Green business is an area of incredible opportunity and growth right now. (A green business, for our purposes, is a business that either sells environmentally-friendly products and/or that runs its business in an eco-friendly manner. These are also sometimes called sustainable businesses.)
Now it is true that the green market is currently a bit of a niche market, but what a niche it is! It is exactly the sort of market most small businesses yearn for: People willing to put their money where their values are. A recent study by the Natural Marketing Institute found that 23% of the U.S. adult population makes up the green market given they have a “profound sense of environmental and social responsibility.” That’s 50 million people folks. No, there is no shortage of people who want to buy green.
That is certainly what Mitch Rofsky has found. Not only has he created a great sustainable business, but he did so going up against the giant in his industry—The Automobile Club, i.e., AAA.
Rykofsky is the President of the Betterworld Club, a green alternative to Triple A. While the Betterworld Club offers the same services as AAA (at a lower price)—24/7 emergency roadside assistance and towing, flat tire and lockout service, jumpstarts and so on—it also incorporates many environmental and social initiatives, such as:
- Dedicating 1% of gross revenues to environmental cleanup and advocacy
- Offering carbon offsets
- Offering roadside bicycle assistance
- Discounting fees for owners of hybrid cars
- Offering discounts on eco-travel
- Treating domestic partners as joint members
- Offering a lighthearted, useful e-newsletter containing consumer advice, environmental
- information, and member savings, called “Kicking Asphalt”
It’s no wonder that the club has an 80% renewal rate and membership is soaring. Indeed, the Betterworld club is leading the pack for auto clubs in this green era.
When I spoke with Rofsky recently, asking him what it takes to create a successful green business, he was unequivocal in his enthusiasm for the business model. Not only is it a growing market, but for people under 30 he said, the environment is easily the preeminent issue. As such, “There is no doubt that in every marketplace there is room for socially responsible businesses” he said.
According to Rofsky, the key to creating a successful green business is to differentiate your business, and then let people know that you are different. That means…
- Have a niche: Finding a way to express your passion for the environment in a business way
- can be both creative, and eventually lucrative.
- Advertising and marketing in the right places: “You have to advertise in places where
- people who see what you offer will want it.” For the Betterworld Club, that means places
- like the Sierra Club magazine, Air America radio, and NPR’s Car Talk.
- Walk your talk: Rykofsky stresses that your business must reflect the values it espouses.
- Don’t forget it’s still a business: Your first job is to break even, and then make a profit.
- Offer competitive prices and exceptional customer service.
As the Betterworld Club has shown, one of the exciting things about this new green world we are all entering into is that you can do well by doing good.
Have a question about going green? Connect with a SCORE mentor online or in your community today!