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Blackbird Gen logo Carthage’s Sophie Shulman ’23 and Zach Gibson ’23 are not typical college students.

Together, they’re dedicated to lowering the cost of renewable energy for Wisconsin residents and have started a marketing business to facilitate the sale of residential solar panels.

“Climate change is an urgent need that needs to be addressed, but people don’t always understand the options available to make the change toward renewable energy,” Sophie says. That’s where their business, Blackbird Gen, comes in.

Sophie is a marketing and music major, and Zach is a marketing and finance major. They started the green energy project with a grassroots approach last year when they joined Enactus at Carthage.

According to its organization page, Enactus is an “international organization that connects students and business leaders through entrepreneurial projects that empower sustainability progress for their communities.”

For their Enactus project, the two entrepreneurs reached out to All Energy Solar, a solar panel installation company that offers a referral program to green energy advocates.

Since forming Blackbird Gen, they have organized a group buy through their partner. That means the more panels people purchase, the higher the rebate they receive.

Carthage students (from left to right) Lexi Menendez '23, Sophie Shulman '23, Marc Aloisi... Carthage students (from left to right) Lexi Menendez '23, Sophie Shulman '23, Marc Aloisi '23, and Zach Gibson '23 are part of Blackbird Gen LLC, a marketing business that facilitates the sale of residential solar panels. Zach and Sophie began by going door-to-door and cold-calling Kenosha residents to sell solar panels. Now, they’ve started an LLC and organize regular information sessions in Kenosha to advertise their project.

Zach and Sophie quickly realized that they needed to scale up their business. Luckily, they had Carthage professors who introduced them to the lawyers and CPAs needed to form it. They’ve also grown the business by involving more students at Carthage, including Lexi Menendez ’23, Marc Aloisi ’23, Morgan Tracy ’22, and Claire Beyers ’22.

Blackbird Gen markets the solar panels and lays out the information in a way that clearly identifies the rebates, government tax incentives, and long-term savings associated with renewable energy.

“We started this because we care about the future of our planet,” Sophie says. “We care about our community being aware of what helping the environment can do for them personally.”

Sophie and Zach have found a niche in the solar industry, marketing a product that offers people energy savings as well as an active role in combating climate change.

Blackbird Gen solar panels “Carthage has done an excellent job of preparing us to be successful,” says Zach. “It is so fun to take what we learn in our marketing classes and transfer it directly to the group buy. I really feel like our education is playing a pivotal role in the success we have seen thus far.”

Blackbird Gen is looking for more team members to help the business grow. Learn more about getting involved with the company and its sustainability efforts through its website: