involved in the energy and environmental industries. “For anything to be sustainable it has to make money, and it must add value to existing companies or products.”
So entrepreneurs can profit from the green economy without developing capital intensive, game-changing technologies or alternative energy sources. Many investors in the green space are looking for better mousetraps—that is, incremental improvements that fill supply chain gaps, eliminate bottlenecks, or reduce energy demand. Things such as manufacturing high-efficiency windows and low-energy drywall, or supplying parts for smart grid electricity readers hold great potential for immediate impact.
“There are all sorts of things where if you just think about problems a bit differently, you can come up with better solutions,” Green says. “Those sorts of things aren’t sexy but they add value and they last.”
Follow the Money
The second step toward deriving revenue from the green economy is drilling down from public sentiments and presidential proclamations to specific sales opportunities. This takes time, research, and persistence, says Lynnette Young, CEO and executive director of Sustainable Atlanta, a nonprofit that promotes environmentally sound practices and policies.
The key is putting someone in charge. “You hear a lot about small businesses not benefitting from the Recovery Act,” says Young. “It’s still a federal bureaucracy. Someone’s got to start asking questions, networking, finding out what other people know and how they are doing it. We’ve got to make these steps and get on board because if we don’t we are going to be left behind.”
Taylor’s research led him to EPA grants, minority certification programs, and corporate diversity initiatives. “[The Minority Supplier Development Council] is a key tool because it opens up your business to other, larger corporations that have diversity goals,” he explains. “Instead of flying blindly by just contacting businesses, it gives you a direct connection to the companies and their supplier diversity initiatives, including matchmaking and mentor–protégé programs.”
Still, finding the right niche takes time, says Malcolm Jackson, director of operations for Bumblebee Energy Solutions, a home energy audit company in Dallas. He tried wind power and electronics recycling before settling into energy auditing. “[The wind] industry went into a lull, and that taught me to look for a business that could survive the vagaries of tax incentives and political will,” he says.
The burgeoning energy efficiency area fit the bill for Jackson, and he launched Bumblebee in 2009 with a $50,000 investment to fund needed insurance, marketing, and equipment, including infrared thermal imaging cameras and carbon dioxide detectors. Jackson should do well. According to the Pew report, consumer demand for products and services that lower energy consumption—and bills—has spurred job growth for energy meter manufacturers, efficient materials installers, and energy-use consultants.
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