Business Capitalists with Heart

We Dream in Colour gains inspiration through giving

We Dream in Colour has an eye on the environment both as inspiration for her designs but also as a member of 1% for the Planet. Each year Gedeon and her “team of awesome women” get together and decide where to donate the 1% For the Planet funds.

The natural environment inspires one fast growing design company to give back

Jade Gedeon had no idea that what started as a project in college would eventually become Massachusetts-based jewelry design studio We Dream in Colour. While studying industrial design at the Pratt Institute, Gedeon played around using the cheap clear plastic Shrinky Dink kits as a medium for bird illustrations. “I was in college, there wasn’t exactly money for diamonds,” she explains.

WDIC_3762edThe illustrations were then strung on a cord and made into a necklace. “It really was some awful stuff,” Gedeon admits. Well the “awful stuff” went onto a website launched by her then-roommate, which was quickly picked up by fashion, beauty and entertainment blog Daily Candy.

“They ran a piece on us and I think they had 2 million subscribers at the time. From there people and bloggers kept finding us, and the whole business has continued to grow in this beautiful, organic way.” Gedeon now employs three women full-time, and brings on additional help during seasonal production upswings.

Evolving from Shrinky Dink kit jewelry to finding her niche in beautiful, rustic, environmentally inspired styles solidly constructed with materials such as reclaimed brass, sterling silver, diamonds and pressed glass, Gedeon has her eye on the environment both as inspiration for her designs but also as a member of 1% for the Planet.

WDIC_book1% For the Planet is a thirteen year old organization dedicated to building, supporting and activating an alliance of businesses financially committed to creating a healthy planet. Founded in 2002 by Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, and Craig Mathews, owner of Blue Ribbon Flies, 1% For the Planet member companies have collaboratively invested over $100 million dollars in positive environmental change.

When asked why We Dream in Colour became a 1% member, Gedeon hands the credit over to her sister, who used to work at Patagonia and now runs the We Dream in Colour office.

“It’s like we are handed this hunk of money every year to give back to the community as we’d like. I know it’s technically money that we have made, but when you’re doing something because it’s right and not because it’s profitable, you really feel the rewards.”

wdic_girls
Each year Gedeon and her “team of awesome women” get together and decide where to donate the 1% For the Planet funds.

Each year Gedeon and her “team of awesome women” get together and decide where to donate the 1% For the Planet funds. Every year they give to the Essex County Greenbelt, an association right in their hometown that preserves and provides a direct connection with nature. Some other favorite non-profits include Massachusetts Audubon, The Food Project and Surfrider Foundation.

We Dream in Colour’s 1% pledge sees a lot of positive feedback from customers and retailers, which is of course good for business. But Jade Gedeon and her staff seem to have a more deep-seeded reason for giving.

“The natural environment has informed and inspired so much of the work we do here. You make something beautiful, work hard and people appreciate that. So if you can give back, do it. Do it because it’s right, not because it’s profitable.”

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NCS Global Helps Companies Keep E-Waste Out of Landfills

NCS Global Inc., a New Hampshire-based company comes in. The firm not only processes over five million pounds of electronics yearly, but does so in the most environmentally-friendly way

When we think about recycling, we usually equate it to sorting plastic and paper into their own trash bins. At a business level, organizations have to deal with a much trickier problem — e-waste disposal and data destruction. That’s where NCS Global Inc., a New Hampshire-based company comes in. The firm not only processes over five million pounds of electronics yearly, but does so in the most environmentally-friendly way.

Since the company was founded 15 years ago, it has maintained its “zero landfill” policy while helping customers both large and small dispose of their e-waste. It is careful about who it partners with to ensure that no toxic e-waste slips through to the landfills. For the businesses it serves, NCS Global offers a cost-effective way to dismantle electronics, harvesting and testing parts for resale opportunities. In fact, many clients discover that their e-trash has real value.

Headquartered in Rochester, New Hampshire, NCS Global also practices what it preaches by working out of the city’s first custom-built LEED building. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to set a benchmark for design, construction, and operation of high-performance green buildings. Their 30,000 square-foot facility provides a working environment committed to green practices, staying in line with the company’s brand.

NCS Global is also recognized as an industry leader, having become one of the first organizations to receive the e-Stewards® Certification from the Basel Action Network (BAN), which recognizes a commitment to the environment. Add to that the designation of R2/RIOS Certified Electronics Recycler™, which the company attained in 2012, and it’s one of the few electronics recyclers to carry both certifications.

