"I wanted to create a program specifically for certified WBEs in Texas who have virtual home offices or remote employees...I’m excited to offer it as way to give back and help other women business owners. Even if it is a small amount saved, it’s money that can be invested elsewhere into your business (or used to attend a new WBCS event!)."  - Melinda Zito O'Brien

Melinda Zito O’Brien, Founder and Owner of Energy Utility Group, started working in the energy sector after seeing a new opportunity emerge as energy became deregulated in the U.S. And now she’s on a mission to help fellow Women Business Enterprises (WBEs) reduce their energy costs while incorporating sustainability into their operations.  Join us as she talks about her involvement with the Women’s Business Council – Southwest and the importance of connection with other WBEs.

How did you become involved with the Women’s Business Council – Southwest (WBCS), and why is it important to get involved and connected with other WBEs?

I became WBE certified after hearing about WBCS from a member at an event in Austin. I started going to WBCS events, but initially felt very overwhelmed.  After the WBCS Austin regional office was established and Kristin Moore (WBCS Austin Regional Manager) was brought on, she was able to help me figure out how to get more involved.  I joined the Austin committee, and that’s when it started to click and make sense.

Becoming certified is a way to meet other WBEs who will be your support system, your customer, and you can even be their customer. I’ve also been able to grow the long- term relationships with Sustaining (Corporate) Members necessary to win large corporate contracts. Certification has given me the chance to show who we are and what Energy Utility Group can do. The more involved I’ve become, the more certification has helped my business grow.

How can you help WBEs with their sustainability efforts and reducing energy costs?

There are many ways WBEs can incorporate sustainability into their business and life. We stay highly aware of everything on the market, and my job is to work with our customers to find out which options make the most sense for their needs and location.

I wanted to create a program specifically for certified WBEs in Texas who have virtual home offices or remote employees. Through our partnerships with utility providers, we can offer them commercial style energy pricing for their residential use. This lets us remove monthly base fees in addition to providing a lower rate. I’m excited to offer it as way to give back and help other women business owners. Even if it is a small amount saved, it’s money that can be invested elsewhere into your business (or used to attend a new WBCS event!).

Another program you were in involved in through WBCS is the Toyota Mentorship Program – tell me a little about it and the benefits you’ve seen as a result.

Toyota is a pioneer in the U.S. hybrid car market, and a great example for a successful first to market innovation launch. Working with my mentors has helped me learn their methodologies and given me clarity and insight on how to make my product better overall. It’s an absolute gift to be in the program, and I could not have asked for better mentors.  As a result of my relationship with Toyota, I was also able to work with them to offer an exclusive energy perk program to their team members.

If you are interested in finding out more about Energy Utility Group's WBE program, please visit their website or contact them at [email protected] and reference this article.