From Career Pro:
A decade ago, the environment wasn’t much of a priority when it came to cleaning. Households across North America used products that had a variety of ingredients in order to clean their homes. These ingredients included bleach, ethanol, sulphuric acid and other chemicals. Many of these ingredients are impossible to say, much less spell.
Studies have shown that these ingredients can cause health problems for humans, pets and the environment.
People are turning to cleaning methods and products that have fewer chemicals. And more people than ever are creating businesses out of this trend.
Green cleaning means using environmentally friendly products to clean homes and businesses. The products use natural ingredients in order to clean instead of the traditional chemicals and fragrances.
But a green-cleaning business goes further than that. You should be eco-friendly in other aspects of your business if you are really committed to being green. This includes things like using energy-efficient equipment and using transportation that’s easy on the earth.
“We rely almost exclusively on Web marketing and print very few marketing materials,” says Katie Pearse. She is the co-owner of Green Clean Squad. “We don’t even use paper invoices. Everything is electronic.”
The number of green cleaning businesses on the market is growing each year. In fact, sales of green-cleaning products were $64.5 million in 2008. That’s according to Mintel International Group, a market research company.
Mintel expects eco-friendly cleaners will do $623 million in business by 2013. That’s 30 percent of the total market for household cleaners.
Ted Fagan is the president of Eco-Mist Solutions. His company creates plant-based cleaning products that are eco-friendly. He has seen an increase in green awareness.
“When I began, the environment and green products were talked about, but not that important to the average company or household,” he says. “Today green is part of everyone’s life and can be seen at every turn you take.”
To get started in a green cleaning business, there’s one important first step. You have to figure out your business model. Do you want to clean homes or businesses with green cleaning products? Or do you want to create a new green cleaning product? No matter which option you choose, it’s crucial to do your homework. Read as much as you can about the green cleaning industry. There are lots of resources available on the Internet and in magazines.
“There is always something new coming into the market, so to say you are an expert would not be fair,” says Zareh Demirdji. He co-owns Green Team Cleaning. “We try our best to stay on top of what is new and exciting by attending green conventions and the like.”
Robin Kay Levine agrees. She created Eco-Me cleaning products and cleaning kits in 2005 out of Pasadena, California. “I turn to people in the business to ask for advice. Never stop asking!” she says. “The more I learn, the better my company is.”
Like starting a business in any industry, there are costs involved. The amount of money needed to start a green cleaning business will depend on a number of factors. These include the number of employees, your location, the required equipment and the costs of advertising.
Running a green cleaning business means wearing many hats. On a typical day, you could be meeting new clients, recruiting employees, cleaning homes, meeting suppliers and answering inquiries.
Joe McCutcheon runs Triangle Green Cleaning out of Raleigh, North Carolina. He usually starts at 7:15 a.m. and ends his work for the night by 8:30 p.m. He says long days are typical for most entrepreneurs.
Cori Morenberg agrees. She runs her own green cleaning business, Ms. Green Clean, in New York City.
“There’s rarely a day that goes by that I don’t attend to some aspect of Ms. Green Clean,” she says. “Even weekends, evenings, early mornings.”
You’ll be fully immersed in the business, to be sure. It’s important to realize you can’t do it alone.
“Handling all aspects of a business, you learn fairly quickly where your strengths and weaknesses lie,” says Pearse. “Being honest about your weaknesses will help you identify where you need help and where you should focus your energies.”
Many eco-entrepreneurs say that “greenwashing” is a major issue in the green cleaning industry. Greenwashing is when companies dishonestly claim their products or services are eco-friendly.
Demirdji agrees that greenwashing is a major issue. He recommends doing research and reading product labels. “Just because it says it is green, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is true,” he explains.
Levine echoes Demirdji’s frustration. She would like to see stricter regulations on products and a true definition of what is natural. “It is the most over-used and misused word!” says Levine. “We tell people to avoid colors, fragrances and long ingredient lists. This is the easiest way to know quickly what products are safer than others.”
Eco-entrepreneurs can gain customers’ trust by being open and honest about their products. They can also pursue eco-friendly certification through a respected source. Organizations that provide green certification include Eco-Logo, Green Seal and the Green Clean Institute.
The best way to get started in a green cleaning business is to research, research and research. Look at what businesses are already available in your area. Talk to people about what they’d like to see as a product or service. Once you’ve found a unique niche in green cleaning, hash out a business plan on paper. This includes determining your business goals, your projected timeline and any anticipated challenges.
It may seem daunting, but Pearse says to never give up. “It isn’t always easy to be an eco-entrepreneur,” she explains. “But if you love what you’re doing, your enthusiasm will be contagious and you’ll always have fun and be successful.”
No matter what your business shapes up to be, work hard at keeping your green focus in check. Keep up to date on changes and trends in the cleaning industry. Be flexible and realize your product or service could be altered slightly to work better. “I’m into doing things for the process, not necessarily for a perfect finished result,” says Morenberg. “I’m still tweaking the business after two and a half years, and I imagine the tweaking will continue for years to come.”
But remember — your green cleaning business is still a business. McCutcheon says it’s important to practice good business in every aspect.
“Our customers stick with us not only because we are ‘green,’ but also because we do a good job at cleaning and we are easy to communicate with,” he explains.
Eco-entrepreneurs overwhelming agree the green cleaning industry will continue to grow. As more and more households and businesses see the benefits of green cleaning, demand for products and services will rise. Fagan says the green cleaning industry is still in its infancy stage. “There is plenty of room for great entrepreneurial ideas.”
If you are interested in determining whether a career in green cleaning is for you, contact me for a FREE 30 minute introductory session! Check out the additional resources below:
- Clean Link – An information resource for cleaning professionals
- Greenwashing Index – Rate products and advertisements for their level of greenwashing
- The Daily Green – An excellent source for news and information about going green