Building your own business/startup and making it through ain’t easy, let alone the green ones. One thing for sure though, networking is crucial for your business.
Now, Irina Fedorenko has launched an award-winning environmental movement and co-founded a startup for tree-planting drones. When she was a studen of marketing in Russia, she poured her time and energy into creating an environmental movement, Greenlight.
“The timing was just so right, the city was going through a lot of transformation, and we could influence urban planning decisions and policies. We rolled out a huge environmental education campaign for students and teenagers. There was this huge window of opportunity,” said Fedorenko.
It was this movement that got her a WHO award in 2010 for being the Best Youth Environmental Education Project in Europe. Then, she joined forces with a team of co-founders and a former NASA scientist to launch Biocarbon, a startup that uses drones to plant trees and grass.
Fedorenko’s six-year journey with Biocarbon led her to build two greentech startups: Beta Earth (venture studio for new greentech solutions) and Earthbanc (a green digital bank with high yield accounts for eco-investment).
Over the course of her journey thus far, Fedorenko has built quality networks of considerable sizes across a range of countries and continents.
As mentioned, a strong network is one of the most valuable assets for any enterprise, but many people don’t place enough emphasis on building networks with the right approach and focus.
With her background, Fedorenko’s tips are worth considering. Here are her five tips.
People = future friends
It’s not wise to network just for network’s sake. Every person you meet can be your future friends, so it’s better to start building relationships based on mutual interests and trust.
If you have no common interests, points for discussion, or you simply don’t like someone, they’re better as acquaintances because they won’t be useful for your network.
Genuine connections are more important than shallow friendships, according to Fedorenko, that even though they’re brief, real connections can lead to future partnerships.
Cast your net wide enough
Once there’s trust and connection between people and they’re willing to work together, that’s when you know you’re going to have a good partnership. So, cast your net wide enough and find leads to see if there’s enough interest and enthusiasm for building collaboration.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes we’re either reluctant to ask it or overconfident with our capabilities, but it’s okay to do it. You’ll be surprised to see how many people will be willing to help you with connections and advice.
Look for people who call back and want to meet you
Entrepreneurs know that they should study market needs and respond to demand. Fedorenko said that she preferred working with governments and municipalities who would want to meet her or who reached out to her first.
It’s completely fine to cold-call governmental offices and pitch your idea or innovative solution. But, see if they’re interested or not, because if they’re not, you’re just going to waste your time pursuing somebody who doesn’t care.
Learn to trust and be trusted
Mentioned in previous points, trust is vital for your business/network. It’s not just about doing it in your circle or team, but also being open and communicating with investors and partners—because that’s how you build trust.
If you don’t learn to trust, it’s going to be hard to get investment and projects, especially if you’re talking about bringing something new to very different environments. Fedorenko said that we need real trust from local authorities, communities, NGOs, and partners.
Give your team some love
So you’ve built relationships and network, doesn’t mean you stop there. You’ve still got your own green startup/business to run and that takes the effort of many people, communities, and networks. Have a solid team, and you’ll have a better green entrepreneurship journey.
Now, after all those networking, surely you need to market your startup/business so that it would also be beneficial for you. If you can, you should also make your marketing efforts green.
More companies now realize that green, sustainable business practices will make their products more attractive while also reducing expenses in packaging, transportation, energy and water usage, and more. Usually the cost will be higher upfront, but the rewards in the long run are worth it.
Green marketing begins when a company actually implementing and practicing sustainable business methods. This shouldn’t be a problem if you’re running a green startup/business, but people who aren’t will be at risk being labeled disingenuous. Authenticity is important here.
Companies that manufacture generally have three angles of marketing their eco-friendliness: materials used to make their products, the actual products, and the packaging.
Larger corporations with green efforts usually aim to increase company-wide recycling, decrease waste disposal, and support community initiatives. The smaller businesses, on the other hand, implements their greenness by selling/advertising organic or locally sourced produce, meats, etc.
Can I really invest in green marketing?
When it’s done right, you really can, and it’s going to be profitable for you. Here’s some data that you can put into your consideration.
48% of US consumers said that they would definitely or probably change consumption habits to reduce environmental impact. You’re probably saying “But that’s only in the US, what about my area?”
Maybe you should target millennials or gen z instead, because almost 90% of them say they’re willing to pay more for products that contain sustainable or environment-friendly ingredients.
Moreover, products with sustainable attributes have been steadily taking more share of store sales, from 19.7% in 2014 to 22.3% in 2017, to an anticipated 25% in 2021.
A previous Nielsen survey looked at retail purchase statistics, and according to sales data, brands that advertised sustainability on their packaging had 2% year-over-year increases in sales from 2011–2014, as compared with 1% for those that did not.
Brands that promoted acting sustainability through their marketing saw a sales increase of 5%.
There’s something you need to know, though
It’s really easy to dig information now, so people who are skeptical about a company’s green claims can easily find out the truth. Companies can damage their brands and sales if they’ve feigned the claims (greenwashing). Like mentioned above, authenticity is important.
In 2012, a CBC Marketplace study found that Dawn Antibacterial dish soap, which claimed to help save wildlife, contained Triclosan. This substance has been officially declared toxic to aquatic life.
Another example is Seaworld Orlando’s introduction of its “Cup that Cares” in 2013. The cup was marketed as environmentally friendly. Each time a person refilled the cup at a vending machine in the park, an embedded chip would display how much carbon dioxide they had saved.
These claims were never proven. And the cup, as well as the 40 accessories that could be purchased with it, was plastic.
Therefore, in order to succeed in your business’ green marketing, it has to fit with your brand and you’ve gotta be honest too.
Your green startup/business is already a good start, now it’s time to expand your network and advertise your products/service in a truthful and environment-friendly way.