Cleaning Green: Eco-Friendly Cleaning Opportunities The Buzz


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."

Ted Fagan is the president of a company that creates plant-based cleaning products. 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 a green-cleaning company. "We try our best to stay on top of what is new and exciting by attending green conventions and the like."

Robin Kay Levine creates eco-friendly cleaning products and cleaning kits in 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."

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 a green-cleaning company in 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 runs her own green-cleaning business in New York City. "There's rarely a day that goes by that I don't attend to some aspect of [the business]," she says. "Even weekends, evenings, early mornings."

You'll be fully immersed in the business. 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 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 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.

As more and more households and businesses see the benefits of green cleaning, demand for products and services will rise.

Links

Clean Link
An information resource for cleaning professionals

Inc.com
The website version of Inc. magazine has great articles, tips and resources for business owners

Greenwashing Index
Rate products and advertisements for their level of greenwashing

U.S. Small Business Administration
A resource for American small business owners

The Daily Green
An excellent source for news and information about going green