Diane Cherry Has Extensive Experience in Public policy & Communications Around Energy Markets, Technology, Education, and Finance in North Carolina & Nationally. Read Our Exclusive Interview With The Owner of Diane Cherry Consulting
Q: For those in our audience not familiar with Diane Cherry Consulting, can you tell us more about it and the services you offer?
DC: Diane Cherry Consulting is a woman-owned small business providing environmental and energy consulting services in North Carolina and the Southeast. Our work covers three main areas: business development or assisting renewable energy companies, non-profits, and educational institutions in marketing, client development, and fundraising; renewable energy policy or guiding clients through complicated energy markets for technology deployment and analyzing policy proposals on everything from legislation to incentives to market changes; and finally communication of environmental, renewable energy, and energy efficiency topics to multiple audiences across a range of platforms.
Q: Tell us about the projects you’ve worked on in the past.
DC: We just completed a carbon neutrality and renewable energy action plan for the City of Durham, N.C. with the engineering firm GDS Associates. In 2019, the Durham City Council approved a resolution calling for an action plan on how to transition the city operations to a supply of 80 percent renewable energy by 2030, achieve carbon neutrality in city operations by 2040, and reach 100 percent renewable energy sourcing by 2050. The work included an analysis of city buildings, vehicle fleet, renewable energy, and energy efficiency measures that the city needs to take. The final plan gets presented to the Durham City Council in September and represents over one year of work.
We developed the website for the Carolinas Clean Energy Business Association (CCEBA) after they merged two organizations. We did all the content, engaged with a website developer, and framed and efficiently presented the information for the public. We continue to work with CCEBA on their communication needs through monthly articles, social media content, and other electronic communications.
Two other projects we finished in the past two years included a clean energy continuing legal education (CLE) for attorneys in South Carolina and work with a renewable energy funding provider to match development capital to energy storage projects throughout the United States.
Q: When did you know you would become an entrepreneur and start your own business?
DC: I found myself without a job suddenly after 20 years working in the energy and environmental fields. While I was contemplating my next endeavor, several people contacted me about doing work for them. After a while it became clear that I could make this a business and so I incorporated as an LLC. I have done it now for three years and I don’t think I have ever been so happy and engaged with my work.
Q: What has surprised you about business ownership?
DC: I think the hardest thing about business ownership is all the paperwork involved, whether that is invoicing clients, filing estimated taxes, taking on a new employee, and getting the payroll handled or other day to day transactional work. There is no IT department, HR department, or other person to handle administration, so all the tasks large and small come my way.
Another thing that has surprised me is the importance of being on call during the day and the early evening. Often clients won’t get back to me until the evening about something and I want to be responsive. Sometimes that means days and nights blurring together to respond but they hire you to make sure you meet their business needs. And my clients appreciate knowing that I put their needs first.
Q: What is it about your job that most excites you?
DC: The best thing about my job is knowing that I am providing a service for a client that meets their needs. When a project is finished and the client is happy, nothing gives me greater satisfaction. I also really enjoy the fact that I can balance work and home. I like to work out (run, bike, swim) during the day and I can do that. When I see how hard it can be to have an office job and then exercise late in the evening, I am glad I can fit it in during the working day. It also makes my workday more productive after I go exercise.
Q: What’s one lesson you’ve learned in your career that you can share with our audience?
DC: No one is more invested in your career success than you are.
Q: What are some of the challenges you feel women face today?
DC: One of the challenges women face today is being assertive without being labeled as difficult. I think that it is easier sometimes for a man to say something direct and not get labeled as aggressive but when a woman does it, they might get backlash. The other challenge I see is the lack of women at the top of business organizations. I went to a conference about three weeks ago and I was one of the only women in the audience of over 100 attendees. It is something I immediately notice, and it doesn’t matter how much we say we have addressed equity and diversity it doesn’t translate to all aspects of work.
Q: What advice would you give to young women who want to succeed in the workplace?
DC: Mentors are very important as you go through your career path. There are going to be crucial conversations that you need to have about salary, work, work/life balance, travel and other issues that should probably take place outside of someone’s current work colleagues. Having a mentor in another organization who can talk about these issues will give you invaluable advice as you navigate the work world.
Q: After high school, where did you feel your career path would take you?
DC: In high school, I thought I was going to major in chemistry and go to medical school. Then I had an internship in a hospital and the sight of blood made me sick. It was clear healthcare was not a place for me and so I knew I had to pick another line of work.
Five Things About Diane Cherry
1. What was the last book you really got into?
Evicted: Poverty & Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
2. What’s your favorite quote or saying?
Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.
3. Favorite Dessert?
Carrot cake with Vanilla Icing.
4. If you could go back in time to change one thing, what would it be?
I wished I had taken a semester in college to study abroad. At the time I was a bit shy about doing this, but as I look back on my college years, I think it would have been an amazing and growing experience. Everyone I have ever known that did this said it was one of the best things they ever did – experiencing a new culture, learning a language, and getting out of their comfort zone.
5. What would your perfect Saturday be like?
Some kind of exercise in the morning – a long bike ride, a run, or something else that takes most of the morning. Then a hearty brunch followed by a nap. Then later in the day eating dinner with my family and watching some kind of movie.