Invented by Thomas Edison in 1901, the Nickel-Iron battery was built as a longer-lasting, more resilient replacement for typical lead-acid batteries. Edison discovered that he could easily increase the capacities and longevity of the Nickel-Iron batteries by amplifying the alkaline electrolyte with a small amount of lithium hydroxide and soon began producing these batteries at Edison Storage Battery Company where they continued to be profitably made until the 1970s. Despite having been adopted as a popular choice for railway vehicles and their superior performance over their lead-acid counterparts, the Nickel-Iron battery had yet to find its place in people’s homes and businesses. However, with the dawning of a new age came a heightened awareness of renewable energy and a departure from conventional, environmentally harmful energy sources. With that, the door swung back open for the Nickel-Iron battery.
As a pioneer of sorts in the world of energy independence, Brandon Williams decided to bring this trusted invention from the 1900’s back into the spotlight. Having just finished his MBA from the University of Denver with a particular interest in off-grid systems and renewable energy sources, the conversation had always orbited around the concept of the Nickel-Iron battery but surprisingly there were few manufacturers actually bringing this product to market. In the absence of a long-lasting, robust, and durable battery storage solution, the opportunity to realize the potential of the Nickel-Iron battery was evident. Without wasting any time, Brandon established Iron Edison Battery Company alongside his wife Maggie Williams who joined him soon after finishing her Masters in Energy & Sustainability from the University of Denver. Iron Edison is now proud to be the leading supplier of Nickel Iron batteries in North America as well as an authority in the world of Lithium-Iron Batteries and Solar at large. To learn more about this venture, we sat down with Maggie Williams, and here is what she has to say.
“One of the things that set us apart from our competitors, is our understanding of batteries and off-grid systems. Many battery companies are large and only sell through distributors. We sell directly to installation partners and customers, giving us direct access to the people who will be using our products.”
Aspioneer (A): What is the purpose behind your work? And as you move forward what is it that motivates you to keep striving for more and get better?
Maggie Williams (M): Iron Edison has been in business for 10 years. We started as a husband-and-wife team in our spare bedroom selling Nickel-Iron batteries. Now we are located in Denver, CO with 10 employees. At Iron Edison, we believe in energy independence. Our goal is to provide our customers with a high-quality, long-lasting battery, that is right for their unique project. We also love helping people achieve their goal of powering their homes with batteries and solar. We have three kids, and by implementing a solar and battery system at our home, we are able to keep our lights on and our family safe from any power disruptions. I think every person should have that type of power security, which is why I believe in our product and what we do. Plus, owning a solar and battery system helps the environment by decreasing greenhouse gases, making the world better for future generations.
(A): How would you best describe your organization and the products you are selling? Are there any specific features that distinguish you from the rest of the competitors in the industry?
(M): We are a battery manufacturer, but also directly help our customers and partners with off-grid system design and support. Our batteries are for homes with solar, who need a way to store the energy, either off-grid or grid-tied. Two things that are leading our growth would be a great product and top-notch service backed by our long-term employees who believe in this initiative. One of the things that set us apart from our competitors, is our understanding of batteries and off-grid systems. Many battery companies are large and only sell through distributors. We sell directly to installation partners and customers, giving us direct access to the people who will be using our products.
“I think continuing education is important for our employees, because the more your team knows, the better they can help themselves and feel confident in what they do.”
(A): Speaking of direct selling, who are some of your biggest clients? Can you share a little bit more about your target market?
(M): Iron Edison serves Customers (Consumers) and Installation Partners (businesses). We do not sell through distributors, which allows us to keep our prices lower. We also have a lot of customers who are into survival and preparedness. At one point, we were also featured on the show Life Below Zero on National Geographic. Andy Bassich, who is on the show and lives in Alaska, uses our nickel-iron batteries to power his place. Our batteries are long-lasting, so if/when the grid goes down, our batteries will last and keep the power on.
(A): Could you please share what your clients are saying about your services.
(M): At Iron Edison, we are always researching and making changes to our batteries to improve them based on our customers’ vital feedback. By providing free system design and lifetime technical support on all products, we are able to ensure our customers can be confident in their purchases for years to come.
Devin St. Clair – “I did a lot of research before buying a small solar setup, Iron Edison was far and above the competitors. They list their prices on their site, have a great selection of quality manufacturers, and their battery solution is unique and long-lasting. A few weeks after my order was delivered, I finally found some time to unload it, when I got to the bottom panel in a 4-panel stack on a pallet I saw that one of the panels was smashed, I was supposed to check the shipment as it was being delivered. I reached out to them because the shipping method was definitely flawed, well needless to say they told me they would try to get a replacement and they did. Iron Edison goes out of their way during the sales process with great sales reps who will walk through every little detail of what you want and make great suggestions. Their after-sales support is great too. I will definitely be ordering with them again.”
Emily Anawalt – “I came to Iron Edison because a friend here in Hawaii strongly recommended them to me. Even requiring the shipping, he said, it is well worth buying batteries from Iron Edison. He said I wouldn’t regret it. As well as my batteries I ended up buying my entire solar system from Iron Edison because I found the price was comparable to buying here on the Island despite the shipping. I found my initial phone calls with the owner Brandon, very informative and personable yet highly professional and I felt very encouraged. Since then, Maggie (who is the other owner with her husband) has worked diligently with me, her system designer, and my solar installer to make sure the whole process runs smoothly for me and I get the best possible system for my particular needs. She has always been very available and graciously accommodating with the details and any changes that had to be made and a pleasure to work with. I have found myself in excellent hands. The peace of mind has been invaluable. A company as conscientious and with the kind of integrity I have experienced working with Maggie is extremely hard to find!”
(A): Tell us what do you value most about your company’s culture as a CEO? What is your corporate culture and how do you demonstrate it?
(M): I think continuing education is important for our employees, because the more your team knows, the better they can help themselves and feel confident in what they do. One focus is ongoing training, and a few of our employees are taking advantage of our company offered incentive to take college courses. We also believe that mental health and overall wellbeing is important, especially right now with stay-at-home orders due to COVID-19. At Iron Edison, we believe you should work hard, but rest is just as important. Our employees are encouraged to take those vacation days, or just take a day off if they are feeling overwhelmed. We aim to provide a work/life balance for all employees!
(A): As an organization, how are you contributing to the fight against the coronavirus crisis and supporting your employees to keep them safe without disrupting the services? And moving ahead what would be your plan of action for the upcoming year?
(M): We are supporting our team by having most of our employees work remotely. We have a few employees in the warehouse to fulfill orders, but social distancing and mask-wearing are required at all times. Our sales office used to be an open floor concept which we quickly reconfigured for anyone who is working in the office. We strive to have the safest environment possible and have now purchased cubicles and air filtration systems. Our office is regularly deep cleaned, and sanitizer is provided at each workspace as well as the common areas. Forging ahead, our goals are continued growth, expansion of our product line, and commitment to creating more jobs. At Iron Edison, we pride ourselves on unparalleled customer service and providing the latest in battery technology.