5 Hints for Success as an Eco-Entrepreneur

The recipe for a successful small business used to be one part ingenuity, one part startup money, one part luck, two parts hard work.  However, today’s socially-conscious entrepreneur no longer sees those ingredients as quite enough for a small business to flourish.

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Now, many entrepreneurs with a keen business sense want to help the world be a better place. They target environmental and social performance as well as traditional elements for small business success.  In today’s world, entrepreneurs more often than not balance a whole bunch of competing goals.  Business objectives, lifestyle aspirations and, most importantly, sustainable environmental practices must work together. Often, this is termed “eco-entrepreneur.”

But do you have what it takes to be a successful eco-entrepreneur? Have you recently engaged in activities associated with community service, nature appreciation, and environmental conservation or activism?  If so, you probably have what it takes to get started in eco-business.  But where do you go from there? How do you develop a unique and differentiated product attuned to the competitive market place?  How can you infuse social and environmental concerns into a business model?

A recent study from Australian scholars Christopher Swan and Damien Morgan has some answers.  Eco-entrepreneurs must balance social, sustainable, and lifestyle objectives.  And, of course, they also must keep a close watch on traditional financial requirements. Here are some themes that emerged from Swan and Morgan’s study:

  • Personal values and business creation. Personal values prove quite influential in creating and guiding an eco-oriented business. Nature appreciation, a need for environmental conservation, and the ability to adhere to sustainable business principles are essential.  So, too, are sharing and communicating views on sustainability and conservation with others.
  • Eco-business objectives. Entrepreneurs realize that balancing and managing disparate and possibly contradictory objectives is vital in delivering a sustainable eco-business model. The entrepreneur has passion to achieve sustainable and social objectives. But also the individual provides the necessary drive to negotiate financial challenges through sensible business actions and decisions.
  • Managing business viability.  Like all business people, eco-entrepreneurs face financial challenges. Those who cater to international markets experience demand fluctuations aligned to global economic conditions.  Others need to manage seasonality or to adjust to capricious licensing fees.  Regardless of the constraints inherent in doing business, eco-entrepreneurs express a strong disinterest in compromising their core sustainability or social objectives.  They encourage altruistic entrepreneurship through wider support for eco-business development.
  • Entrepreneurship and business support.  Eco-entrepreneurs must operate within a complex external environment.  They must negotiate sources of support for starting or developing their businesses. They have to understand the necessity of meeting requirements for industry accreditation to ensure conformity in the marketplace and professional environmental standards.
  • Future challenges.  In this study, imminent threats did not seem to be of concern. The participants did have some trepidation about continued access and availability of a resource base.  Examples were land and cultural attractions,  which lead to high-quality customer experiences. Urban sprawl is one area that makes eco-entrepreneurs unsettled.  

So, the recipe for sustainable small business success is a bit different than it used to be. Toss social, sustainable, and lifestyle aspirations in one bowl.  Sift in a unique and differentiated product attuned to the competitive market place. Finish with experiences that offer customers the assurance of sustainable use and protection of environmentally sensitive areas. Voila!  You have an eco-business that is successful and will benefit the present and future generations.

Photo Credit: Foter






About the Author

writes from her home in Chepachet, RI, where she advocates with her lake association for chemical-free solutions to eradicate invasive species. She’s an organic gardener, nature lover, and semi-vegetarian (no red meat since 1980) who draws upon digital media literacy and learning to spread the word about sustainability issues. Please follow me on Twitter and Facebook and Google+
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