A life learner finds his niche in renewable energy

A life learner finds his niche in renewable energy

By Cibeles Duran

A life learner finds his niche in renewable energy

By Cibeles Duran
John Czelusniak, an entrepreneur since high school, has made his way to top-level marketing positions by identifying his weaknesses and proactively closing the gaps—and by tackling the newest technologies.

For John Czelusniak, MPrA ’18, learning never stops. The “life learner,” as he describes himself, has continuously delved into innovative applications, including AI, blockchain, and other disruptive technology, that have allowed him to develop brands’ online presence from merely stagnant websites to more interactive, engaging virtual lives, helping to grow recognizable local names like Giardino Gourmet Salads and Don Camaron.

He started his first venture, providing graphic design services to local businesses, while still attending Design Architecture Senior High School, for gifted students in art. The school’s curriculum covered two years of college, making way for his bachelor’s in mass communication from Florida International University just two years after graduation. He already knew that he loved marketing, from its artistic side to its touchpoint in every facet of a business, but his preparation was far from over.

“I realized that I was getting paid as an artist and not as the business strategic marketing advisor that I wanted to be,” he says. “I had to put myself at my clients’ level.” 

Already starting a family of his own, he opted for the online MBA program at Capella University, where his father was a professor. 

“Having a father that was a high school dropout and later went all the way through his doctorate while working three jobs, I wanted to make sure that I was always relevant because I saw him struggle throughout his life,” he recalls. “I wanted to change that trajectory; from being a worker to an influencer, an innovator, a visionary.”

The mindset motivated Czelusniak to consistently seek the advancing technology that would keep him “ahead of the game all the time.” Still, with evermore high-level meetings and facing tough financially oriented questions, he confronted another shortcoming.

“Not having a numbers background was posing a difficult situation for me,” he remembers.

He returned to school, this time for Miami Herbert’s Master of Professional Accounting program. Struggling to balance a growing family with work and school, he credits Professor Seth Levine, whom he calls “my mentor throughout, even in times when I felt like I just didn’t have the time,” for helping him push through and realize his potential.

The degree and garnered knowledge gave him the confidence that he needed, now as the chief marketing officer of an audiology company, and later he led the Cybersecurity mitigation of a compliance law firm, where he added cybersecurity mitigation to his arsenal of professional proficiencies from Harvard University.

Yet, to continue honing his skills in digital brand transformation, he took a pay cut and joined a digital marketing firm. Soon, he was advising other CMOs and securing contracts with Miami-Dade County and other large clients, generating $20 million in revenue in client work for the company in only three months. Just a few months later, however, the severe economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic caused the firm’s client base to dwindle. Czelusniak found himself having to switch gears and dive headfirst in the digital realm. 

“I’m a fighter,” he says. “Having five kids, I had to find ways to pivot and adapt.”

He reestablished his company and once again provided advisory, a-la-carte digital marketing services, now helping beleaguered local businesses with sudden remote workforces to transition into viable online workplaces. Learning new applications continued as well. He took the necessary courses to become Google certified in automation technology and business intelligence.  

His efforts paid off when he was approached by Ryan Benko, executive vice president of Vision Solar, one of fastest growing solar panel companies in the country. The company provides residential solar panel installations throughout Florida, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Arizona, and Massachusetts. For Czelusniak, the opportunity meant once again embracing disruptive technology.   

“I have always wanted to be in the latest technology and part of the latest industry, so I knew that renewables and sustainable energy needed to be my next move,” he says.

As the vice president of marketing, he currently builds the infrastructure to support a growing team. In fact, in the past year, the company has grown by a whopping 800 percent as homeowners, especially those struggling financially during the ongoing pandemic, discover that solar panels provide significant, long-term savings on electric bills.

But the father of five also enjoys contributing to a more sustainable future. “I’m very mindful about having my children grow up in a clean world,” he says. “Nowadays, we have to become more independent thinkers and having the ability to create our own sustainable energy is part of that thinking.”

Czelusniak and his team have joined forces with GivePower, a nonprofit that implements renewable energy systems in remote areas around the world, enabling residents in villages to produce not only clean energy, but also clean water.

“That I can work for a company that actually gives back to the community, globally, and to help out those that are struggling—it feels good,” he says.

Czelusniak credits his methodical approach to his education and career to abiding by three principles: never focus on the money, do what you love, and learn to be humble and give back.

For the Miami Herbert alumnus, giving back includes the University of Miami. Vision Solar is poised to join the initiatives presented at Miami Herbert’s Chief Sustainability Officer Summit in March, in which Prince Charles delivered a five-point road map towards corporate sustainability practices. Vision Solar’s HR Team is also looking to recruit new talent from the School’s master’s in sustainable business program as they grow to produce more than 1000+ green jobs by 2022.