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Three key lessons for green entrepreneurs

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by Startacus Admin

Richard Boothman from Ecoskill continues his series of posts on the green economy and entrepreneurship.

He started by outlining what you need to know about opportunities in the green economy, then he discussed what the green economy actually is, followed by a piece on spotting opportunities, why the green economy is a great place to start a business and then some potential business ideas as examples to trigger your imagination. 

So in post 6 Richard is back and this time he highlights three key lessons for green entrepreneurs. Over to Richard to explain all...

Three key lessons for green entrepreneurs...

"In the previous blog post, I provided you with three ideas to catalyse your thinking around your new green business ideas.  Now, I want to think about what important things we've learnt as entrepreneurs?green entrepreneur

In my entrepreneurial journey, both building my own businesses and helping others to realise their own dreams of enterprise, I've identified some things that I think you should bear in mind when you're planning your own business.  This post includes some general hints for potential new entrepreneurs (with a green twist) and the next post will focus on the green credentials of your business.

Find your niche:  Target who you're going to market to very precisely.  Know in detail the needs they have and how your product or service meets their needs.  Clearly define the benefits your product or service brings to your target market.  Understand the competition you have in this market and why your solution is better.  Try to avoid selling on price.

Most small businesses provide products or services for relatively small groups of people.  If you can design a product or service that provides clear benefits for a small market segment but provides those benefits for a large percentage of the group, you'll be able to generate sufficient revenue to sustain your business.  It's generally easier to find a product or service that penetrates at depth to a small group of customers than one that meets the needs of a smaller percentage of a large group.  Such a small, well defined market is easier to market to and makes it easier for you to know you're meeting your customers' specific needs.  You can develop your reputation and gain early traction to enable you to grow.

Keep your costs low:  This is sometimes known as 'bootstrapping'.  If you can, work from home, at least in the early stages before you need to employ people.  Use open access software rather than paying lots of money for proprietary versions.  The functionality is usually as good and the costs are substantially lower.  Make use of the IT cloud rather than paying for large amounts of data storage capacity (this can be a greener option too).  Adopt social marketing techniques rather than expensive advertising and use Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Pinterest, Google + and others as they meet your needs.  Travel as little as possible and when you do have to travel, think about the impact and choose the greenest mode of transport available.  Avoid travelling by using teleconferencing via easy and cost-effective technologies such as skype.  If you can find recycled or repurposed goods to meet your needs, consider these rather than new.

These ideas are good business sense.  However, some of them also have the benefit of adding to your green credentials.  Anything that can reduce your energy and resource use and minimise your emissions is green!

Go international as quickly as possible:  The economies of other countries are bigger and growing faster than the UK.  Investigate whether your business can benefit easily from this growth.

green entrepreneurIt may seem counter-intuitive for a small business to try to export.  However, some of the factors that allow you to bootstrap your business make it easy to reach an international audience quickly.  In particular, being able to gain access to customers via the Internet makes it relatively easy to sell abroad.  However, be aware of cultural differences, even when working 'virtually' and call on the expertise of bodies such as UK Trade and Investment (UKTI - http://www.ukti.gov.uk/home.html?guid=none).

If developing your business internationally means having to travel abroad, make sure you find the greenest way of doing this.  If you're going to Europe, think about using the train rather than flying.  Eurostar provides fast links right into the centre of many cities on the continent.  If you're going further afield, try to make the most of your time at a destination.  Don't just fly to Mumbai for a single meeting.  Try to arrange multiple meetings and meet potential suppliers as well as customers.  If you find yourself doing a lot of business in one country, consider basing yourself there for a period of time rather than flying backwards and forwards.  You may find that as you spend more time in another country, you become more attuned to the culture and can develop your sales more effectively as a result.  Another option is to find a local person who can represent you and your company.

Although these lessons can be applied to all businesses, you can see there are specific environmental benefits that can be obtained from them.  In the next post, I'll look at three more key lessons that relate particularly to your green credentials."

Richard is at various times and sometimes simultaneously a businessman, an environmentalist and an Associate Lecturer with the Open University.  He is one of the founders of ecoskill (www.ecoskill.co.uk), which provides on-line learning for entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs in the green economy.

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Published on: 16th July 2013

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