Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize we can not eat money.
-Cree Indian Proverb
2001 was when it first hit him. He was in a public rest stop on a highway in upstate New York using the men's room. While there, he noticed a big poster on the wall saying "Proud to be cleaned by Lysol".
He thought to himself, "They're proud to be using Lysol? That's horrible!" [Note: Lysol has known carcinogens- chemicals quite toxic to humans.] Cleaners in public spaces should be all natural and non-toxic for all involved. Including the planet.
Shortly thereafter he started Ecologic Solutions, Inc.in his apartment. Eight years later it is one of the most successful all-natural commercial cleaning supply companies in the country with 100% annual sales growth for the past three years. Rejecting a corporate buyout offer, they are wrapping up a multi-million dollar round of investment financing.
The man who started the company is my baby brother, Anselm.
People frequently ask me "Can a business really thrive in being 'green'?" I tell them about Anselm and several of my clients which companies are all growing at similar rates in their "green" companies.
They often also ask, "Is' green 'business just another modern-day gold rush, like the internet boom in the late' 90's and the real estate boom that just collapsed?"
My answer usually surprises them, "'Yes', for some. And 'no' for everyone else."
Continuing I explain, "50% of the world's wetlands have been lost in the last 100 years, 50% of the world's forests have been chopped down, 70% of the world's major marine fisheries have been depleted, 100% of the world's coral reefs are at risk, and 6.3 billion people on the planet with another 3 billion coming in the next 40 years. This might be a fad for some, and for everyone else this is a permanent change we must address now. money taking care of the planet will be the fastest way we'll reverse these trends. "
In order to successfully launch a new "green" product or company, the following eight steps might be helpful:
1. Pick from the Top Ten Environmental Issues for one (s) you are most passionate about.
2. Build your product / service around that issue. If you do not see a relationship between what you know how to do and that issue, create one. For example, you're a chiropractor and you are passionate about air pollution, find creative ways to reduce customer travel to your office, use low energy consuming equipment in the office, start or contribute to a fund for pollution control, or have your office offer discounts to those who bike to your office.
3. Define your target customer. Who would be most interested in your new product / service or company? What are their demographics and psychographics (interests).
4. Study your competition. What are they doing towards your chosen issue? How are you better or different? In order to avoid "greenwashing" (promoting being "green" without really being "green"), you must be authentic and accurate.
5. Establish your credibility. To add the legitimacy, show your experts on staff, credentials (licenses, degrees, etc.), testimonials from sources sources / clients, case studies of those who have used your product / service (or ones similar), and / or scientific resources backing up your research / claims.
6. Determine start up costs. Do you need to finance the project? There are many government-backed financing programs starting now with the "green jobs" initiative being pushed heavily in Washington. An expert on this is Franklin Madison at Industrial and Technology Assistance Corporation here (ITAC) in NYC. Frank and ITAC have a 10 year history of working with and providing access to funding for green businesses (particularly based technology-based businesses.)
7. Hit the market. Make sure you present your product / service in a way your target customers are going to get it. Speak their language when explaining how it benefits both them and the planet. Use stories and examples. Masters at explaining their products are The Body Shop and Patagonia.
8. Have a blast. Make sure it is what you are passionate about. You will get knocked around a lot and when you do, what will get you back up is your passion for making it happen.
And by following these steps just might get you to where my brother, Anselm's, business is right now.
Action Steps for the Week
Although green businesses started gaining traction in the early '90's, only recently has it become a really hot market. For this reason, it will take some serious focus and intent for you to catch up to the wave. Here is what you will need to do ASAP:
* Determine what "floats your boat" regarding environmental issues.
* Research that environmental topic until you understand the key issues.
* Define your product / service new business.
* Study your competition. Who is doing this already? How are you unique or better?
* Integrate plan into your business.
* Write up your marketing strategy.
* Got expenses to start? If so, where will you raise the capital?
Do not get discouraged or delay on this. The time for this is now, because in this economy and this hot market you can imagine how many people are innovating just like you.
Get going and Be UnReasonable!