This January will mark the fifth anniversary of establishing ePAVE and my commitment to climate action. ePAVE is a patented, reflective, cool pavement coating material specifically engineered to preserve asphalt and concrete while reducing impacts from climate change.
Getting to this point has not been smooth, well-planned or strategized. It has been filled with doubt and second guessing about my own abilities. Yet, my aspiration to make an impact, to build safer and greener roads, and to make a difference in a field that I knew truly little about has endured. The desire and passion to serve others and improve our planet became my biggest drivers. As a result, I accidentally became a green entrepreneur and accepted the challenge to make our roads environmentally friendly.
We are facing many questions and pressing global issues that demand our immediate attention. The task to address them all seems demanding and daunting. If like me, you want to get involved, thoughts about where and how to begin and make a difference might linger. I don’t have a formula for you to follow, but I hope that sharing my own path and challenges might help you make your own decisions.
My brother approached me with an idea about producing a road product with an environmental aspect that could help mitigate climate change. At first my answer was a straight “no”. Why? The simple answer was a debilitating fear. The road business is a huge undertaking and one that I was not equipped to tackle. The only reason I migrated to “maybe” was my commitment to learn more about the industry and its negative impacts on the environment. When I discovered that pavements absorb heat and contribute to the urban heat island effect, I moved firmly to “yes”. If I wanted a different planet and greener roads, why wait for someone else to do it? Why not me? I didn’t have all the answers, but I had an urge and passion to devour as much information as I possibly could – like a sponge — absorbing knowledge.
I, like many other entrepreneurs, think that once we discover a void or need in a given market, and when we have an amazing innovation, the market will accept us with open arms. Early on, I came to realize that consumers have built what seems like a strong defense system, and unless we answer all their pain points, it takes more than need to get them to change their habits.
On paper, everything looked good for ePAVE; the initial product lab tests passed with flying colors and it seemed to me that the product would fly off the shelf in due time. Reality was a bit more bleak. Everything from our messaging to our product, the entrepreneurial team, the company and the technology, had to prove its worth.
We hit road block after road block — from where to buy the raw material to formulation, testing, working with the technology in the field, where to produce the material, how to protect our trade secret, how to stay focused on the MVP (minimum viable product) without any compulsive reformulation, when and how to pivot our marketing, if and how to outsource production, and what type of equipment to use.
A particularly difficult challenge was how to engage and train construction companies as applicators when the product didn’t have a market share yet. We knew that if there were no trained applicators, how could we sell the product? But we had to get them onboard without the sales pending. And above all, we had to figure out how to continue financial bootstrapping while pursuing optimal funding opportunities.
In those early years, there were many more bad days than good, when I would curl up in bed, like Richard from the HBO show Silicon Valley who curled up in fetal position inside a magenta bathtub, having no desire to face the world. I was done. We were done. But the next day, a glimpse of light, a positive message, a word of motivation, a new inspiration would emerge, and encourage us to continue working a bit harder and just a tad longer.
I know I could not do this alone. The climate action community we are collectively building is not only admirable, but necessary. Saving our planet indeed takes a village, an environmental “army”. We would not be able to do what we do without alliances and partnerships. When organizations like USGBC-LA pull the collective efforts of its members together, our impact grows and we become a force to be reckoned with. We need to work together, entrepreneurs and organizations alike, to be able to effectively address the challenges we face as both a nation and a planet.
USGBC-LA fulfills a great need, partnering entrepreneurs with corporations, that can provide funding and other supports to help great ideas thrive – serving as a bridge between great products and the real world to implement projects that will have long-lasting impacts once fully adopted. USGBC-LA’s forward-thinking programs have helped advance many companies that focus on building a green economy.
If there is anything we have learned in 2020 from COVID-19 and the pandemic, it is that we cannot continue to live under the same conditions that we did previously; we must collectively and aggressively face climate change and the destruction that it wreaks. I – like many — wonder how any one person can make a difference. But I have come to realize that each of us contributes to the effort in our own way, and collectively we can make a meaningful impact. No effort, big or small, is wasted. And my contribution is ePAVE.
My journey to create, develop and market a green, environmental-friendly road paving material has not been an easy one. It has been full of doubts, chaos, discouragement, excitement, never a dull moment… but two factors have remained steady to guide me: the desire to develop a green alternative road material and a passion to help build a green economy. We each have a responsibility to the planet and to our next generation to leave our world in better condition than we received it.
ePAVE is a member of USGBC-LA’s 2020 Net Zero Accelerator. Join the NZA DEMO DAY + EXPO on January 14th, 12-3p, to see live, interactive demos from 22 companies on the move, including ePAVE! Register now (free)!