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These Startups Envision a Just Transition to a Green Economy

June 21, 2024

At A Glance

The startup leaders in the JFFLabs climate resilient solutions Entrepreneurs-in-Residence cohort are addressing systemic inequities and fostering green career opportunities.

Sherrell Dorsey Consultant
Practices & Centers Topics

Several obstacles can impede the effort to foster a just transition to a green economy: lack of awareness, systemic barriers to learning new skills, distrust in training systems, and inequity in capital funding.   

The JFFLabs Climate Resilient Solutions Entrepreneurs-in-Residence (EIR) incubator program aimed to address these barriers by providing support to a cohort of entrepreneurs and startups with a shared mission to address systemic inequities in the green economy and drive environmental responsibility across a number of sectors. 

The following profiles highlight takeaways from the cohort members’ experiences collaborating with Jobs for the Future (JFF) and their fellow entrepreneurs. Read on to explore their experiences firsthand. 

Profile photo of Shakir Cannon-Moye.

In 2020, Julius was founded to integrate innovative digital solutions into the curricula of workforce development programs. To support the energy transition, Julius provides data-driven course content that aligns with the long-term goals for climate and inclusive green career opportunities outlined in the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2023 U.S. Energy and Employment Report 

Last year, Shakir Cannon-Moye, then a JFF employee and now a vice president at Julius, learned that JFF was creating a climate-focused EIR cohort and quickly engaged with the program. From his current standpoint as a member of the Julius team, he said, “JFF has been a great conduit for [Julius] to scale the solution,” adding that progress Julius has made in the incubation cohort has enabled more people from populations that are underrepresented in green jobs “to see themselves as part of the clean energy transition.”  

Asked about the benefits of participating in the JFFLabs EIR incubator, Cannon-Moye said, “I want more people to have better jobs. So if there are things that are relevant . . . I send them [my cohort’s] way because, at the end of the day, we’re trying to solve a problem that is near and dear to my heart, and there’s no ego in that.”  

He said an interaction with a workforce participant made it clear that inclusive and accessible business intelligence is more crucial than ever. “He was like, ‘I’ve been a security guard for 10 years. I’ve tried to take solar classes in classrooms. I got more out of your online material than I ever had because of the accessibility of the language, and I’ve been in a dead-end job as a security guard. And so now I have the time, the opportunity to be a solar [photovoltaic panel] installer.’ And that just [puts me on] cloud nine,” Cannon-Moye recalled. “[We] partner with the people who have those relationships and think about how they can leverage our tools to get to the people we want to reach.”  

Julius continues to foster inclusivity in the energy workforce. Cannon-Moye said one of the company’s goals is to provide “support and camaraderie” to bring meaningful change to the energy labor market, enhance learning experiences, and connect jobseekers to relevant opportunities and career paths.


Profile photo of Kala Fleming.

The transition to a green economy promises to create new career pathways with economic advancement opportunities for people from populations underrepresented in quality jobs. Fulfilling that promise requires an intentional effort to ensure that all workers have access to the new opportunities. Frontline Gig aligns with this vision by connecting untapped talent to the green economy, addressing labor shortages, and reshaping job structures. 

In 2021, the same year Frontline was founded, the Great Resignation saw more than 47 million U.S. workers quit their jobs, citing poor compensation, culture, advancement opportunities, and work-life balance. This reckoning seemed to push workers toward an expectation of more fulfilling, fair, and well-paying jobs and working conditions. Some years later, Frontline Gig’s mission—to connect 10 million blue-collar workers to the green economy—remains relevant to that expectation.  

Frontline Gig pursues innovative methods to support workforce access to, preparation and training for, and advancement within quality green jobs. Its efforts to improve working conditions and compensation in the energy sector benefit both clients and workers.  

As Frontline CEO Kala Fleming recently explained, “The [groups] that are not already in the energy space, they’re interested to know how the people they serve could benefit from the upsides of all this climate talk, but they don’t know anything about it. And so, we become one of those on-ramps that can help get more of their individuals into that space.”  

Working alongside entrepreneurs and startups with similar goals seems to have opened new doors for Frontline Gig. “You just learn from the things that they’re going through,” Fleming said. “And in some cases, their path just helps you clarify yours and differentiate maybe a little bit. And, in others, there are opportunities for partnerships.”   

On the road to further success, Frontline will need continued funding support to redefine the energy workforce. JFF is proud to have partnered with Frontline to support its pursuit of innovative advancement and meaningful careers in green energy.


Profile photo of Tinia Pina.

Food production accounts for 26% of global greenhouse gas emissions and significantly affects freshwater and land use, according to Our World in Data. And according to Feeding America’s latest research, people in the United States waste 92 billion pounds of food annually—about 38% of all the food in the country. Re-Nuble CEO Tinia Pina founded her company to help agricultural communities adopt sustainable growing practices that reduce localized food waste 

Based in New York City with operations in Rochester, New York, Re-Nuble is driven by integrity and research as it aims to solve two key issues: a lack of responsibly produced, nutritious food and an excess of food waste. Pina and her growth-minded team promote a closed-loop cultivation practice to minimize carbon footprints and enhance responsible food production. Re-Nuble has developed a proprietary process to transform vegetative food waste into organic nutrients and grow media that indoor farms can use instead of peat, reducing waste and greenhouse gas emissions.  

