15 May Johanne Medina Then Of Ecolution Power Company On How They Are Breaking the Cycle of Non-Renewable Consumption
An Interview With Monica Sanders
By Monica Sanders, full interview at Medium
Sustainability and climate justice are complex issues that require a multidisciplinary approach: Promoting sustainability and climate justice requires a deep understanding of various disciplines, such as science, economics, policy, and social justice. One might wish to learn more about the intersection of these fields to better understand the complexity of these issues and develop effective solutions.
Although the United States has had a long trend of non-renewable consumption, the tides are turning. Many companies are working hard to break this cycle, moving towards renewable consumption. In this interview series, we are talking to business leaders who are sharing the steps they are taking toward renewable consumption. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Johanne Medina Then.
Johanne has 20 years of management experience; his companies range from scaled cocoa plantation management and food distribution, to greenfield metals manufacturing and ultra-high strength powder metallurgy. He has a blend of operational and financial expertise, most recently serving as VP of Strategic Finance, Unity Aluminum Inc. His leadership and financial skills helped him successfully raise $170 million of private equity.
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Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
I was born and raised in the Dominican Republic. My parents got divorced when I was very young, so I mostly grew up with my mom, my older brother and grandparents until I was 8. When I was 15, I moved to Singapore to live with my dad (who worked for Singapore Airlines) and that’s where I learned English. When I was 20 I decided to move to the United States since I was already a resident (1993). I lived in New York for a little then I moved to Florida and have resided there since 1996. My first job in Florida was at Walgreens. I started as a cleaner, and moved up the ladder, becoming an assistant manager.
I’ve always loved providing quality service so after retail, I transitioned into the hospitality industry. I was able to launch my career in hospitality thanks to Rosalinda Thomas (Tia Rosina), Gloria Thomas and Irene Glazer. Irene really supported me on the accounting side and believed in me, which led me to working in account receivables for the business. Fast forward a little, while in Naples, Florida I met Craig Bouchard, who is our Chairman of the Board. I worked as an accounting clerk at a club he owned where I eventually ended up becoming the CFO.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are many people who have impacted my life and helped me become the person I am today. My whole family played an immense role in my life. Even though my early and middle adulthood were difficult, I was surrounded by the right people who kept me focused and on the right path.
Craig Bouchard has been a great influence in my life. Before we worked together, as mentioned earlier, I worked for him. While working for Craig, he saw something in me and helped me get to a place where Ecolution could come to fruition. Craig has a special ability to make people feel unique. He got me here today. He is a great mentor who became a great business partner. Craig did not only become our Angel Investor but became the conduit that helped us raise our seed capital via the JCS Investments and the Brown Venture Group (BVG). BVG is a Minnesota based fund that supports and invests in minority owned technology companies. We basically started a company in March 2020, in the middle of Covid, and with a startup fund (BVG) and JCS that believed so much in us, it helped us get where we are today.
Last but not least there’s Johnny Then-Gautier, who is not only my cousin but Ecolution’s Chief Technology Officer and the person who invented the patented Module Active Response System (MARS) technology. We grew up together and so he’s always been around. He is a great inspiration to me and his genuine curiosity about anything and everything makes him very smart and is the driving force behind the engineering piece of Ecolution.
What is the mission of your company? What problems are you aiming to solve? What is your “why”?
We aim to make transportation the solution to the efficient, practical, and profitable provision of clean energy. There are a few problems in the clean-tech space that we can solve with our technology. First, there can be massive infrastructure costs to set up and maintain renewable energy from wind, solar, and other cleantech products. The transmission costs are high due to the long distances to reach the grid. There is an inconsistency of renewable energy provision because of the seemingly ironic dependence on climatic conditions. Lastly, there is a problem with inaccessibility to static, geographically specific renewable energy sources and power stations, especially for developing countries.
Ecolution wants to make transportation a practical, profitable solution to the generation of clean energy by turning every train and truck/trailer into a mobile power station for clean energy. We can make this possible by applying our Module Active Response System (MARS) to recoup much of the kinetic energy from every journey and take power to where it’s needed. Our technology fits on to already existing vehicles so there’s no need to build something new and our energy can be taken anywhere. There’s no limit to where you can go with Ecolution and how it can help anyone.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
I’ve learned so much while creating Ecolution. Our team has experienced many highs and lows. One thing that I learned was that being an entrepreneur can be a very lonely world until you reach success. At one point we (Ecolution) were building a company that was too good to be true. Every step of the way we had people look at us and say ‘you’re not real’. You really have to remain truthful to yourself and today, we have a prototype that will hit the roads very soon. If our team gave in and let the naysayers infiltrate our pride in our company we may not have gotten this far.
Do you have a favorite life lesson quote? Can you tell us how that was relevant to you in your own life?
“Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself.” ― Confucius It’s extremely hard to follow this quote when someone doesn’t do something right to you. For example, in the business world, you hire someone to do a job and they may not live up to what was promised. Most people would want to fire them or replace them. When those things happen in business, I try to step up to the plate and change that.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our interview. Can you tell our readers about the initiatives that you or your company are taking to help break the cycle of non-renewable consumption? What specific problems related to non-renewable consumption are you aiming to solve?”
Our MARS technology helps to break the cycle of non-renewable consumption by creating ‘a new category of ‘energy’. Trucks, trains, and various heavy duty vehicles will now be able to capture and store wasted kinetic energy. The transportation sector is one of the worst for our environment, and Ecolution is trying to shift that perspective with a simple solution. Our product is going to help people all over the world one day and change the transportation industry.
Can you give a few examples of what you are implementing to help address those issues?
