While most juniors in college are looking forward to celebrating their 21st birthday or going away with their friends on Spring Break, Rae Klepadlo is thinking about generators.
That’s because the rising junior at Queens College is the owner of Generator One – a company specializing in servicing standby generators for areas predominantly in Long Island.
“I like how everyday is different; there are no two days that are exactly the same,” said the Ridgewood resident, who is the only female owner of a generator company in the entire northeast. “I’d rather work 80 hours a week for myself than 40 hours for someone I don’t like.”
After Klepadlo graduated from Aviation High School in Long Island City, she responded to an ad posted on Craigslist from Mickey Bennett, who was the owner of North Shore HomePower at the time. Bennett remembers the email he received from Klepadlo talking about a girl who can change sparkplugs, and he hired her to be a generator technician.
“She was going to have an uphill battle because she didn’t look the part,” said Bennett, who was referring both to her young age and being in a male-dominated industry as two of the obstacles that she would have to go up against.
Bennett said that Klepadlo quickly asserted herself as a competent technician, and as she progressed she got involved more in the day-to-day operations of the business.
In April of 2009, after Bennett decided to sell North Shore Homepower to focus on a new company – Solar One Energy – Klepadlo decided that she wanted to take over the business and founded Generator One.
“The hardest part was the financing,” Klepadlo explained. “I couldn’t get any loans. I had to fund the start up of the company almost entirely on credit cards.”
After a difficult first year in a poor economy, Klepadlo, who now runs the company with her boyfriend Dave and one other administrator, said the business has rebounded nicely this year. At the end of April she expects the company will have surpassed their total revenue for the previous year.
Klepadlo also finds time to take classes at Queens College. Currently she is taking eight credits – mostly classes on nights and weekends – and she hopes to graduate in 2011 with a degree in sociology.
She hopes that she will be able to continue to grow her business and after graduating Queens College, she wants to enroll in law school to pursue a degree in environmental law.
How does she manage owning a business, being a student, a relationship and a social life?
“Sometimes lacking is being able to cook at home and do housework,” Klepadlo joked.