Power It Forward
Originally published in Horse Directory Magazine , November 2014
By Tom Gumbrecht
The years from 2008 to 2011 were challenging ones for the construction industry on Long Island, and our electrical contracting business was no exception. In creating a new specialty division to respond to a changing economy and marketplace, we named the company Thoroughbred Power Systems in honor of our OTTB mare Lola, who, injured and having landed at the New Holland auction, had beaten the odds. She refused to give up and inspired all of us with her positive attitude and zest for life.
|How it works: Lola provides the|
inspiration, client donates used generator,
we prep, sell and deliver it, all funds go
to Amaryllis as Ever a Friend and
Christine Distefano look on, unwanted
horses thrive for another day.
When our main business began almost thirty years ago, we had dreams and goals and we thought we could do things a little better. But out of stark necessity, it was mostly about making a living. In our new little endeavor, we still needed to earn a living but had something else also.. we had a mission. Our mission was clear: to help unwanted horses; to reach out and provide assistance to the discarded equine athletes, but how to accomplish that mission?
Usually, providing assistance to a cause on an institutional level evokes thoughts of charities, non-profits, rules and regulations, tons of paperwork and asking for money… none of which is my forte. I’m not a great administrator and am much better with hands-on stuff. It seemed like the skills available were at odds with the skills needed; then something happened.
Heading to the airport for a training trip to Wisconsin, I blindly grabbed a book off the shelf to read on the plane. By happy accident the book was “Start Something That Matters” by Blake Mycoskie, the TOMS Shoes guy. I couldn’t put it down because every point I was struggling with was addressed in his book. He detailed how fate had conspired to focus his energies and create a for-profit company with a charitable mission which we now know as TOMS which makes shoes and sells them at a profit and donates a pair to a third world country for every pair sold.
|DannyBoy oversees preparations|
for the sale of a donated generator.
Well, Thoroughbred Power Systems is local, not global. But the concept that Mycoskie opened our eyes to gave clarity and validation to the concept we had been toying with but had no real model for: having a for-profit company making money doing what we do best and a charitable mission funded by a portion of those profits as opposed to asking people for money. In the book, I read about some other things that encouraged me:
1) “Finding your story”: find what you are passionate about, whatever it is for you that makes work feel like play, where no effort is too great to see it through (luckily, I had found my story)
2) You don’t have to have a lot of money to have a mission, but the mission should be clear and simple (I qualify on both counts, lol!)
3) Blake was a horseman (instant credibility!)
By the time I was returning from that trip, my plans had crystallized and my path was more clear. I knew I was on the right track, and hopefully the details would unfold through a process of trial and error. Our idea was to set aside a fixed amount for each standby generator system sold, and use it to help Long Island horses in need. The funds would have to be administered by a trusted third party, because time and space limit our hands-on rescue work to one at a time. I wanted to work with a legitimate non-profit organization who accepted local horses, run by people with a caring heart and a good work ethic. I wanted an organization recognized by charity rating services, one whose accounting was totally transparent and with very low administrative costs. I wanted a rescue which didn’t rely heavily on foster homes as a long term solution, one who cared for the horses in-house and was proactive about getting them re-homed. I wanted a rescue that was able to provide sanctuary for those horses that were not adoptable.
A tall order perhaps, but I knew that without these assurances my enthusiasm would not be sustainable, and
|Lola makes sure that every new unit sold results|
in a donation to her friends at Amaryllis.
As our program evolved, the donations from generator sales, while not insignificant, became almost secondary to another program which had not even been anticipated. There was a significant segment of clients who already had standby generators but who wanted to upgrade them due to age, availability of new technology, or increased power demands. The question arose as to what to do with an older but serviceable standby generator; installation costs generally preclude reselling a used unit as part of an installed system and the lack of a factory warranty makes it unappealing to most potential buyers. Private sales can prove troublesome and the sheer weight and size of many units make rigging and transportation costly, effectively negating much of the potential savings gained with a used unit.
It was out of this dilemma that was born the program we dubbed “Power it Forward.” Under this program, the client is given the opportunity to donate the old unit to our 501c3 horse rescue partner, Amaryllis. If they agree, we remove the unit from the client’s premises and bring it to our facility where we check it over, functionally test it and list it for sale locally. We handle the sale and sometimes even the delivery to a market of largely do-it-yourselfers and antique equipment buffs. 100% of the proceeds of the sale go to the rescue and the client who donated the generator gets credit for the donation. As for us.. we get to feel good. We get to love our work, work for what we love, and make a small positive impact on the horse world.. all at the same time. Interestingly, we thought this program would appeal to mainly horse people, but in reality almost all of our donors have been non-horsey. Most people are happy to know that an asset that they have outgrown is doing some good for someone else.
|Valentine Daisy, an injured racehorse like Lola, with|
Rachel Distefano of Amaryllis. Who would have thought that
her life could have been made better by an unwanted generator?
Power It Forward!
Last year, Amaryllis founder Christine Distefano described the program this way: “Disabled horses have no hope in this world. ‘Power It Forward’ aims to change that, one horse at a time. Pioneering the way, Tom has quickly become a light in the dark despair that a horse unable to earn his keep any longer experiences. Helping horses who once helped others is what ‘Power It Forward’ does.”
Well, thanks Christine, but you guys are the ones doing all the work, I happen to have a penchant for moving heavy things, some generous clients willing to work with me on this mission, a good idea or two and a Thoroughbred ex-racehorse named Lola whose attitude toward life inspires us daily to be better humans.