FROM WAR TORN BEIRUT TO CEO OF THE YEAR AND BEYOND
It was the gun shots, nearby combat and finally the exploding mortar shell landing 30 yards from the Issa family home in Beirut that brought the family to America in 1987. That frightening time and shocking close call, and its aftermath, taught an indelible lesson to five year old Abraham George Issa. He learned that to survive you had to be proactive.
The civil war raging in Lebanon had already killed more than 100,000 and displaced nearly ten times as many. Those who could get out of the country were the lucky ones. His father was fortunate to have dual citizenship from a previous marriage, having lived in Boston in the early 70s, so he was able to bring five year old Abe and his mother stateside to Fort Worth, Texas. With little more than the clothes on their back and a few belongings the Issas moved into a tiny apartment, sharing the space with Mr. Issa’s ex-wife, and struggling to support their growing family in a new world far away from the chaos of the Middle East.
The hard working immigrants were soon able to afford their own place as a growing Abe absorbed the promise of the American dream. Early on he knew he wanted to be successful, and wondered just how that could happen. He loved watching the incredible athleticism of Michael Jordan on television and knew that, whatever he did, he wanted to be the very best at it. By the time his 6th grade class held its annual candy sales fundraiser, the answer was becoming clear. He set his sights on winning the $250 prize for most sales, dedicating the hours from the time school got out to dark, knocking on doors and charming homeowners into buying ever more chocolate candy. Boxes of candy stacked up in homes everywhere in the neighborhood and Abe won the prize by an overwhelming margin. He was relentless, he was highly competitive and he never took no for an answer. That’s exactly how Abe has operated in business ever since.
By the age of 27, Abe had completed his education at Texas Christian University and founded a real estate investment firm. Between 2005 and 2010 he renovated more than 500 homes and commercial properties in Dallas, Fort Worth and South Texas, making millions and enjoying the many fruits of his labor. But nothing lasts forever and Abe learned the hard lesson that inexperience can have sudden unforeseen consequences. He lost his real estate company in 2010, seeing his net worth dwindle down to $10,000. He had taken his eyes off the prize.
But there is a silver lining in every cloud. A more reflective and mature Abe Issa took a giant step back to assess what had happened and applied all of what he learned at TCU and in the real estate business to find the next big opportunity. He wanted something that was both good for people and the environment and ripe for a hard driving entrepreneur with little capital. He studied demographics, trends in energy technology and environmental concerns, and most of all, studied how entrepreneurial, rapidly growing companies were managed, becoming an avid follower of Elon Musk and Richard Branson.
In 2011, Abe entered into the renewable energy industry. He began by experimenting with energy retrofits. He knocked on homeowners’ doors and telemarketed to set up appointments. Within 45 days, he has a remarkable response rate and he knew he was really on to something.