DeAnna Tapia thought it was all too good to be true.
In her experience, especially after starting a small business with her husband Raul, expenses were constant. They’d pop up from everywhere, and they were usually unexpected. Rarely were there pleasant surprises. Her experience with Energy Trust of Oregon was different.
First, some background:
Tapia, who speaks Spanish, began informally helping out as an interpreter about 20 years ago, when she worked at a hospital. Some of her patients struggled with the language barrier, so she’d walk them through the requirements for forms that needed to be filled out. That eventually led to a meeting with the owner of a physical therapy clinic, who told Tapia that she could do that for a living.
Unsure of what the future held but open to change, Tapia and her husband took the plunge in 2006.
They launched their business, Professional Interpreters, Inc., from humble beginnings, “at my kitchen table,” she recalls. 17 years later, the Salem-based small business employs a full-time staff of 13 plus 250 interpreters who are fluent in 68 languages.
From their home, the business has also expanded its footprint to a multi-lot unit that features a 5,400-square foot building as the company’s base. It wasn’t without growing pains, though. The Tapias made multiple offers on the property, only to be rejected each time. But they persisted once a deal fell through, and thanks to a pandemic-era assistance program, they were able to secure a down payment and open the doors to the space in 2020. “You can’t find anything like this in Salem anymore,” she says.
The new location used to be a dental office, so they had to remodel to meet their needs. “This is an older building. And the lighting was iffy,” Tapia recalls. But their budget didn’t stretch to include lighting.
That’s where Energy Trust came in. Almost a year ago Professional Interpreters participated in Energy Trust’s no-cost lighting offer replace the business’ outdoor security lighting with energy-efficient models.
Tapia found out about the no-cost lighting offer through Jose Soto, Energy Trust’s community outreach coordinator. He’d previously been employed at Professional Interpreters.
“If not for Jose, No. 1, we wouldn’t have known about it,” Tapia says. “And No. 2, we wouldn’t have trusted them because it sounds too good to be true.”
“It just seemed like a scam,” Tapia says of her skepticism. “Like, you have to put a lien on your house or something. It was one of those things where I thought if you do it, they’re going to come back later and charge a lot of money, or they’re going to want something from me.”
Instead, the experience was painless, and the business can expect to save more than $780 a year on its energy bill thanks to the new lighting.
“They come out and they make [the lights] energy efficient, they put brand new lights in and it’s no cost. That’s what we had them do. They come out, they look at it and tell you what they can do. I think they do different things for different companies, but for us, that’s what we needed.”
And now, after lower energy bills and generally brighter and improved lighting, she is a convert.
“I’m just a normal person, a common person, and I took advantage of this,” Tapia says. “It was a benefit to our business and a benefit to us. I would tell anyone interested to try it. It doesn’t cost anything. It won’t hurt you. They’re not going to ask anything from you.”
To any other business owners considering working with Energy Trust, she urges them to follow her lead.
“I think knowing what it is and seeing that someone else was able to take advantage of it and now, almost a year later, I still haven’t had to pay anything.”