Open to learning and making mistakes, the company has improved its products and processes continuously. Pina said a company is only as strong as the team it builds. “I’m more interested in us having the space to have open communications and be transparent and try things than [for the team] to feel that they need to be an expert at everything and not make mistakes,” she said.  

While Re-Nuble strives to maintain transparency and accountability with a tiered structure and clear benchmarks, Pina understood the power of partnering with a major support system like the JFFLabs EIR program to flesh out its market strategies and pinpoint a stronger focus.  

Commenting on her experience with the EIR program, she said, “I [recently] spoke at the career center at Stony Brook University and [the discussion] was more general, which is [the case] the majority of the times that I’m asked to speak. It’s like, ‘Here’s what entrepreneurship was like for you’ and ‘How did you get here?’ It hasn’t been as dialed in or narrow as ‘What are the specific skill sets from a training perspective to enter this industry?’ The first time I had that experience or even that focus was with JFFLabs.”

I’m more interested in us having the space to have open communications and be transparent and try things than [for the team] to feel that they need to be an expert at everything and not make mistakes.

Tinia Pina, CEO and founder, Re-Nuble

Profile photo of Max Yergan.

More than a century ago, the first truck with an internal combustion engine began transporting large loads over long distances, demanding long hours and incurring environmental sacrifices. Today, this trend continues with trucks powered by diesel engines, raising a critical question: How much more can truckers and our planet sacrifice for transportation convenience? 

Max Yergan is answering the call for more efficient, green, and safe practices in the trucking industry. In 2022, Yergan founded Emissionless, a green company focused on rebuilding the trucking industry through technology, infrastructure, and tech-enabled services by providing electric truck fleets that significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions. 

Yergan shows—not just tells—potential clients the data backing his claims. Recently, he took a 600-mile trip from Detroit to New York City in Emissionless’s first fully operational electric vehicle, the General Motors BrightDrop Zevo 600. The truck carried a full cargo load and only required two charging sessions of two hours each along the way.  

After months of participation in the JFFLabs EIR cohort, Yergan said that Emissionless’s identity and purpose now feel “a lot more streamlined, a lot more refined.”   

“I like to think of it as we’re Emissionless 3.0 now, and perhaps when we applied, we were 2.0,” he said. “That process of iterating and refining and chiseling down, it is hard to do when you’re so deep in it.” 

Yergan said JFFLabs has been a valuable support. “In terms of programming, JFF was the strongest out of all [other accelerators and programs], without a question,” he said. Unlike other incubator programs, “JFF provided some capital, which has been greatly appreciated,” he added. “JFF has been hugely useful and impactful, and [I’m] excited to see what goes [on] from here.”  

Emissionless plans to raise more funds as it releases new products, having relied on bootstrapped funding, grants, and network support so far. The team emphasizes maintaining core values as it “[learns] how to better convey the story and the impact [of what it does],” Yergan said. 


Profile photo of Stefano Alva.

Transcending the bounds of traditional energy production, Farm to Flame Energy has redefined the landscape of clean power solutions, creating smokeless and odorless biomass-powered generators. Utilizing diverse biomass feedstock, its technology provides an eco-friendly alternative to current generators at half the cost of diesel fuel 

Over the years, the Farm to Flame Energy team has faced obstacles to implementing changes, including inadequate networking, funding, and access to relevant client data. The company entered the JFFLabs EIR cohort to address these challenges.  

As former Farm to Flame Chief Commercial Officer Stefano Alva explained, “I was very interested in the opportunity to connect with JFF because I know how strong some of the JFF connections are and how well JFF is connected within the industry.” 

“Our business model requires that we sell our technology to relatively big businesses. I wanted to use this program as a way to understand a little bit better how bigger organizations work, how enterprises think about their decision-making process when doing projects and meeting their sustainability goals.”  

The UN’s 2023 Sustainable Development Goals Report estimated that about 660 million people lack access to reliable, clean electricity. One of Farm to Flame’s long-term goals is to provide green energy to both emerging and established markets. With this monumental mission in mind, JFF helped the company unlock crucial information and relationships with corporations and government organizations.   

Getting organizations “to share how much oil they’re burning to provide heating to their facilities, how much waste they’re producing that could be transformed to energy—those are pieces of data that corporations and municipalities are not telling everyone about because they’re the types of things that they want to improve,” Alva said. And because Farm to Flame has been able to get that data and earn the trust of many organizations, Alva said, “I’m miles ahead now than I was a couple of months ago before the EIR program.”  

Offering an enterprise power generation solution that costs half as much as traditional options and generates no pollution, Farm to Flame generator is an indispensable contribution to the clean power industry. As its journey with JFF ends, the company will usher in a new and improved era of technological advancement and corporate partnership as it promotes safe, reliable energy. 

Our business model requires that we sell our technology to relatively big businesses. I wanted to use this program as a way to understand a little bit better how bigger organizations work.

Stefano Alva, former chief commercial officer, Farm to Flame Energy


By accelerating big ideas, testing and validating solutions, and showcasing impact, the JFFLabs Entrepreneurs-in-Residence incubator is a launchpad for companies like these to maximize their potential and make remarkable impacts in their fields.

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