News + Resources

Industry Profile: Green Technology

Rebekah Bishop - Tuesday, November 27, 2012
What is Green Technology, and how can it improve your business strategy?

Green technology has become a buzzword over the last few years, referring to a variety of innovative products and techniques designed to promote sustainable living. As both our need and awareness increases for alternative methods of protecting the Earth's resources, green business strategies have become valuable tools for increasing efficiency as well as attracting a growing market of eco-minded consumers. Many business owners still believe that green technology can benefit only those businesses involved in energy or food production, however, with the advances being made in areas such as heating systems and recycling methods, every business can find ways to employ earth-friendly alternatives to their existing processes.

Developing and providing green technology has been the platform for many new businesses to find their niche in a competitive world, businesses such as Wolbrink Architects Chartered, a Chicago architectural firm that designs and constructs eco-sensitive, energy efficient buildings. Their ongoing project, Green Dream, is creating ENERGY STAR-rated condos in Chicago. Impressively, each unit is between 46.5-57.5 % more energy efficient than ENERGY STAR's baseline standards. In response to this incredible innovation, Wolbrink Architects received the 2006, Mayor Daley's Greenworks Award for market transformation. http://www.wolbrinkarchitects.com/

Directly capitalizing on green technology, is the dry cleaning service, Greener Cleaner. Using a liquid silicone solution, the non-toxic alternative to the commonly used perchloroethylene, Greener Cleaner is able to say that their product is safer to use and non-hazardous to the environment to make or dispose; it also cleans more effectively and is gentler on fabrics, giving clothing longer life cycles and reducing waste. http://www.greenercleaner.net/

Even fashion can be green, as proved by Mountains of the Moon, an eco-friendly clothing line that focuses on sustainability and responsibility. They are committed to using only low-impact dyes and long lasting fabrics such as cotton and hemp, grown without the use of pesticides and manufactured in US, sweatshop-free facilities. Designer, Melissa Baldwell intentionally creates “designs that are stylish but that can also be worn for multiple seasons and that surpass short-lived fads and trends . . . less likely to end up in landfills.” http://www.mountainsofthemoon.com/

Innovative businesses like these are receiving encouraging responses for their contributions to the green movement. Not only do a growing number of consumers prefer green products, but some states and influential corporations have begun to offer incentives to green businesses. Several grant funds are available in Illinois, including assistance for installing efficiency technologies to incentives for green building projects. 

http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives/index.cfm?State=IL 

In the corporate world, the investment firm, Goldman Sachs, announced this year a “$40 billion target for financing and investing in clean technology companies over the next decade.” http://www.goldmansachs.com/our-thinking/focus-on/clean-technology-and-renewables/index.html

Other opportunities available to green-minded entrepreneurs include franchising schemes which allow you to operate your own business from an established platform. One such opportunity is being offered by EASI Energy Automation Systems Inc. which creates products designed to improve efficiency in existing electrical systems. EASI provides the needed training, tools and support to entering affiliates, and start up costs are minimal as inventory is kept by the corporation, and affiliates may work from home and at their own pace.

http://www.energysavingbusiness.com//energy-automation-systems-opportunity.php

Another valuable resource for Chicago entrepreneurs is the recent establishment of the Green Exchange building housing a wide range of tenants each operating a sustainable business within the localized community. Renovated from a factory built in 1913, the five story building now features state-of-the-art green technology including a green roof with 8,000 SF organic sky garden, high efficiency heating and cooling system, a 41,329 gallon rain cistern, and an escalator with occupancy sensors. Tenants benefit from increased exposure, synergy opportunities with like-minded businesses, and reduced overhead as a result of building efficiency and by sharing common spaces and amenities. http://www.greenexchange.com/

Opportunities like these make eco-awareness a valuable and even necessary consideration for forward thinking entrepreneurs. To learn more about how you can green your business or start a green business, visit these additional resources.