Community outreach and supporting the local economy is an important part of the success formula at NCS Global, too. In 2014, an Earth Day event was held which helped recycle thousands of pounds of electronic equipment, along with some corporate partners like Stonyfield Organic, Medtronic, and others. And when the company relocated, NCS Global turned to New Hampshire businesses to help with the construction, design, and security systems.

In addition to disposing of electronic waste, NCS Global keeps an inventory of over 75,000 used parts and refurbished computers and equipment to sell back to stores, distributors, and resellers.

By serving its clients to ensure that their unwanted data and electronics are disposed of safely, and not doing so at the expense of the environment, NCS Global has become a leader in its category.

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Flowfold Finds New Life in Old Sailcloths

Inspiration can come from the most unusual settings. How a tattered leather wallet can inspire a teen to one day start a business.
"When we look at our business and what we want to accomplish, it’s more about telling our story and letting everyone experience the values we believe are important,”

So many successful businesses start with solving a problem. For Charley Friedman, president of Flowfold, inspiration struck as a teen, when he noticed that his grandfather’s leather wallet was falling apart. He was working as a sail maker at the time, and he designed a replacement wallet using scrap sailcloth.

That was the beginning of the Peaks Island, Maine-based accessories company that produces wallets and other gear from recycled sailcloths. Flowfold, which gets its name from a geology term that describes layers of rock that fold smoothly over time without breaking, officially launched in 2011.

Flowfold has so much confidence in the strength of its materials and craftsmanship that all of its products are backed with a lifetime warranty. Even better, its commitment to using recycled materials has helped Flowfold divert over 1,500 pounds of non-biodegradable materials from landfills.

Flowfold President Charles Friedman
Flowfold President Charles Friedman

If you’re thinking that this sounds like the perfect idea to bring to the TV show “Shark Tank” in search of funding and publicity, you’re not alone. In fact, the show’s producers have actually reached out to the wallet company, but they weren’t interested. “We want to set our own path and our own values. Shark Tank would be a very different path, so we’ve shied away from that,” says Devin McNeill, the company co-founder and co-owner. “When we’re measuring our impact across the board, it goes deeper than just our finances.”

The Measure of Success

Flowfold currently has just three full-time employees in addition to its two owners, but McNeill says the company grew 150 percent between 2013 and 2014. The products can be found in over 150 brick and mortar stores across the county, while the majority of sales are done online.

Even with encouraging numbers, McNeill says that the company’s impact is what really counts, thanks to its quality products that allow users to have confidence in what they carry.

“How many customers were influenced by our message and our core values and what we’re about? When we look at our business and what we want to accomplish, it’s more about telling our story and letting everyone experience the values we believe are important,” – Devin McNeill, co-founder and co-owner

Those values include a commitment to the Maine economy. “We’re all about supporting local manufacturing, which is why all products are manufactured and assembled in Maine,” says McNeill. Maine culture is in the company’s DNA, he says. As the company website explains: “Peaks is the ideal testing ground for the items we create because of the exceptional carrying challenges of living on an unbridged island.”

McNeill says that a lot of inspiration and ideas come from growing up and living in Maine. “Our state is known across the country as having very hard workers, being able to weather all of the climate issues we have, and it has a really long history in craftsmanship.”

The combination of cutting edge materials and Maine craftsmanship has helped Flowfold create a unique product line that is expanding. “Just this week we released the passport holder and a checkbook case. We have such a loyal and great customer base that wants more products,” says McNeill.

In 2015, Flowfold is especially focused on listening to its customers, giving them what they want. Says McNeill: “We expect to continue to grow our team and provide more manufacturing work in Maine. We want our products to be at the core of your carrying needs. ”

Flowfold has generously offered friends and fans of Powertohelp.com and the Provider Power family of companies a 10% discount.  Visit their website at  and use the coupon code:  powertohelp 

Update:

Gorham Savings Bank named Flowfold as its third annual LaunchPad Competition winner. LaunchPad was created to help fund the growth of a Maine business. It not only celebrates great business ideas, it also provides the resources to help bring these ideas to life. Flowfold was named this year’s winner after a live, high-energy competition on June 18th.

 

 

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Brewing Up Sustainability With Cambridge Brewing

Cambridge Brewing Company, a fixture in Cambridge, Mass, balances great beer, a hearty meal and sustainability practices.
"Sustainability and environmentally friendly practices have always been important to us, and the more successful we become, the more we can invest what we need in resources and efforts to get better every day" [...]

