Becoming a green entrepreneur doesn’t necessarily mean you have to build a business from scratch. Environmental companies across the country offer opportunities—from direct-selling gigs to owning franchises—that can help you grow a new enterprise quickly. So, you can reap the benefits of support and structure from a larger company while maintaining your independence.
Landscape architect Justine Kwiat-skowski of Miami, Florida, became a Green Irene consultant in 2009 to compliment her fledgling green landscaping business. She joined a web of more than 500 consultants who sell and perform green home and office makeovers, as well as sell the company’s line of products: waste-free lunch kits, battery recycling kits and more.
Consultants sign up on the Green Irene website and complete a 25-hour online training course. They get a website, marketing materials, a constantly updated database and access to research staff. “It’s like a business-in-a-box,” says Rosamaria Caballero Stafford, who cofounded Green Irene with her husband, PJ. “We provide everything they need to get going.” The basic consultant training and business launch package costs $150; a deluxe package costs $350.
After completing the training in July 2009, Kwiatskowski scheduled her first client in November, and by February 2010 had done about a dozen green home makeovers. “The support [from Green Irene] is impeccable,” Kwi-atskowski says. “They’re constantly improving the business side of things.”
Other green direct sellers recruit distributors to sell established product lines: Become a Shaklee “gold” ambassador—start-up cost is $299—and set up a home-based business selling eco-friendly household cleaners and more on a commission basis. Similarly, home-based Miessence distributors sell organic cosmetics and body care products through their own community networks. Zolagoods coordinators sell green living products; a coordinator start-up kit is $149 and includes a personal website.
Three years ago, Petra Geiger started Beehive Co-op in Atlanta, Georgia, to sell eco-friendly and boutique products like soaps and jewelry crafted by local artisans. Geiger opened up a second store in Mt. Kisco, New York, and has been looking for entrepreneurs to launch franchises in other small cities. About half of the wares sold at a franchise store would be from local designers, and about half from artisans near Beehive Co-op’s other two stores.
“The operation methodology, branding and concept are all ready to go for prospective owners in other areas,” Geiger says. A franchise fee of $25,000 would pay for rights to branding, materials, operational structures and support. An additional $60,000 to $120,000 would set up the store space, depending on location, with the business operational in about four months.
Likewise, “g” Green Design Center sells green building materials, housewares, lighting and more. Franchises cost from $98,500 to more than $200,000 and can be set up in 38 states. In addition to a training program that teaches operation and administration, the company provides tools for sales and marketing, merchandising, green building, community outreach and customer service.
Under the Umbrella
“Premier” dealers from Solatube International sell solar light tubes, which channel sunlight through a reflective metal tube to illuminate home interiors.
It’s a unique way to break into the green building industry, says business development manager Patrick Dickey. For a start-up fee of $35,000, dealers learn the business in a weeklong training course, get support in setting up their showrooms, purchase products from Solatube headquarters and hire installation employees. Dealers are connected with 118 Solatube dealers across the U.S. and Canada, and can have their new business up and running in about a month, according to Dickey.
Though prospective entrepreneurs should always do their research, many reputable companies make opening a green business a relatively easy—and rewarding—experience.