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BOOK: Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur

Ecopreneurship is launching a small business with a special twist and Scott Cooney shows you how to start a green business based on wide research of successful green ecopreneurs.

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Scott Cooney Green Business ecopreneur "In an ideal world, I'm hoping to catalyze nothing short of a revolution to make our entire economy go green," says Scott Cooney. "I just feel that so many of our environmental and health problems would evaporate without the need for regulations or what some might see as heavy handed government intervention if our economic engine turned green.

Cooney spotted a need to help for the aspiring eco-entrepreneur to demystify the process of starting a green business. When he was an MBA student in 1999, his strategic marketing class had the students write business plans for a new business. "I have a knack for leaving things like that for the last minute, and so a semester project ended up being a last minute cram job. I had to write what I knew, so I wrote a business plan for a green business. It was an eco-friendly landscaping business. I had done some landscape work for a summer, and I knew environmental issues pretty well, so the business plan came out pretty well, despite my procrastination. The business plan met with a lot of raised eyebrows and dubious looks, but a few years later I started the business and it really took off," he recalled.

After the first season, he took the down season of winter to create a green business directory to help promote his landscaping business, and that REALLY met with skepticism. The first edition came out at 104 pages and contained green businesses from all over the Salt Lake City area. Two years later, the third edition was at about 250 pages and contained well over 600 businesses. In the process, he met with each of the owners of these businesses and interviewed them to make sure they qualified for the green business directory, and managed to learn quite a bit about running a small green business.

Scott Cooney Green Business "At some point, I realized that I was one of very few people with this body of knowledge, and decided to put it in a book to try to help hundreds or thousands of aspiring eco-entrepreneurs start their dream businesses."

When asked if he feels it's a good time to start a green business, Cooney was enthusiastic, but careful, "If you look back at other recessionary periods in history, they tend to be a time with a lot of entrepreneurial activity. There are a lot of advantages to starting a business during a downturn. You can start with contract work, as many companies have trimmed payrolls and are looking to outsource a lot of work to outside contractors. Through this, you can build a reputation and a client base. Also, it's a great time to find some terrific employees and partners. There are a lot of great people unemployed right now."

"There are the downsides -- capital is tough to come by right now. It's a combination of the banking meltdown and loss of confidence by venture capitalists. But that doesn't mean it's not out there, you just have to be really thorough with your business plan and make a convincing case. There are also quite a few businesses in my book that require very little startup capital, so if you're interested in one of those, this might be a fantastic time to get going."

A lot of eco-entrepreneurs have tightened their belts, but in many industries, they're growing. A friend runs a carbon offsets company, and they are hiring and growing. You'd think that would be a bad industry, being a somewhat discretionary expenditure for many businesses, so I think that bodes well as a barometer of the green economy. Another friend runs an organic pizza chain and they're doubling in size from 15 outlets to 31 this year just with existing franchise development, though they may in fact triple in size before all is said and done in 2009. A colleague who runs a vegan cafe says that being in a walkable neighborhood keeps him very busy.

"So I think the underlying fundamentals of the green economy, such as localism, community, walkability, etc. are just getting better and will continue to do so. Gas prices have dipped, but they'll be back up before you know it, and those companies and entrepreneurs that position themselves to be resilient to those fluctuations will be in great shape going forward.

What's the best piece of advice you might give an aspiring eco-entrepreneur?

"Don't forget that a green business is still a job. Run one that you'll enjoy. Lay out the step-by-step model on paper or on a dry-erase board, and make sure you understand all the moving parts. It's particularly important to know exactly what you'll be doing, because you're going to be doing lots of it, so it might as well be something you like, are good at, and that allows you a level of comfort with your day-to-day activities.

"Stressing out over the budget, managing employees, etc., is normal for a small business owner, but this should not be compounded by stress from the actual job itself. This is actually Rule #1 in my intro chapter about what it takes to start a green business. There are 4 more, but without that one, the rest fall completely apart.

The book is available at bookshops through Ingram, which is the preferred distributor to many indy bookstores, so they should be able to order it if they don't have it in stock. It's also at Barnes & Noble, Borders, and online at Amazon and Better World Books, but I'd love it if more books got sold through indy shops than Amazon.

Cooney hopes to manifest some sort of a "Center for Sustainable Entrepreneurship". "I would really like to have a group of people that can provide mentoring, coaching, and consulting for aspiring eco-entrepreneurs and those who already have a business but want to take it green. It would be sort of a green business incubator...allowing people to learn about the green economy, then turning them loose on the world to start their green business with all the tools they need."

Contact Scott Cooney through Facebook. His Facebook page is called "Ecopreneur's Guide", or people can contact him through his website,

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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