Ask Cambridge, Mass. locals where to find a great meal and beer, and chances are they will say, “Cambridge Brewing Company,” which has been a fixture on the local dining scene since 1989. But step into their restaurant or peruse their menu, and you’ll see they’re about more than just a friendly environment. They’re also about being environmentally-friendly.

Start with the ambience of the restaurant: The CBC is located in a refurbished mill building that features high ceilings, exposed brick and skylights. The lighting is LED, the cleaning supplies are non-toxic, and employees frequently bike to work.

They are also committed to a zero-waste brewing process – from conserving and re-using water to offering spent grain to local farmers for animal feed.

CBC-outside

Owner Phil Bannatyne acknowledges that the restaurant hasn’t always been so environmentally-focused, mostly because sustainable practices weren’t as widespread when it launched. “As you grow, you chip away at the edges and make your venture better in every way,” he said, explaining their accelerated environmental commitment. “It starts with me,” he adds, “but I manifest a collaborative environment here, and there are lots of participants who buy in as much as I do.”

For its seasonally-inspired New England fare, the restaurant sources from as many local producers as it can, which not only assures that the ingredients are fresh but allows them to support those committed to what they call “the stewardship of land and productivity of the seas.” Partnering with local suppliers allows them to shorten the supply chain and help to create a strong local economy.

CBC-brewmaster
Will Meyers, Brewmaster

Bannatyne says he’ll find new suppliers through the existing network. “Word gets out among local farmers and small-scale fisherman that we are a business that’s excited about talking to them, and they are important to us.” He also finds connections when he’ll mention to a farmer, for example, that he’s trying to source a certain ingredient and he’ll get a reference.

The website lists the businesses, farmers and organizations they work with that match their commitment to sustainability and community and includes the specific item and time frame – from Ben “The Mushroom Guy,” who forages local mushrooms, ramps and fiddleheads; to Shy Brothers Farm, whose cheese is featured year-round.

According to Bannatyne, the sustainable focus is important to the customers – particularly the dinner crowd who seek them out for their reputation.

“Sustainability and environmentally friendly practices have always been important to us, and the more successful we become, the more we can invest what we need in resources and efforts to get better every day. As we continue to grow, I always take a step back to identify what are we doing and how can we do it smarter.” – Phil Bannatyne

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Sharks and Killer Charities

What happens when you have so much money, all the possessions, and all the homes you could want, but you want out of the tank? The answer for some is to invest in non-profits.
Shark Tank is an American reality television series that premiered August 9, 2009 on ABC.

Shark Tank, you’ve probably seen the TV show. Contestants try to make business presentation to a panel of business “shark” investors. The “sharks”, who by the way get compensated very well for their participation, invest their own money (or not) in these budding business ventures.

The concept, not a unique one, is a spin-off of the Japanese TV show Dragon’s Den (originally named Money Tigers) is also on T.V. in Ireland, Canada, UK and New Zealand.

In Maine there is even interest in doing a local version of the show-local entrepreneurs investing in the next great Maine product or business. No matter the state or country, the premise very much the same-success is based on how much money is made.

But what happens when you have so much money, all the possessions, and all the homes you could want, but you want out of the tank?  The answer for some is to invest in non-profits.

The Boston Globe is reporting that multi-millionaire Todd Dagres is organizing a “Shark-Tank” style competition that rewards the charities best able to withstand the wrath of prospective investors. Non-profits will pitch their mission to investors. Investors can vet the plans and elect to fund them and perhaps advise the organizations. According to the Globe article, the goal is to bring financial and management stability to groups who could benefit society. Dagres plans to invest up to $100,000 of his own money (by the way he reportedly made 50 million between 1999 and 2003).

Todd Dagres is a Founder and General Partner of Spark Capital.
Todd Dagres is a Founder and General Partner of Spark Capital.

“I am looking for a category of success that goes beyond financial and into doing good work.” – Todd Dagres

We know the “what” and the “who”, but “why”?

Dagres is going the route of venture philanthropy:  using the same tools, ideas and ideals that go into venture capital funding to promote growth of social ventures.  He is quoted this way, “I am looking for a category of success that goes beyond financial and into doing good work.”

