Berea College Graduate Wins Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award

Berea College graduate, Hong Zhang Durandal, has won the Young Entrepreneur award from the Excellence in Entrepreneurship Awards for Eastern and Southern Kentucky.  While still a student at Berea College, Durandal founded an energy-saving consulting company called Energy Hunters.  Since graduation he has been diligently working to grow his business and received recognition on Monday from the state of Kentucky.

Durandal has an education in applied math and business administration, and a passion for renewable energy.  Energy Hunters focuses on savings and value for the residential customer.  As stated on their website, “Let’s make it simple. We are the doctors of your home. We hunt the most cost effective to save you money, detect any carbon monoxide (CO) and, or gas leaks, improve your comfort, and add value to your home.”

An attractive part of Energy Hunters is the one-stop shop component of the consulting service.  Durandal will conduct an energy audit of the home and calculate the costs to greater energy efficiency, along with a return on investment and gained value.  He will then assist the homeowner in getting available rebates, as well as setting up financing packages, since he is a partner with Kentucky Home Performance – a branch of the ENERGY STAR program.  He also acts as a general contractor — recommending and/or hiring sub-contractors for any needed renovation and/or construction.  With high standards for this type of work, Durandal is particular about the companies he uses.

Durandal has also developed software to process and analyze the energy data from the different homes.  He developed it with an old roommate, “There was no existing tool that could produce what we wanted,” Durandal said.

Durandal has reached out to his local community by facilitating community gatherings for homeowners, to serve the dual purposes of educating people on energy efficiency, and increasing demand for energy audits, one of his many energy-saving services.

Two programs that had an early influence on Durandal and set him on his current path were the Entrepreneurship for the Public Good Program at Berea College, and an internship at MACED (Mountain Association for Community Economic Development).

“The Entrepreneurship for the Public Good [program] taught me how to move from one idea into an opportunity,” Durandal said.   “My whole dream is to create a sustainable business where you train and educate the people in eastern Kentucky on energy efficiency.”

In deciding the winner of the Excellence in Entrepreneurship award, the following criteria are considered:  Economic success – measured by growth, financial strength and workforce.  Contribution to the Community – determined by service to community organizations, leadership of community efforts, grant funding acquired and financial support of community programs and Operational Achievement – measured by innovative business practices, superior safety achievement and superior use of technology.

EPG is in its tenth year, currently under the direction of Dr. Peter Hackbert, a leading entrepreneurship professor who has been with the program for five years. Berea College offers a high quality liberal arts education to students who have great promise but limited economic resources. Founded upon inclusive Christian principles in 1855, Berea College was the first interracial and coeducational college in the South. The College promotes understanding and kinship among all people, service to communities in Appalachia and beyond, and sustainable living practices that set an example of new ways to conserve our limited natural resources.

Categories: News, People, Programs and Initiatives
Tags: Award, energy, entrepreneurship, EPG, Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award, Student Spotlight

Berea College, the first interracial and coeducational college in the South, focuses on learning, labor and service. The College only admits academically promising students with limited financial resources—primarily from Kentucky and Appalachia—but welcomes students from 41 states and 76 countries. Every Berea student receives a Tuition Promise Scholarship, which means no Berea student pays for tuition. Berea is one of nine federally recognized Work Colleges, so students work 10 hours or more weekly to earn money for books, housing and meals. The College’s motto, “God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth,” speaks to its inclusive Christian character.