Guidelines for opening an eco-friendly business
Over the past few decades, with an advanced understanding of climate change and the impact we have on our environment, there has been an increased focus on environmental responsibility – not just from governments worldwide but from individuals who own and operate businesses.
The U.S. Small Business Administration has a “Green Business Guide,” a section on its website with a series of articles dedicated to green marketing, eco-certifications and more practical advice for small business owners looking to incorporate eco-practices into their respective business ventures.
That is good news for those already in business. But, what about the person who has a strong idea for an eco-friendly business – i.e., someone who wants to launch a bike share in his or her community – yet has no idea where to start?
As someone who walked in those shoes before, a guy with an idea for a truly eco-friendly laundry concept, I can relate to feeling both excited and lost in knowing I have a great idea yet not quite knowing how to launch it.
With that in mind, I wanted to offer three pieces of advice to any entrepreneurial novice with a novel idea in the eco-friendly business space. It can be done, believe me. But first, critically assess your business idea and ask yourself the following three questions:
- Is my concept truly sustainable?
Plenty of concepts out there have latched onto the trending “green business” label without really being green. Everyone wants to be green but very few businesses succeed.
One thing our franchise, The Eco Laundry Company, has done to hold ourselves truly accountable is become a certified B Corporation. For anyone unfamiliar with what this means, B Corp certification is one of the most rigorous and trusted levels of certification available for businesses today. We are part of a handful of businesses certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. And we have to continue to meet these standards on a regular basis. B Corporation is to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee or USDA Organic certification is to milk.
We’ve also partnered with non-profits, including 1 % for the Planet, to make public our company standards to give back to environmental causes.
A suggestion I have for anyone considering launching an eco-friendly business concept: Do your homework. Look beyond your great idea and figure out practical ways you can take the serious step toward being an actively involved green business. Play devil’s advocate on your green concept: How green are you? Do you meet industry or best practice standards? What makes your truly different from the current industry paradigm?
- Can my eco-business withstand another recession?
There are certain industries that tend to withstand economic dips. They may bend, but they won’t break during a recession. One of the reasons why I chose to develop a sustainable laundry and dry cleaning company was the consistency of the industry. Our industry is tried and tested – people need to wash and dry clean their clothes.
As much as people who truly value sustainability want to leave a lasting legacy and establish businesses that reduce our carbon footprints, we need to realize that, in order to have the greatest impact, we must establish viable businesses that will provide us with both the voice and buying power to spread the good word.
- Does my idea have the ‘wow’ factor – can I create enough buzz about my brand to help it last?
In a short period of time, our brand has been fortunate enough to build a large following on two continents. Our first location, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and our second location in New York City have each received local and international attention. We’re proud to have a 4.5 out of 5 review on Yelp – something that isn’t easy to come by.
Most importantly, though, our business has generated enough word of mouth support to really grow from the ground up.
When people give you good ratings and positive feedback, it serves as a fantastic customer lead generation source – probably the best on the planet. Our eco-friendly model has helped us provide sustainable, non-toxic dry cleaning and laundry service to customers and launch a newly established franchising program.
When it comes to considering whether or not you have the next eco-business solution, be sure to really vet your idea. Talk to mentors who have done it before. Do your homework and due diligence. Be hard on yourself.
And when you really feel like you have something special, jump all in to your business. You won’t regret it.