Time to Begin Your Eco-Entrepreneur Journey: 8 Tips to Help You Start 

Time to Begin Your Eco-Entrepreneur Journey: 8 Tips to Help You Start 

Climate change has been impacting the world severely, and it manifests in many scary ways, including ravaging typhoons, extreme heat, and deadly hurricanes. People need to do something about it so that the future generation can enjoy the planet just as much as we did.  

One such way is to become an eco-entrepreneur. 

An eco-entrepreneur is a person who operates an enterprise in an environmentally sustainable way. This means they prioritize environmental responsibility and run a business that focuses on reducing the negative impact of their products and services on the environment. It could be through lowering carbon emissions by using electric cars, banning single-use plastic, using eco-friendly packaging options, and offsetting their carbon footprints.  

Another way is by recycling electronics. If you want to know how to start an electronics recycling plan at work, there are many helpful sources online.

Divert, a company that turns rotten produce into energy, was founded because there’s a business potential in food waste. Ryan Begin was moved when he went to the back room of a grocery store and saw all the food that got thrown away. 

At first, however, he didn’t know what business he should create to solve this problem. And after starting Divert with his cofounder Nick Whitman, the company had taken many forms and tried many models before finally serving 5,500 retail locations (including CVS, Kroger, Target, and Albertsons) and more than 250 employees. 

Now, it’s fairly easy for modern entrepreneurs to spot an environment-related problem in the world and then try to provide a solution. But how does one do it in business so that it can kick off?  

Looking at Divert’s case, here are some tips (with stories inside) to help you start your eco entrepreneurship. 

Get customers, then get money 

Yep, as intimidating as this sounds, Divert’s founders had to do this first before anything else.  

The first time, Begin and Whitman had an idea: they wanted to build machines called digesters that break down food and convert it into energy that could be installed in the back of grocery stores.  

Like many entrepreneurs, they tried raising early money. But an investor yelled at them for it and even slammed the table. The man told the founders that they mustn’t try chasing venture capital and instead find a customer. If they followed the investor’s advice, he’d pledge $1 million.  

May be harsh, may be tough, but Begin and Whitman did it, probably thinking that the investor wasn’t wrong to tell them off like that.  

They went to Hannaford in Chelmsford, Massachusetts. Fortunately, the store loved the idea and paid $500,000.  

Remembering their early days visiting stores, Whitman said, “We did waste audits for 24 hours with our notepads, sitting there in the back where they’ve built a hole in the wall to throw the food. It was eye-opening.” 



New problems will arise; be prepared to face and solve them 

Before Hannaford’s unit was finished, they founders realized that it would be difficult to scale by selling the machines to individual stores. So in 2011, they developed a $20 million digester system for Kroger in Compton, California, to serve all its 330 local stores. 

Then, they stumbled upon more problems. First, the system didn’t work as well as they hoped. Second, the grocery store industry wasn’t too keen on the machines.  

“Our customers don’t need to produce energy. That’s not the business that they are in. They’re trying to sell food,” Begin said.  

Since this discovery, the founders understood that in order to tackle the food waste problem, they shouldn’t only focus on processing it but also figure out how to prevent it. 

Refine and change if necessary 

In 2014, Whitman and Begin shifted their focus to building sophisticated technology that could track everything in a store, meaning that it’ll know if some spinach have been sitting out too long. 

Now, food waste is something that retail companies also don’t like because it adds more revenue loss. So, Divert’s clients were actually interested in their technology more than the digesters. The founders, in turn, refined their products based on stores’ needs. 

For instance, to compete with online food shopping, grocery stores market their super fresh produce, which means the fruits and veggies must look amazing. To help, Divert developed a sensor network to specifically identify when a type of produce might be wilting or a kind of fruit could get bruised.  

At the same time, Divert also started building its own network of anaerobic digesters, which could process any food that does get tossed from stores. This enables the company to sell some of the energy itself. 

Scale it up 

Divert’s solution to food waste problem was refined by 2017, and the company then adopted a subscription model that drove up revenue. As for today, the company’s been acquired by Ara Partners, a private equity firm. And now, they’re ready to sell the food waste solution. 

In the future, Begin hopes that someday his company can help restaurants, sporting venues, hospitals, and average households. “I do think the formula is the same. Why are they wasting food? That’s the first question. We just go from there,” the cofounder said. 




What if I’ve got the concept set and I simply need funding? 

Maybe you’ve got it all planned out and mapped out because your business model is simpler than Divert’s, and what you need next is funding. 

There are different options, of course. And in today’s time, we should keep in mind that the current majority of consumers, generation z, believes that companies should help with environmental issues. This makes investors plan to increase their investments in ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) funds.  

And that means, somewhere out there, you can secure funding to get your eco business finally running. 

Stats may be more attractive to your pitch 

Do your research thoroughly, find statistics for your specific niche, and show that there would be growth to prove incoming demand. For instance, the current popular statistics is that green tech and sustainability market size is predicted to grow from $11.2 billion in 2020 to $36.6 billion by 2025—an annual growth rate of 26.6%.  

With the right statistics and well-put data, you’re able to show growth for investors who might be new to funding eco businesses. There would be a chance to get funding from parties looking to break into this opportunity, so you should start your search from now. 

Relationships and networking 

Whether you’re an introverted or extroverted eco-entrepreneur, you need to build relationships with many people. You can start by befriending other startup entrepreneurs, particularly your non-competitors. Through this, you can open new doors and you’ll know many people that may help your business in the future.  

Start by joining communities with a focus on environmental sustainability or events for sustainable businesses. Online networking still works well, too. So, be sure to reach out to business owners you admire and exchange your stories. 

It’s also good to build connections with people in the government, so that you’ll know when your local governments are giving grants for companies or startups with goals to solve waste, recycling, or food sustainability issues. 

Really, relationships can get you to many places and you should start building them. 

Small-business loans are also okay 

Maybe your business is small-scale, B2C, you want to launch it quickly to test the waters in your eco-entrepreneur journey, you expect to turn a profit reasonably soon, and you can’t afford to buy more time to convince investors to fund your establishment. Well, there’s always a small business loan. 

Just remember that with loans, you must pay it back. Therefore, make sure to do a thorough research about the companies you’re going to lend money from and be mindful of what you borrow.  





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