Years on the list: 2 out of 21
Whether it's fashion-forward, eco-chic or conscious clothing, one thing is certain: Green apparel is hot. Bo Breda, academic director for fashion design at The Art Institute of California, San Francisco, agrees: "Green clothing will be more and more a part of ordinary life choices for everyone. Each process, each material used is being looked at with new eyes."
Organic cotton debuted first--and remains the biggest seller. Organic Exchange expects the organic cotton industry to hit sales of $2.6 billion in 2008. A 2006 Organic Trade Association survey pointed out that "organic nonfoods are still emerging as a category"--which means lots of fresh opportunity. "Developments in fiber science have been explosive lately," adds Breda, so clothing designers are increasingly looking to other natural fibers like bamboo, soy and corn. While fabrics become more accessible, brands are becoming more aware of their environmental impact. Big names like H&M, Nike and Target now carry green apparel lines, but there's still room for entrepreneurs, too.
One entrepreneur reaping the green harvest is Callie Smith, 26, who launched Envi , a Boston boutique that carries only green apparel and accessories, in 2006. Though starting Envi required more research than a conventional boutique and meant limited green designers and apparel lines, "today we turn them away," says Smith, projecting $500,000 in 2007 sales.
As Ursula Stahl, the 26-year-old co-founder of Envi, points out, "It's unlimited--to the point where nongreen is going to be passé." --L.H.
Green Business Services
It's reasonable to assume most entrepreneurs start businesses to see the green--the big bucks. But as more business owners consider their impact on the environment, entrepreneurs are seeing the importance of going green, from working with recycled materials and eco-friendly suppliers to using green packaging and PR.
According to a recent study for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, 85 percent of U.S. consumer business companies have active sustainability initiatives. "The demand [for green business services] is there, but the supply is minimal," says Chris Manning, executive director at The Green Chamber , a national organization focused on environmental stewardship. "It's a young industry, [so there's] tremendous opportunity." Manning, 38, founded Manning & Associates Financial Services five years ago because he saw the need for green investing. This year, the Houston-based business projects sales of $545,000.
Seri McClendon, 40, and Ken Eskenazi, 52, saw that opportunity back in 2002 when they started Clean Agency , their green marketing firm in Pasadena, California. "We believed the environmental component was going to be a factor for businesses to consider very soon," says McClendon, whose $1.4 million company serves green or soon-to-be green clients. "Businesses need professionals [who] understand the sustainable values of their company." --L.H.
Solar Energy Products
If helping save the planet isn't enough of an incentive to pursue entrepreneurship in the hot solar energy industry, consider the fact that solar is already a $15 billion industry worldwide, and investments in solar rose 210 percent last year to $1.4 billion, says
Jerry Lawson of New Energy Finance.
Whether it's in engineering, finance, construction or education, the market for solar energy products has grown drastically in recent years, due in part to increasing concerns about climate change and various federal and state initiatives pushing alternative energy.
Gary Gerber, a solar expert for 31 years and founder of solar contractor Sun Light & Power , sees a young market with lots of potential. He points to specific opportunities in the areas of solar installation, financial planning for solar implementation, educating and training of solar installers, and solar hot water. However, Gerber offers a note of caution: "People getting into [solar energy products] should be prepared to do their homework and get well educated." Improved technologies, more efficient systems and processes, and decreasing costs point to a sunny future. --L.H.