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Energy deregulation opens business opportunities in New York

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At the Ambit Energy meeting in Albany, Capital Region professionals--from teachers to electricians, lawyers, nurses, and more--testify to the money they had made persuading family and friends to switch from National Grid to Ambit Energy. Professionals and everyday homemakers

“As good as I thought it’d be, it was 100 times better,” said Humberto Cruz, a restauranteur from Colonie, has made thousands of dollars by building a network of consultants for Ambit since last October. “I’ve never seen a business grow so quick.”

The business model--is not unlike Amway, Primerica, Herbal Life, and other multilevel marketing businesses: Average folks sell friends a product or service (who, in turn, sell friends a product or service) with each seller getting a slice of the recruit’s spending in return. Only instead of pushing creams or vitamins, Ambit representatives sell gas and electricity.

The approach is a novel and perhaps inevitable byproduct of utility deregulation that began a decade ago, with broken-up monopolies now facing competition from alternative energy service companies (ESCOs).

Ambit, which was founded in Texas in 2006 and came to New York in June 2007, is one of a handful of ESCOs experimenting with the network-marketing model, betting that people are more likely to buy electricity from someone they know than from a stranger at their door (and that sales agents who earn residuals from those they enlist will be more motivated than those who work for a salary or straight commission).

Besides the monthly savings on utility bills promised by competing ESCOs, Ambit sells itself as an entrepreneurial opportunity: Consultants pay an initial start-up fee (plus $25 a month for a personalized Web site).

Ambit's program is available for electric and natural gas customers throughout California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas and Washington, D.C. And new markets have recently opened in New Hampshire and Virginia.

Contact Humberto Cruz at his restaurant, the Point Cafe, located at 964 Helderberg Avenue in Rotterdam.

Dave Balog teaches money essentials to families. Click here or call 952-1257.

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