Introducing Impact Superstar: Tess O’Brien – Impact Entrepreneur Who Knows The Value of Strong Partnerships

Each month, Net Impact Boston will be interviewing our premium members and highlighting an Impact Superstar.  This month, Tess O’Brien is not only our VIP, but she has been selected as a finalist for Green America’s People & Planet Award and she needs your vote!

Founding an Impact Startup:


Tess is the Founder + Chief Energizer of CleanPowerPerks, a women-owned startup based here in Boston. CleanPowerPerks rewards people + celebrates brands that use clean energy, in a first-of-its-kind program. Their web-based platform guides people to clean energy options and rewards them with perks from national brands that use clean power, too. Members receive exclusive deals and discounts from brands like prAna, Preserve, Emmy’s Organics, and Timberland. They introduce new perks every month and keep members up to date on clean, green news and tips to help inspire + power their green lifestyle.

CleanPowerPerks also creates educational information about clean power, like their Shop Clean List: a database of brands and businesses that support renewable energy. It’s all in an effort to achieve their mission of scaling the adoption of clean energy in the US – which anyone, renters included, can do.

What It Takes To Make It Happen:


The first thing Tess did once she officially decided to pursue the idea, which came after lots of work, was talk to people – lots of them. Talking with potential customers and listening to their thoughts and feedback was invaluable in shaping the design of the program and the business model.

Also, participating in accelerators, like she’s done with Cleantech Open Northeast and Social Enterprise Greenhouse, will provide tremendous support and guidance as you get started. Surrounding yourself with other entrepreneurs is invaluable – the journey, especially as a solo founder, can be pretty lonely. One great way to do that is to join a coworking space, like Impact Hub Boston, where CleanPowerPerks is headquartered. Try to find people to work with you, even in limited capacities – and if you have an idea or mission people are passionate about, you can get creative if you’re bootstrapping. I’ve been blessed to get to work with some terrific professionals. A team is really important. You can’t do everything alone.

What Makes Her Program a Success:

collaboration (1)
The program is a new kind of collaboration for the clean energy marketing industry. Partnerships are at the core of this win-win-win model, which benefits every party that participates: people (who get special discounts + deals), brands (who get to connect with like-minded consumers) and clean energy providers (who get happy current customers + new customer signups). It’s a delicate balance of shared value + competitive collaboration that CleanPowerPerks aims to achieve by playing a neutral role in supporting everyone.

How Did She Go From Idea To Successful Startup?:

Wind turbines farmIt took a while to fully flesh out the model, given it’s complexity. So Tess spent free time filling a journal with ideas and thinking through all the different challenges – basically trying to rule out any big issues. Once she decided that there weren’t any major red flags, Tess started working on a launch plan as her capstone project for her grad degree. That program – The Marlboro MBA in Sustainability – provided great support for her to get started. Plus, she had an amazing mentor, Will Keyser, and the support of her husband, Tim, and family to keep her encouraged in the early days.

Tess’ Greatest Takeaway From Launching Her Impact Startup:

“Launching a startup is the greatest challenge that I’ve ever had, but it’s also been incredibly rewarding! It’s definitely a roller coaster – the highs are really high and the lows are really low, it’s a test of endurance. And there are a lot of really long days, but when you’re creating something new, you almost don’t mind.” 

More About Our Superstar:

IMG_3737_Tess O'Brien Headshot Casual touchedTess entered the renewable energy industry field after studying environmental science, seeing the impact of climate change firsthand with melting glaciers in Iceland, and learning about the wind energy industry in Denmark. Her passion for the environment stems from a childhood spent exploring the Adirondack Mountains with her family and shopping for granola with her mom at a local natural foods store in Princeton, NJ.

Starting CleanPowerPerks was a natural next step for Tess, who previously worked as Marketing Director for a wind and solar energy company. The idea occurred to her after years of hearing people ask “when I sign up for clean energy, what do I get?”. So she set out to design a program that gives folks a little extra motivation to do something good.

Live Clean Love Perks white_solar
Tess first joined Net Impact at Marlboro College Graduate School’s inaugural chapter while pursuing her MBA in Managing for Sustainability. She has served on Net Impact Boston’s leadership team, previously as Marketing Co-Chair and now as Internal Operations Chair, since 2013.Find out more about CleanPowerPerks and join the community at

Support Tess and CleanPowerPerks By Voting Now:

CleanPowerPerks is a finalist in Green America’s People & Planet Award! They need your vote!  Support their work by voting for them here:
CleanPowerPerks Infographic Overview Updated 1.23.15

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