So after a year of arriving in the US and launching gDiapers, finally today I met someone else in the “green” diaper industry – Jeffrey Hollender, the CEO of Seventh Generation, the leader in non toxic products. A really interesting conversation. We are both involved in supporting the Blue Butterfly program. Great to speak with a like mind and someone who has travelled down a road we have just started on.
Talk of the town
The buzz around here is all about Tom’s of Maine’s sale to Colgate. It is such a conundrum in the organic space and history is littered with disasters. Ben & Jery’s sale to Unilever is probably the worst. All the triple bottom line value was lost in the space of 6 months by Unilever. Same when The Body Shop listed. While Profit remained the focus, the People and the Planet fell by the way side. The only exception seems to be Stoneyfield Farms who have actually managed to change the way their acquirer – the biggest yogurt maker in the world, Groupe Danone – does business. I think Colgate is smart enough to know that their $100 milion actually bought more than just a range of products. Time will tell. Here’s another view. Be sure to read the trackbacks.
Arrived in Disneyland last night for Expo West: the biggest expo in the industry. I am being joined by Kate, and our two Michelles. Kim is staying behind to man the office. Should be a good one. Only disappointment is that a tobacco company is a sponsor. You have to check out there site to witness their water tight security system to ensure no one under 21 gets in. Its genius. Apparently death by these smokes is healthier as all the tobacco is grown organically. I called the organizer’s standards committee but got no response.
So I am tending the booth today at Portland ReDirect Guide’s Give Green Gift Fair and our booth is right next to Wild Oats . So I am there on my own and have to duck out for a break. When I return, Michelle from Wild Oats has spied a potential customer, lept the barrier and presented the perfect pitch. She must be so sick of hearing the spiel. At least I know where to turn when we need to hire more people!
Green Festival Ends
What a great way to end a great Festival. William McDonough did a terrific presentation on the New Industrial Revolution and in the process mentioned that our diapers are being accredited “Cradle to Cradle”. I was blown away that he would do such a thing. I had him sign a copy of his book for the team back home – thus the pic.
But the highlight has to be Daryl – sorry Mr McDonough.
Now back in portland sifting through a million business cards to follow up on.
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Amazing what is happening in the world of fiber. In my previous post, the CEO of Patagonia said organic cotton is not the answer. Looking around the Green Festival today there has been a tremendous amount of development using hemp and bamboo as a textile. We are going to take a good look at these two options for a new and improved v2006 little g pant. Most exciting.
And talking of illicit drugs, Midwife Michelle and PR Kate reported to me this morning that not only did their magnificent suite at the ‘Renoir” located at the dodgy end of Market Street (joys of a start up) have views of a man throwing up, they also enjoyed the aromas of the weed all night long. Looks like they may have the munchies all day today.
Off to the Festival to spread the word and listen to big Billy McDonough talk about Cradle to Cradle and mbdc.
Green Festival Begins
Green Festival started out superbly with Midwife Michelle, PR Kate, Kim and I manning the booth for the day. A queue formed 30 minutes before the doors were opened and huge numbers came through, making it all the way to the back where we are. Terrific to hear validation for what we are trying to do. The Festival appeals to consumers mostly and it was great to hear from expectant Mums, new Mums and Grandparenst to be. Midwives swung by and really appreciated our Midwife Outreach program. All agreed the packaging and branding were spot on. Not ‘dark green” but the right mix of eco-conscious and groovy, so that mainstream Mums would conisider using it. I just love that “g”!
That Daryl Hannah just kept pestering me all day…came to the booth at one point, asking for directions at another time, then a photo op…I just feel exploited you know. Seriously though, she did come over to the booth and she is so down to earth. She must have spent most of the day at the Festival. And she was good enough to have a photo with Harper and me. And Harper did lunge toward Daryl for what he thought was his next meal but to no avail.
Met interesting media – writer from Treehugger , a reporter from Air America Radio and Yogi Times…so lots of leads for Kato to follow up with.
Fame, not so much fortune and new friends…
So the Green Biz conference came to a close last night with a shindig at the site of the Green Festival . We will be exhibiting at the festival over the weekend.
Shared beers with my new mate Michael and his wife Kelly. Michael is from the old Dart and has launched a very cool new wallet .
A live auction of booth spaces ensued run by Daryl Hannah. And blow me down if I didn’t end up with a shiny new booth for next years Festival. Daryl got me up on stage and asked about the business. The Australian accent threw her and she thought I said ‘Flushable Tacos” much to the amusement of all. Anyway, I had a chat with her afterwards. She is off to Australia to see friends shortly. A most approachable person.
Today Kim, Harper, Michelle and Kate come on down from Portland to join me at the booth. Bill McDonough is speaking tomorrow so that should be good. The last of the suppliers of the components of the product has finally got an NDA signed so our Cradle to Cradle accreditation should be forthcoming very soon.
So all up it should be a good day.
Had a great meal with Michael and Kelly after the bash last night. Finally got up into the hills of San Francisco and got a look at the night lights from the restaurant.
It dawned on me last night that we (the family) could be in the States for a long time. And thats a really good thing. It is exactly where we need to be. No other place on Earth right now has the inertia that the US broadly and the West Coast specfically has in terms of Green Business. Exposure to the people at Patagonia, Aveda, Honest Tea et al reinforced that for me.
When organic is bad
Another great day at the Green Business Conference. A terrific awards ceremony in the evening with Habitat Suites in Austin, Texas getting the gong for Green Business Leader of the year. So now we know where we are staying when we are next in Texas! Then listened to the amazing expereinces of the CEO’s of Patagonia and Aveda . They are running truly enlightened businesses. Michael Crooke of Patagonia is leaving for a 6 month sabbatical to complete his PhD based on the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow . He talked of the work Patagonia does, the materials they use and how they treat their people. Amazingly he said that organic cotton wasn’t the answer. It is still a mono crop and organic or not, it is still the thirstiest crop on earth. Coincidentally, I have met a number of hemp suppliers here so I think the next step for us is hemp. And maybe try using that funky PET bottle material that becomes a fleece.
Honestly Honest Tea
Seth Goldman, Tea EO of Honest Tea did a great job this morning presenting to the Green Business Conference. He presented a fabulous video of the company – very clever with scenes in India where leaves are grown, to the bottling facilities, deliveries, and in store.
Honest Tea is 7 years old and had revenues of $250 K in 1998. It is now closing in on $10 million in sales. They were the first USDA approved tea and have just launched Honest Ade. He had a great list of top 10 mistakes he has made which he reckons have totalled around $1 million! After the session, we all shared the mistakes we had made which was very liberating.
So his top 10 are:
(1) Don’t leap halfway – fully commit from the get go
(2) Keep the equity structure simple
(3) Avoid Biz School syndrome – spreadsheets lie
(4) Never make gurantees – like guaranteeing X dollars in sales to investors
(5) Don’t underestimate the importance of sales – values, brand mission are all good but sales are the bee’s knees! NOTHING is a sure thing
(6) Fire people sooner right than later
(7) Don’t underestimate the importance of distribution
(8) Don’t underestimate the importance of profits – in year 7, Honest Tea is profitable…but last year they made a $1 MM loss. Same as the year prior. They raised $8 million in total
(9) Don’t confuse what business you are in – we are not manufacturers, we are a sals and marketing business
(10) Don’t forget the market – in developing new products, it always helps to have customers willing to buy it!
All good food for thought.