Social Enterprise students: Who are they? What did they do before they got to CBS? Why did they choose social enterprise? What are they doing now?
This week’s Social Enterprise Alumni Spotlight features Chelle Izzi ’04, Director of Energy Services at ConsumerPowerline in New York City.
AF: What did you do before Columbia Business School?
CI: Before business school, I worked in an international exchange organization, a waste-to-energy startup, the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, a consumer products company, and the United Nations. Despite searching both the public and private sectors, I couldn’t find the balance between a well-run, high-growth company and a mission-driven organization that devotes its resources to making a positive social impact.
AF: Why did you choose Social Enterprise?
CI: I arrived at CBS determined to find an opportunity in a market-driven, socially-conscious organization. I knew I wanted to make a career change into the field of clean energy. Clean energy technology is a growing industry that is inherently a social enterprise. At CBS, I was an active SEC member, conducted research on venture capital investments in clean technology, took an alternative energy class at SIPA, and was selected to be student advisor for the Earth Institute.
Three classmates and I wrote a business plan for an energy efficiency business which made it into the second round of the GSVC competition and was selected for the Entrepreneurial Greenhouse Program. Writing the business plan became a vehicle to engage professors in in-depth conversations. In fact, I was introduced to the CEO of ConsumerPowerline by Professor Geoffrey Heal who teaches Business in Society: Doing Well by Doing Good.
AF: What are you doing now?
CI: Today, I am the Director of Energy Services for ConsumerPowerline. As NYC’s largest demand-side management company, ConsumerPowerline works with residential, commercial and institutional property owners and facility management companies to identify measures to reduce and control energy consumption for short periods of time. For firms that can commit to reducing their consumption with less than 24 hours notice, ConsumerPowerline quantifies, validates and trades this reduced demand (“negawatts”) in NY State’s deregulated energy market. Every kilowatt of demand reduction can be sold in the market at the same price as a kilowatt of new power production.
As a true social enterprise, our revenues are based on our ability to create a positive social impact. We only earn revenues by identifying and selling more “negawatts”. If we can build a large enough customer base, we may one day be able to provide as much energy as 3-4 large power plants. It’s truly a free-market solution to rising energy prices.
For the first time in my life, I don’t have to choose between the efficiencies of the market or the fulfillment of the public sector.