Carbon Savings Conserves Energy and Saves Us Money!

What started out as an idea based on a course assignment at Queen’s University, may one day be the method that we use to estimate the potential savings of conservation products that we purchase. Howard Swartz, a Mechanical and Civil Engineering grad with specialization in Applied Sustainability, was intrigued by the school course that assessed the financial and environmental benefits of implementing various energy conservation measures.

Could this concept be parlayed into a business? Swartz started his company, Carbon Savings, to find out.  Carbon Savings creates virtual calculators for retailers to place online, beside their products being sold. The user can generate personalized estimates for annual savings, payback period and environmental benefits. An app is now being launched to improve customer experience in the store.

To get ahead of development and invest in the business, Swartz enrolled in VentureStart, a program funded by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario). VentureStart received $7.5 million in funding through FedDev Ontario’s Scientists and Engineers in Business (SEB) initiative. The program provides emerging entrepreneurs in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields with training, mentoring and seed financing to develop their ideas, commercialize their products and grow their companies.

“Scientists and Engineers in Business is designed to help improve the success rate of start-up businesses in southern Ontario,” said Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario). “Through this Government of Canada initiative, we are doing our part to help develop the next generation of entrepreneurs in southern Ontario by building a workforce of highly-skilled, well-trained leaders who will drive business innovation in the future.”

VentureStart, co-ordinated by the RIC (Research, Innovation, Commercialization) Centre in Mississauga, is delivered through 13 provincially funded Regional Innovation Centres in southern Ontario. This includes Kingston’s Launch Lab, where the Carbon Savings founder receives mentoring from an Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR).  Through FedDev Ontario’s support, VentureStart is helping program participants increase their business and management skills and their capacity to create successful companies and career opportunities.

Swartz got started by taking the online VentureStart course; then sought guidance from his assigned EIR, Sam Khan. EIRs draw upon their vast business experience and expertise to assist new entrepreneurs with their start-ups. Khan has extensive experience managing small, medium and large scale enterprise organizations, specializing in IT and Web development initiatives. “It’s very helpful to be able to bounce ideas off someone like Sam,” said Swartz. “I appreciate getting feedback from a range of perspectives.”

Carbon Savings also received VentureStart funding for product development and marketing.  With the funds, Carbon Savings could pursue new product opportunities, including development of the new app which will identify conservation products and determine the financial and environmental benefits of each one.  “There are so many causes that deserve attention, but they can be overwhelming for the average consumer,” said Swartz. “So, it’s critical to make it as easy as possible for people to act on the best decision, even if they start off knowing very little about the subject.”

Carbon Savings would like to shift consumer purchases towards more sustainable products by helping people discover which conservation products are right for them.  The company’s virtual calculators can be placed on retailers’ websites and they can be built specific to each SKU. Swartz explains, “Essentially, the company focuses on creating decision-making tools that can be placed at the point of sale.”

No one said starting your own company would be easy, and Swartz knows first-hand how challenging it can be. “I’ve had a few setbacks, but exciting new steps are underway thanks to VentureStart funding,” said Swartz. “I’m pushing forward with the building of infrastructure to support additional product categories and enhanced features. Then, I’ll focus on partnering with utilities, retailers and community and environmental organizations to develop a meaningful user base.”

Howard Swartz is optimistic about Carbon Savings. The next time we’re looking to buy a new household appliance, let’s hope Carbon Savings is there to provide us with the information we need to lower our utility bills, saving energy and money.

Written by: Sandra Desrochers