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Building sustainable communities with energy-saving solutions
greeNEWit is a sustainable development and environmental consulting company based in Columbia, MD. With an approach that integrates planning, brand partnerships, and technology, greeNEWit helps homeowners, businesses, and government agencies save energy and natural resources to build sustainable communities and economies. The EPA recently named the company ENERGY STAR 2016 Contractor of the Year. greeNEWit’s chief innovation officer Matej Harangozo, chief communicating officer Jason Jannati, and managing partner Josh Notes joined citybizlist for this interview.
How did you come up with the name?
JOSH NOTES: Late at night when we were trying to figure out a website, back in 2008, that we could lock down a dotcom for, we were just doing some play on words and based on the sustainability movement that was underway. With the greenwashing that was going on, we didn’t want to just be a “green” company; we wanted to make sure it was something special and stuck. Although some people struggle the first time they say greeNEWit, once they get it, they never forget.
MATEJ HARANGOZO: And I think part of the word greeNEWit and the part of innovation is there. We don’t try to invent new things; we try to analyze the market that we’re in, understand all the moving pieces around us and innovate off of it, making it better essentially. That’s what we’ve mastered over the last eight years.
How did you all decide that the environment was your next entrepreneurial endeavor? Where did the idea come from?
JOSH NOTES: Matej and I met in middle school. We kind of bonded as entrepreneurs and rule-breakers because I was skateboarder and he was a rollerblader. But then by high school, we were involved and interested in real estate. By the time we got to college and started businesses in this space we were introduced to a common friend, Jason, who was two years younger than us, but in some ways more advanced as far as his market action. And when we got together and it was 2007, right before the market crashed around real estate, we all came together around the concept of sustainability and there had to be something more in this next economic cycle than just flipping houses and building apps.
JASON JANNATI: For me, we spent a lot of time in the west side of Baltimore. And for us, it was literally looking at Hell in the face and saying, “The three of us are going to bond, and so what fixes this?” At a time where things were fluffy, no-doc loans, pre-quals—there we just editable documents in the real estate industry—we said, “What can we focus on that’s fundamental?” And when we got to it, it was food, water, shelter, and community development. So that’s where we landed in terms of why sustainability and why energy efficiency was where we needed to start: because we knew that at a fundamental level, no matter what the economy does or no matter what happens, that’s going to stay true. We wanted to build off that as a foundation as opposed to some new app or some new this or that. We wanted to get in at the infrastructure level. At the end of the day, we had one plan. Whether you want to debate what’s happening or not, you use less, you take care of your environment. I learned that growing up: you want to take care of the one environment you know you have, and it’s just common sense for me.
MATEJ HARANGOZO: I think one of the things that has bonded all three of us together were our individual roots, but embedded into the rest of the world. Josh’s family’s roots go back into East Europe. I’m from Eastern Europe. I grew up there until I was 11. Jason’s father is from Iran as well. Having a global perspective on things and understanding what we could do on a bigger level beyond that stage was one thing we always talked about and bonded over.
How long did you have to go without making any money? How did you stay motivated?
JOSH NOTES: My parents came from Northern California and met there and then moved back here to Columbia because of [James W.] Rouse’s vision, not only around sustainability but entrepreneurship and making a difference near the capital. Growing up in that house and having those environmentally conscious conservations as well as having a risk-taker who’s been one of our biggest cheerleaders all along really was the foundation that we built off. It was the tank of gas that got us to the next job and it was a house to come back to and work late nights without worrying about how we could pay that first month of rent.
JASON JANNATI: And once we got beyond the three of us in Josh’s parents’ house, which is now either going to be its own microgrid farm that we’ve had a role in developing—which is cool: they were our first customer, now they’re our first net-zero customer—so we have found a way to continue on this march, kind of no matter what. Determination is that single most determining factor for success. Mark Cuban says, “if you have an exit plan, you’re not committed enough.” I think for us, no matter if we got kicked out or if we had to pull back or we had to go a month without getting paid or this or that, the mission has always been there for us. That’s what we’re able to anchor ourselves in. Because, like we said, if money was the motivator, most people quit too early.
ABOUT OFFIT KURMAN
Offit Kurman is one of the fastest-growing, full-service law firms in the Mid-Atlantic region. With 120 attorneys offering a comprehensive range of services in virtually every legal category, the firm is well positioned to meet the needs of dynamic businesses and the people who own and operate them. Our eight offices serve individual and corporate clients in the Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and Northern Virginia markets, as well as the Washington DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York City metropolitan areas. At Offit Kurman, we are our clients’ most trusted legal advisors, professionals who help maximize and protect business value and personal wealth. In every interaction, we consistently maintain our clients’ confidence by remaining focused on furthering their objectives and achieving their goals in an efficient manner. Trust, knowledge, confidence—in a partner, that’s perfect.
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