To help address this issue, we have signed agreements with the City of Amarillo, and St. Paul to ‘clean up’ the city’s transportation. Eventually, they will profit from having our technology in their cities, along with benefitting from the consistent clean energy. Our founding team is constantly meeting with new businesses and city officials to educate them on the power of our technology and more importantly, what benefits they will be receiving from it. Even though it is important that each entity sees a return on their investments, ultimately the best return will be the positive environmental impact.
How do you measure the impact of your company’s sustainability initiatives, both in terms of environmental benefits and business growth? Can you share any key metrics or success stories?
We measure the environmental impact by every kilowatt of clean energy we generate and compare it to the amount it can offset from a coal fired power plant for example. Right now I believe we’re the only ones that have this business model and are capable of doing this. Our simple practical uniqueness, 5 patents, and working prototype provide us with the platform we need to withstand this market. In essence, it will benefit the environment and the world.
When using our technology, every trailer or train can recycle and store much of the energy it expends and simply transfer energy to where it’s needed. For example, we could power a train station, a grid or a specific facility from a Walmart to a hospital in rural Africa. Diving deeper into some numbers, one truck/trailer could power 1.7 households for a year, or 4.6 electric vehicles for a year. One train could power 1411 households for a year, or 3847 electric vehicles for a year.
What challenges have you faced while implementing sustainable practices in your company, and how did you overcome them? Can you share a specific example?
Our company is still in a very early stage. We currently have three employees who all work remotely as we build our company. I am in a unique position to start the company on the right sustainability focus from the start.
There are several challenges that we’ve faced. Two in particular include the cost of implementing sustainable practices and limited resources to implement sustainable practices.
For example, transitioning to renewable energy sources may require significant upfront investment. To overcome this challenge, our company can develop a long-term sustainability plan and prioritize sustainability initiatives that have the greatest impact on both the environment and the bottom line.
Overall, implementing sustainable practices requires a commitment from all levels of an organization and may require some initial investment and effort. However, the benefits of sustainable practices, including cost savings, improved reputation, and a healthier environment, can make it well worth the effort.
How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?
There are several ways in which a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and environmentally conscious. The two most important examples include energy efficiency and reducing waste.
By implementing energy-efficient practices and technologies, businesses can save on their energy bills, reducing their operating costs and increasing their profit margins. For example, installing LED lighting, upgrading HVAC systems, and using renewable energy sources like solar panels can all help businesses reduce their energy consumption and costs.
By reducing waste and using resources more efficiently, businesses can save money on raw materials, production costs, and waste disposal. For example, implementing recycling programs, using sustainable materials in production, and optimizing supply chain operations can all help businesses reduce waste and resource use.
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This is the signature question we ask in most of our interviews. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started promoting sustainability and climate justice” and why?
I can offer some general insights on what I wish someone would’ve told me when I first started promoting sustainability and climate justice. Here are 5 things I wish I would’ve known:
- Sustainability and climate justice are complex issues that require a multidisciplinary approach: Promoting sustainability and climate justice requires a deep understanding of various disciplines, such as science, economics, policy, and social justice. One might wish to learn more about the intersection of these fields to better understand the complexity of these issues and develop effective solutions.
- Communication is key to promoting sustainability and climate justice: Effective communication is essential to engage people in sustainability and climate justice initiatives. One might wish to learn how to communicate complex issues in a way that is easily understandable and engaging to a wide audience. For example, using storytelling techniques and incorporating visuals can help to communicate complex issues to a broad audience.
- Collaboration and partnerships are crucial: Promoting sustainability and climate justice often requires collaboration and partnerships with a variety of stakeholders, such as government agencies, non-profit organizations, and community groups. One might wish to learn how to build and maintain partnerships to create collective impact. For example, partnering with community groups to implement sustainable transportation initiatives can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality.
- Addressing environmental and social justice are interconnected: Environmental issues are often tied to social justice issues, and one cannot address one without addressing the other. One might wish to learn how to approach sustainability and climate justice from an intersectional perspective that considers the impacts on marginalized communities. For example, advocating for policies that prioritize renewable energy and green jobs in underserved communities can help to address both environmental and social justice issues.
- Change is possible, but it requires commitment and perseverance: Promoting sustainability and climate justice can be a challenging and long-term process, but change is possible. One might wish to maintain a sense of optimism and focus on small victories and progress. For example, successfully implementing a community composting program can be a significant step towards reducing waste and promoting sustainability. In summary, promoting sustainability and climate justice requires a multidisciplinary approach, effective communication, collaboration and partnerships, intersectional thinking, and a commitment to long-term change.
You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I cannot tolerate injustice. If there is a place where I can help prevent people from experiencing injustice, that’s where I want to be. Superman is my superhero, he’s the most powerful man in the world and he could have easily taken over the world, but he didn’t. He supports and contributes to humanity to create a better world.
What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?
Check out our website, ecolutionpower.com and follow us on social media, LinkedIn (Ecolution Power Company) and Twitter (@ecolutionpower)
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
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About the Interviewer: Monica Sanders JD, LL.M, is the founder of “The Undivide Project”, an organization dedicated to creating climate resilience in underserved communities using good tech and the power of the Internet. She holds faculty roles at the Georgetown University Law Center and the Tulane University Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy. Professor Sanders also serves on several UN agency working groups. As an attorney, Monica has held senior roles in all three branches of government, private industry, and nonprofits. In her previous life, she was a journalist for seven years and the recipient of several awards, including an Emmy. Now the New Orleans native spends her time in solidarity with and championing change for those on the frontlines of climate change and digital divestment. Learn more about how to join her at: www.theundivideproject.org.