Green Certification and Industry Partnerships: http://www.sba.gov/content/starting-green-business

Find Green Business Grants: http://www.brightgreentalent.com/green-business/green-business-grants/

Green Franchise Opportunities:

http://www.franchisedirect.com/greenfranchises/?gclid=COnypqjA4LMCFexAMgod1VUAGw

5 Green Businesses You Can Start From Home: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/199952




Following Your Drive

L. Brian Jenkins, MA - Wednesday, September 12, 2012

 

Skating isn’t usually included in the list of entrepreneurial ideas. It might even be called a foreign entity in the business world. At StartingUp Now, I had the opportunity to speak to a skater who turned his passion for skating and ministry into an achievable and actionable business plan. Noah Arnold, 29, demonstrates entrepreneurial initiative as he transitions into a new stage in his life, while showing how broad entrepreneurship opportunities can reach. In an unyielding manner, Arnold represents a prime example of entrepreneurship in a new capacity, and he uses StartingUp Now to turn his skating interests into a profitable business.

Arnold plans on opening a board shop that would sell skateboards, wakeboards, and snowboards products as well as accompanying retail clothing. He has always had a heart for skating, but he became a leader as he grew into a minister role to the skating community. Growing up in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, he moved to Illinois to study at Trinity International University. After college, Arnold moved to Libertyville, IL, where he co-founded Foundation Skate Ministry, a nonprofit skate ministry. Foundation Skate Ministry has two purposes: the “effective proclamation of the gospel of Christ to the lost skate culture in Lake County” and, “making disciples and the development of those disciples’ character into the character of Christ himself ‘teaching them to do all things whatsoever I have commanded you’ (Matthew 28:20).” Through weekly bible studies, the ministry reaches out to the skating community and transforms it through the word of God. “It started with a couple of kids a week, like 3 or 4, and then it grew to around 35-45 at my apartment,” said Arnold. He used his individual role as a skater to reach out to an entirely new and often overlooked community. 

He further immersed himself in skating culture when he moved to California for a year to teach physical education at a private school. “So-Cal and skate boarding is like PB & J,” said Arnold. However, he returned to Sturgeon Bay when he heard about the creation of a ten thousand square foot skate park in Door County. “If I can open up a skate shop and do ministry, I would be following my heart and passion,” he said.

While formulating his initial concept for the business, he was directed to StartingUp Now by a parent of a child in Arnold’s youth group. Since then, he has begun using the plan to layout his business plan and confirm his goals for the board shop for the next five years. “It’s been really helpful to put it all in words…I want to make sure I’m aiming for what I really want,” said Arnold. His use of the StartingUp Now Skillcenter not only allows him to lay out his business plan in a central online location, but the resources he can access help him visualize unclear concepts by providing relevant examples on starting his own business.

What he has gained most from the StartingUp Now plan is his marketing strategy. Arnold still dedicates himself to fostering the skating culture. “Skate culture is fairly new, it’s growing, and it would be...molding the culture…being the voice for skaters and supporting them…I want to motivate skaters and get their support,” he said. Developed from the StartingUp Now plan, Arnold’s efforts target at expanding the skating culture as well as promoting Door County as a prime destination.

Arnold’s situation presents a great example of the influence entrepreneurship can make on a community. Spurred by his passions for ministering to the youth and skating, he is able to transform a lifelong “hobby” into a way to support his family and occupy an influential role in Door County, WI.

To learn more about Foundation Skate Ministry, visit their website. To contact Noah Arnold directly, email him at noah.arnold711@gmail.com.

Entrepreneur Spotlight: Randi Craigen

Jason Huang - Thursday, August 30, 2012

 Sometimes the greatest challenge to success is knowing where to start. Randi Craigen found her focus through StartingUp Now.

Randi Craigen is the Chicago director of East Wind Nannies as well as an emerging jewelry designer who had once never thought she would run a business. A mother of four and proclaimed introvert, Randi took the inspiration of friends and the tools and support she gained from StartingUp Now, and is now working on making two dreams a reality. Randi has lived in Chicago for over twenty years, and faces both the challenges and excitements of marketing to the city’s unique needs and culture.

