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Connecting and Working With Other Eco-Friendly Businesses

by Jocelyn Broyles

Published 04/12/11

 

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In the world of green, sustainable and eco-friendly business, networking, sharing ideas and participating in a collaborative effort is often easier than in the traditional business world. These interactions can also deepen our commitment to being green by supporting our work, reminding us that we are part of a collective effort striving for a greener marketplace and encouraging a sky's-the-limit approach to our goal setting.

In my experience, there are two simple and effective methods to connecting and networking with like-minded, eco-friendly businesses:

  • Attend green and sustainable tradeshows and forums
  • Personally reach out to companies you find interesting or inspiring

Green tradeshows are being held more and more frequently in more locations and provide access for both attendees and vendors to meet "pre-qualified" contacts, who by way of attendance at the show have already said, "I'm open to meeting, networking and building relationships with other eco-friendly businesses." Attend as many tradeshows as your business can, financially and time-wise, and do your homework before you go:

  • Take plenty of your own business cards and hand them out liberally.
  • Have a short introductory pitch describing your company and why you're at the show.
  • Plan out who you specifically want to meet and talk to.
  • Know what your company's objective, game plan or strategy is for this particular show. (It could be general outreach, a search for interns, or connections with possible advertisers.)
  • Talk to every booth at the show, if possible. It helps if two or more people can attend.
Green Business Networking
Green Business Networking

The first step to becoming a green business is networking and learning from other green businesses.

The tradeshow method might seem more straightforward and like an easier way to jump into networking and relationship building, but I've found that an honest email or phone call is often just as effective in building trust and information sharing. It's also a great way to network if you can't get to as many shows as you'd like.

The people who've founded businesses in the green, sustainable and eco-friendly space tend to be willing to share their knowledge, experience and time. I have reached out via email and phone to various companies in the eco-space and found nine times out of ten, I get a response that not only answers my question, but opens the door to further information sharing and begins a lasting two-way business relationship based on a common goal of providing green and eco-friendly products, services and information to the public, clients and to the world in general. The same basic strategies apply to this more personal, targeted outreach:

  • Do your homework about the company or person you're contacting - have specific questions about their experience or about the company.
  • Offer information about yourself and your company and explain why you've singled them out for counsel. This could be anything from simply liking their product or company policies to having a similar company goal with varied methods of implication.
  • Offer them something in return for what they share with you.

This last bullet point is a great way to form an ongoing business relationship. If you are in a position to offer sharing of your own knowledge, or a way your two companies can partner, share ideas, gain new clients or move forward together in the green space, do so! I don't think I have yet had someone say they weren't interested in discussing possible ways to work together. Even if the timing isn't currently right, stay in touch and update them on what your company is doing. You will have formed a strong, sharing business relationship before you know it.

There is a cohesiveness and camaraderie to the eco-community that circumvents standard barriers to entry, where outreaches are readily accepted and information sharing is encouraged. If you are engaging, honest and willing to share your own experience and knowledge, you will find nearly everyone you approach is open to building a relationship with you and your company. This back and forth sharing of ideas and experience is essential, and gives both participants a sense of support and combined effort that strengthens and spurs on drive, new ideas, and expanded goals and commitment within the eco-friendly business space.

 

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