Raised by parents who have always been serial entrepreneurs, who started one of the first health food stores in Iowa (among several other businesses), I seemed to catch the entrepreneurial fever early in life! I always knew I wanted to start my own business, but it took me until age 21 to decide on what it would be.
In 1994 I was part of a local college environmental club in Iowa called O.N.E. (Organization for the New Earth), and we focused on bringing sustainable solutions (like organic agriculture and food, water and energy conservation practices, etc.) to the college we attended. O.N.E. planned an annual fashion show fundraiser (called Eco-Jam) to raise money to give away free trees to schoolchildren. (This organization now exists in a new form, but started by the same original founder, as a non-profit called Neighborhood Forest. Check them out!)
Anyway, back at that time in 1994, a local businessman brought us a brochure on organic cotton clothing from a company called EcoSport* in North Carolina. We ordered some of their clothing to be shown in our fashion show and I started my business by literally selling the clothes after they came off the runway. There was an clear demand for them, and so I started researching organic cotton clothing and eco-friendly gifts for many months (at a time where phone calls and "snail mail" were the only options). A few months later, at age 21, I opened the flagship eco-retail organic lifestyle store, Natural Selections. The store was focused on offering as many locally made products as possible, combined with imported products all certified Fair Trade.
One year later, the store doubled in size, expanding product categories to include more babies and children's items. Next we began designing and manufacturing our own line of organic cotton bedding, including custom options. Soon the Internet became more widely available and we opened our first website. We shipped all over the world to our niche market client base. In 2006 I opened another store called Natural Selections Kids. In 2009, a couple of weeks before the birth of my 4th baby, I opened another store in South Dakota called The Organic Company, and I spent much time starting blogs on vegetarian and vegan cooking, baking, and healthy living.
Over the years, I still continue to receive hundreds of questions from parents who wanted to design baby clothes and business owners who wanted to bring in organic products. I noticed the growing demand for business consulting in the field of green sustainable business, so in 2006 I formed a consulting company, to work with people who want to create and market organic and natural products. I help people determine market viability, source materials, design products, build marketing and distribution channels. It is incredibly exciting to see so many new products come to fruition- everything from ladies lace panties to organic coconut vegan "bacon". Some clients are owners of start-up companies, and others are with major corporations that are looking to open an organic, natural, or non-gmo product line.
BRING ON MORE FOOD:
In 2014, as Natural Selections store reached the 20 year anniversary, my love of business consulting combined with a passion for working with food companies led me to a new career as Key Account Manager / Business Development Manager for FoodChain ID, performing Non-GMO certification for the food industry giants, I was laser-focused on developing the key account program from 85 to 135 accounts. I became captivated by how quickly the food landscape is changing with food companies buying out other food companies on a regular basis. Consumers want more. More transparency, more nutrition, more value - and fortunately, most smart companies want to respond.
It is the greatest business development challenge to offer your customers a greater perceived value, while growing company revenue at the same time. Creating these kind of win-win situations is something I absolutely love doing. Today I do business development consulting for a wide range of clients, spanning the fashion, food and technology industries. For consulting inquiries, you can reach me here: CleanLabelConsulting.com and email: Info@CleanLabelConsulting.com
As a serial entrepreneur running multiple businesses (and a busy mother of four children), I decided after 22 years of a brick and mortar retail store, in response to the changing consumer shopping landscape, it was time to transform Natural Selections to an online store. I am thankful for the amazing success of the store and business and I invite you to interact with me here and see what new exciting things will happen!
My advice for aspiring Eco-Entrepreneurs:
There are so many options! That’s part of why I founded The Organic Company - to help consult people. It’s very hard to start a business with nothing, but it can be done because I have done it several times, and watched my clients do it successfully as well. Know what your passions are, do your research to look for something that is really needed, and fill that need. That's what I did.
Do not be discouraged by others either cautioning you, or copying you. There are still so many opportunities out there for new food products, clothing and bedding lines, housewares, furnishings, even art—it’s really wide open in terms of designing and marketing. Here's to the next big (eco) thing!
I can't wait to share my newest venture with you...