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Entrepreneur Makes 180-Degree Career Turn

This article was originally Published by the Orange Country Register. Our thanks for allowing us to post it here.

Tonya Goodbrand and her husband, David, hold one of their whole house fans in the assembly shop at Comfort Cool Fans in Laguna Hills. (Photo: Kent Treptow, for the Orange County Register).

David Goodbrand had been in the mortgage industry since 1996 and owned his own business, Goodbrand Lending in Mission Viejo, since 2002. He had eight employees and 50 independent loan officers.

“Everyone knows what happened in 2006,” Goodbrand says. “Business dried up overnight. My wife was a stay-at-home mom. I had a one year old and one on the way plus two teenagers.”

Like the scurrying mice in the book, “Who Moved My Cheese,” Goodbrand didn’t spend much time waiting for the industry to recover. He had a family to support.

“I did the usual: go out and interview. But no one was hiring for jobs I was qualified for,” says Goodbrand who has a finance degree and an MBA. “I had to look for another avenue.”

His brother, who has worked in the heating and air conditioning industry for a quarter century, reminded Goodbrand that he had gone to a tech college right out of high school and worked repairing cars before going to Cal State Long Beach.

“He said, ‘When I had my business, a lot of customers asked for whole-house fans but the technology wasn’t there. Now it is,'” Goodbrand recalls.

The advantage of these fans is that they save electricity; the downside is that they have been so noisy and difficult to install. A pro would have to build a frame in the ceiling and take almost a day. Few home-owning do-it-yourselfers could do it.

As a true entrepreneur, Goodbrand didn’t go out and get an installer’s job, he studied the air conditioning industry and fan technology and created an easier-to-install ventilation system that costs 5 cents an hour to run and costs $995 to $1,995 to buy and install. (Contractors and do-it-yourselfers can get the units for $545 to $1,245.)

The product is Centric Air and Goodbrand’s Laguna Hills company is Comfort Cool Fans.

“I’m tweaking existing technology,” he says. “We designed it with a 3-D designer and gave it to a contract manufacturer to do the blank box. We add the components and wiring. We’re mostly a manufacturer though I do have an installation business locally.”

He envisions that eventually his customers will be contractors who already install air conditioners and homeowners who will do the installation themselves.

Orange County resident R. J. Manning said his parents had a whole house fan and he thought about installing one in his home but fans on the market weren’t satisfactory.

“Last Spring, I conducted a Internet search and found (Goodbrand). I visited store, and Dave showed me how it worked,” Manning said. ” A week later he installed my whole-house fan. It has been great. It has exceeded my expectations. I use it not only to cool down the house, but bring in fresh air.”

So far, about half of Goodbrand’s business comes from other states where people are much more familiar with whole-house fans. He must educate residents of Southern California, where the climate is almost ideal for such units, he says.

Many of the business fundamentals are the same, whether the company sells mortgages or fans, he says. “I know how important cash flow is; I know I can be out of business very quickly.”

Although Goodbrand is an experienced business owner, and Comfort Cool is almost replacing 100 percent of his previous income, the transformation from a white-collar financial guy to a manufacturer and installer “is huge,” he acknowledges.

“I’m crawling around in people’s attics and realize they have no idea about my background, my MBA. It took some time to overcome that,” he says.

“Now we have an installer in Orange County and one in the Inland Empire and one in the San Diego area so I’m able to concentrate on growing the business.”

Now if someone asks him about making the transition from a lucrative industry that isn’t hiring to one that is but doesn’t seem so glamorous, he says, “Get over yourself! I had to put in a lot of hard work, more hours than I ever worked in my life and hard physical labor for three years,

“But if you work hard and have a good idea, you can make it,” he adds.