Entrepreneurship just got a little bit greener. Thanks to ecoEnvelopes, small business owners, big companies, and even individuals can utilize sustainable, 2-way envelopes that are good for the environment, and of course, good for business. Established in 2002 by “eco-warrior” Ann DeLaVergne, ecoEnvelopes has evolved into a business that breaths and thrives within its values. To learn more about this fascinating company, I conducted a question-and-answer session with ecoEnvelopes President, Gale Ward. After talking with Gale, I learned that entrepreneurs should not only focus on making some green, but also on building a green business.
TBP: What is ecoEnvelope’s mission and vision?
GW: Our vision is to learn from nature—how to create, recycle and give back. It’s an odd vision, but it’s part of our environmental platform. Our mission is to reduce our impact on the planet in very simple ways. There are little things that we do in our lives every day, that if we just do a little bit differently, we can truly reduce our impact on the planet. It’s kind of a simplistic view of things.
TBP: Awhile ago, I interviewed Denise Pech with Starch Tech—a company that makes biodegradable, “green” packing peanuts for shipping and packing. Are there any other “green” businesses like this out there that ecoEnvelopes looks up to?
GW: If you look at companies to admire, you have to look like the one in your own backyard—Sprint. You have to admire their authentic, environmental sustainability. It’s true, and it’s authentic. You have to look at companies like American Express where the head of procurement literally walks the forest and understands the carbon footprint. So there are companies, many of which are the global fortune companies that understand their leadership roles in sustainability.
TBP: What’s next for ecoEnvelopes?
GW: There are three new things for ecoEnvelopes in 2011. One is new retail products designed for the small business (we will be selling in places like OfficeMax), second is green wedding invitations, and the third is going to be new mail voting solutions which turn a 4-envelope mailer into a 2-envelope.
TBP: What advice do you have for an entrepreneur starting a green business?
GW: The most important thing is to understand and evaluate that you have something that could be valuable to someone. There are a lot of fabulous ideas, but fabulous ideas that aren’t tied to an ROI will not be successful in the long-run. The challenges that most entrepreneurs face are the overwhelming volumes of data, information, and requirements that come at them on a daily basis. I think it’s absolutely critical to focus on the key things that are going to build a successful company—a good product, a good value proposition, and sales.
TBP: What three characteristics make for a successful entrepreneur or small business like ecoEnvelopes?
GW: Perseverance, optimism, and flexibility. You need to encounter hurdles with a happy, positive framework through solutions as opposed to being overwhelmed. You also need to be able to listen to the market and understand what the perceptions are. Also, you have to adapt to what you learn. That’s something that I think small companies do better than big companies—they listen, they learn and they adapt more rapidly.
TBP: How does ecoEnvelopes Think Big?
GW: We Think Big because we believe we’re part of a bigger movement. There are a lot of individuals and companies looking to create better products, better services and a better future for our planet. We can look at the world and discover where we can make simple changes that can make a huge difference. The unique thing about us is the way that Ann [DeLaVergne, founder] looks at life. We look at simple things that can be done differently, made differently, or used differently. A lot of these ideas and opportunities are simple ideas that can make a big difference for everyone.
ecoEnvelopes is a small business that specializes in sustainable and economically-friendly envelopes. ecoEnvelopes are manufactured with FSC and SFI certified papers with 100% PCW content and are US Postal Service approved. In the Kansas City market, you will be able to find ecoEnvelopes in OfficeMax locations and green wedding stores soon.
The interview with Gale Ward was conducted and written by Allison Way. Allison is a writer and videographer for Think Big Partners, Kansas City’s mentorship-based business incubator and startup accelerator. To read more of Allison’s work, check out the Kansas City Entrepreneurship Examiner as well as her articles on BrooWaha, Helium, eZine and Newsvine.