By Clemente Nicado, Publisher & Editor in Chief
The meteoric rise of entrepreneur David Hernandez began with bad news in December 2001, when his energy industry employer filed for bankruptcy. The Cuban immigrant used the opportunity to finish the business plan for what would eventually form Liberty Power.
The company he co-founded with Alberto Daire was born in an adverse environment. In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the country was suffering from a credit crisis, growing unemployment, a volatile energy market, and widespread economic uncertainty. It was hardly an ideal time to start a business, but Hernandez and his partner remembered the phrase, “No hay mal que por bien no venga,” or, as they say in English, “Every cloud has a silver lining.”
The insight he gained at his former employer helped him spot opportunity and gave him the experience needed to meet future challenges successfully. “At that company I learned about the deregulation of the energy industry and how firms were fighting to eliminate the monopoly that existed in one of the most important economic sectors: the energy sector,” Hernandez recalls.
Working in the company’s wholesale and retail electrical services trading division, he realized there was a market niche that wasn’t being adequately served within the highly competitive energy industry. “While other companies within the industry went after large-scale customers, no one was providing service to small and mid-sized customers,” he says.
This was the logic that drove the creation of Liberty Power, a leading Hispanic enterprise that provides electricity to businesses, government agencies and consumers nationwide. Headquartered in Fort Lauderdale and with an office in Chicago, its 2012 revenue exceeded $700 million.
The co-founder and CEO of Liberty Power immigrated to the United States as a young boy, and he shared his parents’ enthusiasm for the potential this country offered. But he soon learned that an entrepreneurial spirit was not enough; he also would need to study. His motivation earned him the distinction of being the first in his family of seven siblings to finish college. Hernandez graduatedmagna cum laude from Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida with a bachelor of science degree in accounting and earned an MBA from New York University — all before undertaking his electrifying business venture with Alberto Daire, president of Liberty Power.
What specifically does Liberty Power do?
Liberty Power is a retail electricity supplier, which means we supply electricity to end-user consumers in restructured or deregulated energy markets where consumers can shop for their electricity supply like any other product or service. We work with the local distribution company to deliver our customers’ electricity over the utility’s poles and wires. In most markets the customer still receives one bill separated into two main parts – supply and delivery. The supply portion is what they purchased from Liberty Power, while the fees for delivery service go to the local distribution company (Con Ed in the Chicago area).
Can you explain the reasons behind your company’s success?
Liberty Power is an entrepreneurial company. Our competitive edge is our nimbleness which sets us apart from our competitors, many of which have parent companies in the Fortune 500. As the company continues to grow, we continue to maintain a small business atmosphere where we can quickly shift resources and focus in order to capitalize on opportunities that arise across our national footprint. Larger companies are often set in their ways and don’t react and evolve as quickly as Liberty Power.
What were the greatest challenges Liberty Power faced, and what are the biggest challenges of today’s marketplace?
We faced many challenges over the years, from risking every cent we had to start the business to discovering additional obstacles along the way within the industry. The nature of doing business in today’s energy markets provides a variety of challenges. We’ve dealt with a credit crunch, hurricanes and other extreme weather events, regulatory uncertainty, and ever-changing market conditions, just to name a few. A large part of the value Liberty Power provides is insulating our customers from these types of risks and headaches. We are blessed to have a smart and experienced team to navigate Liberty Power through these challenges while protecting our customers.
How can Hispanic businesses take advantage of Liberty Power’s services?
Businesses both large and small, Hispanic or non-Hispanic, can take advantage of Liberty Power by simply calling us at 1-866-POWER-99 (1-866-769-3799) or visiting our website atwww.libertypowercorp.com
. One of our energy consultants will evaluate your energy needs and help determine the product that works best for your individual situation. Electricity is often one of the largest costs in running a business, so it is definitely worth the time to shop around and find the company and product that works best for you.
How important is Chicago in your expansion strategy?
More broadly speaking, Illinois is a very important market to Liberty Power as well as in the energy industry overall. We first entered this market in 2007 when many consumers weren’t even aware that they could shop for electricity supply. Today, over 3 million accounts (representing the majority of accounts) in Illinois have switched away from the utility. We will continue to strengthen and grow our business in Illinois in the future.
Speaking of your expansion goals, what is “the sky” for Liberty Power?
Historically, Liberty Power has been what the industry calls a “pure play” electric retailer. Our focus has always been in buying electricity in wholesale commodity markets at the lowest possible price and then passing those savings along to our customers. We continue to evaluate expanding our operations into other areas of the value chain, such as generation, as well as look toward expanding our current suite of products and services. Our ultimate vision is to be the preferred choice for innovative retail energy services and solutions.
Liberty Power has made an impact on the community through scholarship programs and other efforts. How important is it for the company to support its community?
Liberty Power believes in the importance of supporting the community. Having experienced so much good fortune of our own over the years, giving back is a rewarding way to help others. One area Liberty Power is very passionate about is preparing our youth for the challenges and opportunities of the future, which is why we created the Liberty Power Bright Horizons Scholarship in 2013. Through this alliance with the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) and the USHCC Foundation, Liberty Power has committed to providing $100,000 in college scholarships over a span of five years, with a focus on rewarding students studying STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
As one of the most successful Hispanic entrepreneurs in the country, what advice can you share with other entrepreneurs?
Two keys to success that I’d like to share include: Do something you are passionate about. The most successful people in life are simply following their passions. Secondly, make sure you have the right people on your team. At Liberty Power we look for people that are humble, hungry, smart, and share the company’s vision.