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Green Thumbs

It's a jungle out there with all the green products and services to choose from. So start a business that helps consumers sort through it all.

The fast-growing green market has all kinds of companies vying for a share. But it also has consumers overwhelmed by the number of so-called environmentally friendly options, especially since some companies tout their greenness simply as a marketing ploy. Annie Bond, a green-living expert and bestselling author, says "37 percent of consumers say they need more information [about green options]." That means there are plenty of opportunities for entrepreneurs looking to help consumers make the right choices about green products and services.

"[Consumers] are just looking for someone to ask, 'Where do I go? Is this OK?'" says Page Remick, founder of PureZing.com, a St. Augustine, Florida, company that offers online reviews and resources for living a green lifestyle. Prior to launching in 2006, Remick, 56, and her husband, Phill, 58, wanted to change their own lifestyles but found limited resources about green products. So they researched the market, built a product review team and created detailed criteria for the products allowed on their site. Their efforts brought in $320,000 last year.

Heather Stephenson and Jen Boulden, both 34, saw a similar void in the market. The pair, who launched IdealBite.com in 2005, create daily tips based on knowledge from their own environmentally conscious lifestyles. The site covers green living along with product reviews, market research and other resources. "We provide the tips for people who don't have the ability, time or inclination to do the research themselves," says Boulden, who projects seven-figure sales for 2008.

While these four ecopreneurs went the web route, Bond sees plenty of opportunity "to help consumers in new ways with new packaging of information." You could start a consultancy, referral service or a store that educates consumers about the green products it sells. Remick agrees, seeing opportunity in niches. She suggests starting a website that provides education on alternative doctors and energy sources, or a business that focuses on green segments, such as body or baby products. Here are some tips to get started in a green education business of your own:

  • Get informed. If you don't already have a green knowledge base, "immerse yourself in information," says Darryl Young, executive director of PR and general manager for Riester, a conscious marketing firm.
  • Get help. Work with people who have the information you lack, says Young. IdealBite.com now has a panel of experts to help create its tips.
  • Be authentic. Be honest about your business practices, says Young. Show that your intentions are genuine.
  • Give it your all. Stephenson quit her job to launch IdealBite.com. "There's so much business in this industry and it's moving so quickly," she says, "it's worth the risk to put your all into it."

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This article was originally published in the March 2008 print edition of Entrepreneur's StartUps with the headline: Green Thumbs.

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