How did you get started with your nanny business?

I was working as a part time teacher’s aid at a preschool, and a friend of mine asked me how my job was going. I told her I was thinking about taking a nanny position instead, so that I could really focus on just a couple of kids and really relate to them and invest in them, rather than crowd control with twenty-some kids. She said to me, why don’t you open a branch at my nanny agency. She was looking to expand, and I said sure let’s talk. As we talked more about it, I realized it was something I could do and would enjoy doing. I didn’t have to start from zero; I could take her plan and her structure, and I could work from there. I still felt by doing that I could invest in kids by helping find quality nannies to care for them while their parents were at work.

How did you learn about StartingUp Now?
I’ve known Brian for about twenty years. I didn’t know exactly what StartingUp was about, but I knew that Brian was kind of a small business guru. I started with this agency in Chicago, which is pretty much just me. I quickly found myself in over my head, and I thought what am I supposed to do? Even though some things were already laid out for me, reaching the Chicago market, you know, that was all on me. So I went to his office to talk to him about small business, and Brian did everything to get me involved, from dropping the book in my lap to walking past me and checking up on me to making sure I was working on things.
 
What has been your experience with StartingUp Now?
I’m still honestly working through some things on it, but I think the greatest benefit I’ve had thus far is clarity. When I first talked to Brian, I wasn’t sure how helpful it was going to be, because figuring out the business plan and start up costs had essentially been done, or so I thought. However, it really helped me to understand just what it was I was marketing, what my product actually was. I thought my product was nannies, and that’s not my product; my product is really the very personalized customer service that I provide for families by doing the nanny search for them. That makes a difference in how I market it.

Brian also showed me the Skillcenter, and I was fiddling around with it and realized how easy it was. There was a question on startup costs that I didn’t exactly know what it was, and there was a link that I could click on immediately that went to an article that explained it; it’s so user friendly.

So after going through StartingUp Now, how has your outlook on entrepreneurship changed?
I just think differently; I see the opportunities in things. It’s funny to me how even talking to my daughter this summer, when she had requests to do face painting at a birthday party, I was just flowing with ideas about how to turn that into a business for her and how she could market that and how she needed to lay out a plan and all these different things on how to market herself as a face painter for birthday parties and earn a little bit of money. I’m planning these little businesses every time I turn around.

About a year and a half ago I started making jewelry just for friends and as gifts. A couple friends would ask, “Can you make something for my mom, and I’ll pay you for it.” People were liking what I was doing, so I started looking for little opportunities, Christmas shows where I could set up a little table and trunk shows for friends, but I never planned on making it a business. It’s just sort of been happening on the side. Now I love making it so much that I have all this product sitting around that nobody knows about really; nobody knows my little secret. Brian has been talking to me about how crazy that the product is already there, the investment is already made, so he’s really pushing me through the business side of it.

Where do you hope to see your businesses going?
I’m a little timid about that, which is another thing that Brian has been beating me over the head about. He’ll say things to me like what if I said you could earn this much money next year with your jewelry business, and I just look at him like he’s crazy. He’s dead serious, like no really, let’s talk about this. Of anybody I have talked to, Brian has really made me feel like okay, I can do this. He’s not just “rah, rah, go!” but instead gives me tools that have really helped me and made me start to believe, yeah I really can do this.

What do I want for this agency? I want it to be very relational, very personalized. I don’t have a vision for it to be huge. If I can’t give the families the kind of customer service that I believe in and believe is a strength as an agency, that means I’m probably going to need to get administrative help; somebody else will have to do other things so that I can do the relational aspect.

StartingUp has helped me to think in terms of growth, but not that it turns into something that I don’t want it to be. Just being able to express that, the Starting Up process has helped me define those things.


If you are interested in being a part of East Wind Nannies, visit their website. To contact Randi directly, call 312-650-9396.


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