US Department energy, ask energy, Portland, General Electric, I mean, the list goes on. How do you as as you know, an entrepreneur in a new world, right, you know, a pretty niched field, how do you go and attract new clients? How do you build your clientele.
David Burchfield 17:30
And so I'm able to, so my motto is, I'm willing to show what I can do, at a reduced, I'm not going to say a reduced costs or reduced price, but I'm willing to create a relationship with the customer. Walk through it slowly. So they're comfortable with who we are, and then under promise and over perform, and then talk about the next project, because in my mind that our best marketing is good, is producing a good product so that we can have repeat sales. So every new customer, I don't care if it's a $10,000 contract, or a million dollar contract, they're important, because whatever we produce for them, lives forever. Like in the consulting world, our reports live forever, what we have stated that needs to be done lives forever. So three years from now, if somebody sees a birch Energy Report, I want them to say, Whoa, that's a that's a good looking piece of of work right there. Let's go talk to birch energy.
Gabriel Flores 18:37
Yeah, let's, let's actually talk about the report, what what would you say, you know, what are some items? You know, a client wants to hire you, they might be listening? What are some items they can expect to find in the report?
David Burchfield 18:50
What are some items? So let's say I'm looking at a building, and it's 200,000 square feet, and it's an office building? Well, the first thing we would do is we would do a utility bill analysis. And then we would be able to show them the energy use intensity, the UI, it's a normalized factor per square foot. And then we would be able to show them, hey, this is where your energy use is at now. And then we would show them what we can do to decrease their energy use, and those are called those are energy efficient measures eams. So the next thing we will do is we have defined the energy efficient measures, and then define the ROI on those measures. So the return on investment based on energy savings. And then after that we explain how the energy efficient measures are installed. We explain how you should commission those energy efficient measures to make sure they work and then we talk about next steps and other things to continue to make your building more sustainable, more healthy and more energy efficient.
Gabriel Flores 19:57
Now are you also able to provide So there's individuals with recommendations of who to work for to install some of this information that you're providing.
David Burchfield 20:06
Yes, so we're also a general contractor. So one of the things that we do is like, let's say I go to a building and I ask them, Do you Do you have a contractor preferred contractor that you work with? And if they say, No, do you have any recommendations? I would say, yes, we would have recommendations and our recommendations is, first thing we would do is we would try to employ business enterprise or emerging small businesses, or women owned businesses, because we want to live up to our vision, and continue to infuse the clean energy economy into those subcontractors. Because a lot of the subcontractors that we work with a lot of them, they know what they're doing, they just don't know how to tie the tie together with the clean energy economy. So they really just need a little bit of extra help have understanding of how this makes the building more efficient. And then they start to see their additions to the clean energy economy, and they start to get that understanding of where the future is going.
Gabriel Flores 21:07
Yeah, that makes sense. You know, it's kind of like you don't know what you don't know. Right now. The Clean Energy world is certainly still in its infancy stages, right? We're still kind of growing now. What advice would you have for individuals that might be have a, you know, multi use building? What advice would you have outside you know, of getting your contacting you and going through the process? But what advice what are some things they should be looking out for right now.
David Burchfield 21:33
Just looking out for right now. Make sure your ex back units are off when nobody's in the building. That's one thing. Buildings conditioning all night long is a is a large waste of energy is also make sure that you're getting good outside air into your building, because healthy indoor air, make sure make sure employees more productive and reduces the sick days. And it's actually worth more to the bottom line of the employer than the energy savings himself. So that is also something that I would highly, you know, advise aren't
Gabriel Flores 22:13
that smart actually didn't really think about that. I really do feel like, you know, fresh air, you know, you open up that back door and just feel so energized now. Now for the folks listening. How can they get more information about David, where can they find you website social media, they want to learn more about birch energy? Where can they go?
David Burchfield 22:30
Well, they can go to Birch energy.com. And just visit our website and check out some of the stuff we do. You can also link up with me on LinkedIn. Just look at my name David Burchfield, and you'll find them. I'm the only one in Portland. So that's how you can get
Gabriel Flores 22:50
to birch. Awesome David Burchfield. I do appreciate the fellow Portland State Vikings alum. Oh man, I thank you for you know, putting them I love making a plug when I can from Portland State University because I do really, really great institution. David, thank you again so much. Is there anything you'd like to say before we leave
David Burchfield 23:09
I hope everybody enjoys the rest of 2022 and we're looking forward to showing you a birch is going to do in 2023
Gabriel Flores 23:19
I love it. I love it. And so folks that listening please again, follow me on at the shades of E and all the social sites including Tik Tok. And please subscribe to the shades of entrepreneurship newsletter by following our by visiting at the shades of e.com. The birch energy information will be there the week before the episode airs that week the episode airs and the week after the episode airs they'll also be dedicated podcast page, so you can go ahead and look at this podcast page with the transcription after the episode including information of how to get to birch energy in case you forget how to find Birch energy.com. We'll have the links embedded there on the website. David Burchfield, thank you again so much for joining the show. For those listening at home please again, follow me at the shades of E and visit at the shades of e.com Thank you and have a great night.