Growing a Green Business - Page 5 of 7

Growing a Green Business

have editorial independence? A desire for greater control led the Alexanders to invest $220,000 of their savings to launch

Their online video programming now has a distribution network that’s capable of reaching more than 72 million independent viewers every month. They started by focusing on creating the content and, with multiple syndication deals underway, are now in the process of attracting advertising support. While they stress that their business is focused on sustainability rather than profitability, the Alexanders project revenues of $75,000 in the second quarter of this year. What’s more, with the expansion of their content–they aim to produce a daily 30-minute show by early 2009–the couple hopes to grow quarterly revenues to $250,000 by the end of the year. The Alexanders project that their business will become profitable in the fourth quarter of this year.

While your personal coffers may not allow you to independently finance your startup, there are many sources of funding that have popped up alongside the growing number of green businesses. One example is the San Francisco-based Investors’ Circle, The 16-year-old social venture capital intermediary, made up of wealthy individuals, professional venture capitalists, and others, has channeled $120 million specifically toward green startups since its founding.

Even mainstream sources of capital are increasingly open to funding environmentally friendly startups, particularly technology or Internet-based ones. “Most major venture capital firms have either a dedicated fund for green and clean technologies, or someone on the staff is the go-to green expert,” says green business consultant Makower.

Building a Network
An essential part of launching any business and keeping it afloat is tapping into the knowledge of others in the field. As the movement to provide green products and services gains momentum, support networks for entrepreneurs have steadily taken shape. Environmental advocacy organizations such as Co-op America,; Conscious Wave Inc.,; and the Social Impact Leadership Council,, maintain that collaborative efforts among socially responsible business leaders are an essential component to addressing global warming.

These groups not only connect green businesses with their peers, but they provide strategic information about everything from market opportunities to finance. What’s more, their business-owner members tend to be uncommonly supportive of each other, says Deborah Nelson, executive director of another such organization, Social Venture Network, “Members share common values, so they really talk openly about what works,” says Nelso
n, whose group is an association of socially responsible business leaders, investors, and entrepreneurs.

Tolulope Ilesanmi, a Nigerian who emigrated to Canada in 2003, says his membership in the Social Venture Network has paid off through the mentoring and moral support he has received from fellow entrepreneurs. “Having a business with a conscience is not very common,” he says. “One needs a lot of support.”

Ilesanmi has an M.B.A. from McGill University in Montreal, but his business model could not be simpler: He cleans buildings. The founder of Zenith Cleaners in Montreal says that he uses environmentally friendly supplies more because of a personal belief system than a business strategy. “We don’t need to be