Sunshine gave Justin Krum the raw material he needed to succeed but it was his drive and ambition that turned the 28-year-old Oakdale native into a captain of the solar industry with his company, 1st Light Energy, which since 2004 has opened offices nationwide and shows no signs of slowing down its expansion.
Krum, a 1998 graduate of Oakdale High School, is a man accustomed to hard work and single-minded determination to achieve what he wants. A standout baseball player in his high school career, he approached his baseball career in the same way he has chased after his solar company goals.
“Whatever I do, I’m going to be the best,” Krum said. “I’m not driven by money, I just want to succeed. I used to spend hours at baseball practice. I wanted to be the best I could be.”
That personal creed has served him well as his company has seen a steady and successful climb in sales, installations, and customer satisfaction in the product.
What started out with only Krum behind the desk answering the phone, out in the field doing the installations, and handling the business aspect, has now blossomed to 40 employees with operations in New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey as well as California with an eye toward adding more locations in the future.
And to think none of this may have happened if it weren’t for the friendly nudge in the right direction from his uncle, who owned a solar company and urged him to try it out.
“I was really reluctant at first,” Krum admitted. “I was working for RJ Murdoch in the construction business and I decided I wanted to go back to school in Utah.”
But as fate would have it, Krum went to work for his uncle for three months and never actually made it back to school as he’d planned.
“I fell in love with the industry,” Krum said. “I’d bought a house in Utah but then only ended up staying a week in that house. I just got that entrepreneurial itch and then saw an opportunity open up in New Jersey.”
Year by year, Krum continued to build and expand his fledgling solar business with meteoric success until it has become the name it is today.
To say he’s done well is a gross understatement, which is something he takes with quiet modesty, as he’s not the kind of man who is prone to crowing about his achievements. As a father of three daughters, a husband, and a Mormon, he’s the living embodiment of a man who is trying to live a good life, provide for his family, and yet do something beneficial for the environment.
But to be fair, Krum is no “granola.” In other words, although he traded his gas-guzzler in for a hybrid Toyota Prius and the company mixes its own bio-diesel for their fleet of cars, he’s not a die-hard environmentalist. He recognizes that while “going green” is trendy right now and everyone is interested to some degree in protecting the environment, it wasn’t until recently that it became easier and more affordable to actually implement energy saving measures such as solar.
“It has to be mainstream. Lives are more complicated and busy in spite of the technology that is supposed to make our lives easier,” Krum said. “Education is a big component of what we do. We try to figure out how to make it work for the customer. We handle everything. It’s as easy and simple as we can possibly make it. We want to figure out a way to make it easier to be environmentally-friendly.”
To that end, 1st Light Energy provides renewable energy to commercial and residential buildings with partnerships with some of the biggest companies in the world including Home Depot and BP Solar. Krum is big on impeccable customer service, high reliability and no pressure sales.
They’ve installed over 900 solar installations throughout the United States, with 25 in Oakdale alone, and Krum is interested in expanding to wind projects in the future.
“We’ve played with some wind projects but we’ve been so busy with solar that we haven’t had the chance to really get into the wind aspect but definitely we’d like to look into it for the future. There are a lot of options out there in solar energy. You can take it from so many angles.”
Five years ago, the energy companies weren’t embracing alternative energy with open arms but today, there’s a better attitude, Krum said.
“The opposition has lessened from the other energy companies. Solar takes pressure off the grid. All in all, everyone has done well in embracing it,” Krum said.
But Krum admits with a smile that he’s not daunted by challenges but rather, invigorated by them.
“It gets me fired up. I want to figure out how to overcome them,” he said.
No doubt, it’s exactly that kind of can-do attitude that has put Krum on top with the wind at his back and the sunshine on his face.
For more information on 1st Light Energy, go to their website at www.1stlightenergy.com or call their toll-free number at 866-solar50.