In Full Bloom
Vital Stats: Gerald Prolman, 46, of OrganicBouquet.comin Mill Valley, California
Company: Online organic floral company
Seed Planting: With 27 years of experience in the natural and organic products industry, Prolman noticed organic flowers weren't readily available. He was itching to start a business that would generate positive social and environmental change, and knew organic floral production would reduce the use of toxic pesticides. "The need was clear," he says, "and the opportunity was obvious."
Growing Together: Before Prolman launched OrganicBouquet.com in 2001, there was no nationwide commercial supplier of organic flowers. In the past five years, he's persuaded growers to go organic, now sourcing in five countries. Though Prolman pays growers a premium, his products are priced the same or lower than those of nonorganic competitors. He remains competitive by keeping marketing costs low--he partners with nonprofits and reaches 5 million consumers monthly through their e-mails and newsletters. A percentage of sales from select bouquets go to these charities.
Mindful Purchases: With Americans spending $230 billion annually on socially and environmentally responsible products, organic consumption is a growing movement. "Consumers want to know who produces their products, how the environment is affected and how workers are treated," says Prolman, who adds that OrganicBouquet.com will deliver more than 100,000 bouquets worth over $5 million this year. Also offering organic and fair-trade gourmet chocolates, teddy bears stuffed with organic lavender, and recycled glass vases, Prolman will soon expand to other eco-gifts and take business to Canada, Europe and Asia. "It's not just for the organic zealots," he insists. "This is for people who care for the earth." the competition cometh: "We expect and welcome organic competitors," says Prolman. "When we see [competition], we'll know we've done our job well."