By Amanda Bybee, Amicus O&M Cooperative
Small businesses face an uphill battle in the solar industry today, often competing against national companies with deep pockets. Over the last 12+ years, Stephen Irvin has dedicated himself to solving business challenges and helping companies preserve their independence by utilizing innovative cooperative structures and conscientious business practices.
I first met Stephen when we both joined Namasté Solar in 2006. Early on, I came to appreciate Stephen’s collaborative nature, creative problem-solving and diplomatic communication style. He brought them to bear when Namasté Solar converted to an employee-owned cooperative. They also served him well when he co-founded Amicus Solar, a purchasing cooperative, to help small- to mid-sized solar companies achieve better equipment pricing by aggregating their buying power.
Under his leadership, Amicus Solar has become a remarkable community of values-aligned solar companies. They meet regularly to discuss challenges and share best practices, they co-develop business opportunities and they share a deep camaraderie. Alongside its 50+ member-companies, Stephen has incubated several new cooperatives to support their success. He helped charter a new financial cooperative, Clean Energy Credit Union, which provides financing for clean energy products and services throughout the United States. Additionally, he led the application for a federal award through the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, which launched Amicus O&M Cooperative. And he hasn’t stopped there, with other promising efforts currently underway.
Partly due to his encouragement, many member-companies of Amicus Solar are certified B Corps, as is the cooperative itself. B Corps are for-profit companies that use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. Stephen lives his values in his daily work: promoting democracy and collaboration within his own organization, modeling respectful negotiation techniques and donating his time to philanthropic efforts such as providing solar-powered trailers to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
Through his work, his kindness and his desire to help others, Stephen has had—and will continue to have—an enormously positive impact on our industry.