Starting an Environmental Consulting Business
Interview with The Green Year Co-Founder Lynn Colwell
If you are contemplating writing a book or starting an environment consulting business, you'll enjoy this interview with a co-founder of The Green Year LLC, a Seattle firm that is all about green.
Lynn Colwell started The Green Year LLC with her daughter Corey.
They formed the Seattle, Washington business in January 2008. The business is self-funded.
We asked Lynn a few questions about her startup experiences.
Tell me about your current business, Lynn. What are you doing exactly?
My daughter and I have written a book called Celebrate Green! Creating Eco-Savvy Holidays, Celebrations and Traditions for the Whole Family.
We are building a business based on becoming widely known as the "celebrate green" experts. In addition to the book, we do speaking and consulting.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
I was a life coach and my daughter is a marital and family therapist and registered art therapist. This is her first business, but I've had a number of others including life coach (www.CoachWithLynn.com), freelance writer, and corporate communications/PR.
Who are your main competitors? How do you compete against them?
At this point there are very few competitors in the space, and none of whom we are aware of in our niche.
There is one who is more of a green Martha Stewart. While our base target audience may be similar to his, our market is much more broad.
Of course, we are competing with all the green voices these days. We compete by offering something new, simple and engaging. We're building on our brand as a mother-daughter team who can make people laugh as well as make serious choices that may impact them and the lives of their families, as well as hopefully lessen the impact of celebrations on the Earth.
How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
We had a publisher for the book and seven weeks before it was to go to print, they folded, leaving us hanging. We went to two other publishers. Both were interested in publishing the book but couldn't bring it out for at least a year.
We had too much invested to wait so we took it on ourselves. Every step has been a frustrating lesson, but in the end, publishing ourselves is going to put us in a much better position than we would have been.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
Not really. It was not our fault that the publisher folded. We have done our best in every other step. Although it's been difficult, I think that's just life. Because it's hard doesn't mean we should try to avoid it.
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?
The book is not even officially out yet, but I know that since we have no money to finance marketing efforts, my PR background is going to be key. PR involving building as many relationships as possible and inviting them to help will be the key to growing this business.
I do that as a member of many online forums, contacting reporters and others through services like Helpareporter.com.
I offer advice, support and ideas about celebrating green so that others become interested in what I have to say and are primed to purchase the book or participate with us on our website.
We treat people fairly so that if someone wants to advertise with us, we don't overcharge. We WANT others to be successful and we think that in turn they want that for us.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Go for it. Self publishing and everything around it is exhilarating as it is scary. Being your own boss, in charge of your baby's fate is an incredible incentive to make it happen and power through all the mess in your way.
If possible (it wasn't in our case), to keep costs in hand, use a print on demand (POD) publisher. Get help with aspects in which you are not well-versed. If possible, find a partner and share responsibilities.
That's very good advice, Lynn. Thanks so much for sharing your entrepreneurial experience with us, and good luck in growing your business. I'm sure others will be inspired by your story as they launch their own ventures.
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