The idea is also to counter act the large, well-funded non-profits, these “category-killer” charities that are “sucking up much attention and so much money they’re making it difficult for other emerging non-profits” to get attention and money.

Here at Provider Power many of our employees sit on non-profit boards, and volunteer (on and off company time) with countless non-profit organizations. Through our Power To Help initiative we help raise funds for non-profits and support them with other assets (people power) to help them accomplish their goals. Our ownership group embraces the notion of leaving a social legacy.

There is still an important role for well-heeled business leaders to sit on boards of non-profits and make their customary, yearly financial contribution. What Dagres (and others) are recognizing is that success can be measured in many ways. Extravagant homes, gas guzzling cars and trips to Bora Bora are nice-but leaving a social legacy and making a difference can make sticking your feet in tropical waters feel all that much better.

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Frozen Pizza with Purpose: American Flatbread

Pittsfield, New Hampshire-based American Flatbread and its sister brand Rustic Crust are successfully putting pizza and healthy in the same sentence, thanks to their commitment to using real, organically grown, non-GMO ingredients. But that isn't all that makes them special.

“Food is important. What we eat and how it’s grown intimately affects our health and the well-being of the world.”

That’s according to George Schenk, the founder of Pittsfield, New Hampshire-based American Flatbread. With lofty ideals like that, it’s hard to believe his company is in the frozen pizza business.

Then again, American Flatbread and its sister brand Rustic Crust are successfully putting pizza and healthy in the same sentence, thanks to their commitment to using real, organically grown, non-GMO ingredients.

Being in the good-for-you pizza business isn’t without its challenges, when one considers that 70 percent of foods currently found in grocery stores contain at least some genetically modified ingredients, according to Rustic Crust CEO Brad Sterl, who has dubbed himself a “Crust Crusader.” However, his company thinks it’s worth the effort to use real ingredients from the wheat crusts to the fresh herbs and vegetables, even to the cheeses made without rBST growth hormones.

What’s not added: Artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. From its Sundried Tomato and Mushroom Pie to its Vegan Harvest featuring dairy-free cheese, the company’s products are consistently ranked among the most delicious choices in healthy pizza, and can be found in supermarkets, health, and gourmet stores across the nation.

Baked in New England, But Sharing a Slice of Goodwill

The company has put down roots in New Hampshire since opening in 1996, and as such, often gives back to the communities it serves. Some charitable events its hosted include a make-your-own pizza event for students at Boston’s Perkins School for the Blind, and a fundraiser for Boston Marathon bombing victim Jeff Bauman. American Flatbread also isn’t afraid to fire up its pizza oven truck to spread some wholesome pizza cheer and nourishment when it’s needed in other states. For example, it’s traveled to Charleston, South Carolina to provide pizzas to veterans and their families during Lt. Dan Weekend, and it made the trek to Rockaway Beach in Queens, NY to offer up a meal to those who were recovering after Superstorm Sandy.

But, most importantly, the company took care of its own when it counted the most. When a fire ripped through Rustic Crust’s production facility in March 2014, it took weeks to find a temporary facility while it began rebuilding. Through the ordeal, the company continued to pay its 100+ employees. During the ground-breaking for the new site in the fall of 2014, which is 30 percent larger than the original facility, comprising 27,000 square feet, the company used it as an opportunity to honor the New Hampshire Police, Fire & EMS Foundation. That event also launched a national campaign, The Rustic Crust First Responders Recognition program, which supports service workers across the U.S.

For American Flatbread and Rustic Crust, becoming a leading brand in natural frozen flatbread pizzas is only one ingredient for their success. Standing up for good health, caring for its New Hampshire workforce, and delivering care one pizza at a time equates to recipe perfection.

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Sustainable Architects in Boston

As we strive to live more sustainably, our choice of home makes a huge impact on our environmental footprint in terms of energy use and the environmental impact of the home’s materials. Fortunately, sustainable design is becoming increasingly mainstream, offering a growing number of options that seamlessly incorporate form and function.

As we strive to live more sustainably, our choice of home makes a huge impact on our environmental footprint in terms of energy use and the environmental impact of the home’s materials. Fortunately, sustainable design is becoming increasingly mainstream, offering a growing number of options that seamlessly incorporate form and function.

Here’s a look at several Boston-area architecture firms with expertise in this arena.

