True passion Featured

8:00pm EDT June 25, 2008

Barry Cinnamon was always interested in solar energy. He did his undergraduate thesis at MIT on the topic and eventually worked on solar systems in his career, but when oil prices dropped and energy tax credits disappeared in the early 1980s, so did interest in renewable energy.

He went back to school and eventually started a software company, and after several acquisitions, eventually focused on the Internet shopping business. But by the dot-com bubble burst, his heart wasn’t in it anymore, so he took a few months off to install his own solar power system. In the process, he set up a Web site about its benefits, and surprisingly, the site’s popularity grew.

With only his own tools, a Volvo station wagon and a credit card, he built Akeena Solar using careful cash management and high ethical standards. He invested his own money and had just 12 people working out of his garage doing installations, and he was determined to make it a great place to work with low turnover. Oftentimes, he even sacrificed his own paycheck in order to meet payroll.

While it wasn’t always easy, and this CEO even had to change the state law for solar installations, Akeena Solar is now solid and well respected. In the past year, Cinnamon has opened seven offices and added more than 140 new employees, and he’s confident in more growth this year and beyond.

HOW TO REACH: Akeena Solar, (888) 253-3628 or