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Starting small but riding the solar energy wave

Rochester Business Journal
January 4, 2013

Invictus Electrical is a small company with one big advantage.
 
Formed in 2009 by its president and founder, Christine Hand Dertinger, the Bloomfield-based electrical company has an ace in its electrician, her husband, Mike Dertinger. He is a master electrician and certified solar installer, and last year he was named Craftsman of the Year by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 86.
 
The company works in a variety of commercial and residential settings, doing everything from individual repairs of lights that blow out at the mall to major solar installations at local colleges.
 
Though Dertinger was not able to give revenue totals for the company yet, she did say it has worked with a number of clients in many different price ranges.
 
"We've done projects over $100,000 and others as small as hundreds of dollars," she says.
 
Being a woman-owned business helps in many of the company's contracts, she says. The company also does much work through larger contractors.
 
Invictus Electrical is at the Bloomfield Industrial Arts Complex in East Bloomfield, which was once a mink farm, then a sawmill, and now a business incubator. The setting is appropriate for Invictus Electrical, focusing on businesses that are environmentally friendly. The complex even has a common area that is powered by three solar arrays.
 
The setup for the business plays to the strengths of both husband and wife, Dertinger says.
 
"My background is in occupational therapy, but I had a minor in environmental studies that helps when dealing with solar energy installations," she says. "Mike's background is obviously as an electrician, but he leaves the business side to me. I'm still learning the electrical side of it, but in the meantime I do all the budgeting, the contacts and customers."
 
Dertinger says the company excels at the solar installation side, but this work can be inconsistent and depends on the economy and availability of grants available to individuals and organizations purchasing them.
 
One of the largest and most high-profile jobs for Invictus Electrical was done in 2012, when it installed solar panels at the Rochester Public Market. The project cost $72,000, all of it covered by grants from the Department of Energy and New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.
 
The project, which took a few weeks, will be able to meet about 25 percent of the market's power needs. The panels will provide energy for lighting for the market and winter sheds.
 
Dertinger says that after three years, she and her husband are ready to expand the company, but much will depend on the economy.
 
"Right now we're at a transitional point where we really do plan to grow and need to grow, but it's not easy," she says. "We plan to grow but do so slowly."
 
For this growth the company has the help of Jon Hand, Dertinger's brother and a career journalist and grant writer. He has helped with the paperwork involved in obtaining state, federal and local incentives available to clients.
 
Being a company with two employees-and help from Hand-is an advantage to Invictus Electrical, Christine says.
 
"We're very committed to quality, and being small, we can attend to customer needs better than the big companies," she says. "We don't have as much overhead, so we can focus everything we have and all we do on making sure they're satisfied and the job is done just how they want it."

Small Business is a weekly feature focusing on entrepreneurs. Send suggestions for future Small Business stories to Associate Editor Smriti Jacob at sjacob@rbj.net.1/4/13 (c) 2013 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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