  • Amacher & Associates Architects: Led by Franziska Amacher, LEEP AP and graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Design, this Cambridge-based firm offers architecture, space planning and sustainable development. Past projects include commercial and residential buildings including a zero-energy building, a renovation of a Beacon Hill brownstone, a green farmhouse in Maine and a solar two-family house.
  • Architerra: With all of its full-time professional staff LEED-accredited, Architerra has completed projects including the Massport cruise terminal in Boston, a new science and art center at Cambridge School of Weston and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s Wind Technology Testing Center. The firm has received awards including the Boston Society of Architects Award for Sustainable Design and a AIA COTE Top Ten Green Project.
  • Studio G Architects: Studio G Architects’ portfolio includes sustainable design projects including the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance Offices (using recycled building materials and components), Eco-Tourist Resort in Israel (featuring graywater and rainwater recycling and passive ventilation systems) and the Green Roof at Boston Latin School. The firm also has a tradition of preserving historic structures and, in some cases, adapting them for new uses.
  • Reverse Architecture: Somerville-based Reverse Architecture has designed homes and commercial spaces as well home additions with features such as a “geothermal” ground source heat pump and LED lighting. One notable project, Condensation House in Twentynine Palms, California, is designed to extract and design water vapor from every potential source. The firm’s founder, Carl Solander, LEED AP also lectures at MIT.
  • ZeroEnergy Design: Based on Boston’s Milk Street, ZeroEnergy Design (or ZED for short) offers green architecture and mechanical design services, working on new home construction and renovations. ZED helps residential clients achieve energy performance targets such as net zero energy (using on-site energy production such as solar photovoltaic to match energy consumption), passive house standard (using 70-90 percent less energy for heating and cooling than a conventional structure) and deep energy retrofit (improving energy performance by at least 50 percent). It also has LEED-accredited professionals and LEED for Homes Green Rater on staff.

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Follain: Bringing Natural Healthy Skin Products to Boston

Tara Foley had a vision of immersing herself in learning about natural healthy skin products. Five years later, her dream became reality in Boston.
Follain is a healthy beauty store with locations in Boston and Nantucket.

Tara Foley already did yoga most days and shopped at her local farmer’s market, but several years ago when she started researching the beauty products she used, she quickly learned they didn’t fit with an otherwise clean, healthy lifestyle. “On average, we use about 15 products a day, and most of the products I was using had a lot of toxic chemicals in them,” she says.

Foley tested products with safer ingredients, but discovered that many of them just weren’t as effective. She began a blog, The Natural Chemist, in which she reviewed the products that did work, and quickly discovered that people needed a place to buy those products.

She quit her job at a law firm in 2010 so she could “fully immerse myself in this world and learn about natural healthy skin products.” First stop was a lavender farm in France. Through Willing Workers on Organic Farms, Foley worked at the farm so she could “see how something that we put on our skin was brought to life.” Next, she moved to Maine, where she worked for a small skincare manufacturer and learned about packaging, then to Wellesley, Massachusetts, where she earned an MBA from Babson College in 2013.

Through a national business plan competition, Foley received seed capital to open Follain, a cozy retail shop in Boston’s South End. The location was ideal in part because of Boston’s proximity to so many researchers and health professionals.

 Select products (think: liquid hand & body soap) are available for refill in-stores, as Follain aims to remedy the immense plastic waste generated by bottles.
Select products (think: liquid hand & body soap) are available for refill in-stores, as Follain aims to remedy the immense plastic waste generated by bottles.

Tara Foley - Founder
Tara Foley – Founder

Follain’s white-tiled counter and vintage apothecary tools create a chic, clean backdrop for the store’s selection of nontoxic skincare, body and hair products, as well as cosmetics, all from US-based brands. Foley thinks not only about the products we put in our bodies but the packaging that gets discarded afterwards, so she created a refill program where customers purchase a container and bring it back to refill with a rotating selection of liquid hand and body soap (as of February, the current soap on tap contained only coconut oil, olive and essential oils). Foley says she “became really excited about the opportunity to fix the packaging part of the beauty industry” while studying at Babson.

Since opening in July 2013, Follain has become so popular that Foley also set up temporary pop-up shops in Nantucket, Washington, DC and Wellesley. For her, though, it’s not just about selling lotions and soaps (“you can make skincare products at home,” she tells me), but about raising awareness about safe products. To that end, she launched the Follain Safety Pledge so that people can learn more about product ingredients and safety. Discarding the products they’ve used most of their lives can be daunting, but as Foley says, “we are trying to help people and hold people’s hands through it.”

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