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7.7 Conclusion

What’s Next for Simply Green?

Focusing on the core business that drives the bottom line, which for Simply Green is getting the most amount of renewable fuel out onto the market, continues to be an exciting opportunity for Simply Green. The company's focus in 2011 is on developing a marketing plan that gets Simply Green out to the next group of customers beyond the early adopters to the early and late majority customers. Coming up with a strong marketing plan can allow Simply Green to attract that next ring of customers. The growth potential is significant, particularly since more than two-thirds of the population in Simply Green’s service territory use heating oil to heat their homes, and a large percentage of commercial vehicles use conventional diesel fuel.

The Entrepreneur’s Life Takes a Different Turn

Andrew Kellar Surfing

In mid-2010, Andrew Kellar began to realize that, as an entrepreneur, his key strengths were in the creative development end, and he left Simply Green to pursue other opportunities.

As Andrew describes it,

There are some people that are meant to be operators of business long term, and there are people that are meant to be in startups, in the craziness of everything that has to do with starting up a business…I realized that that was where my strength was.

While there wasn’t a lot of challenge left for me, there was still plenty of challenges for Simply Green in the long term, managing a business with 1,500 customers, and trucks on the road 20 hours out of the day. That skill set was not where I saw my strengths. So it was time for me to make a change. It was time for me to look to my business partners to take over the business.

I felt that Simply Green had helped me to define a new industry in this small community and helped me to do something really special and something unique. While I thought Simply Green was bringing me closer to being that person I wanted to be, and that businessman I wanted to be, it wasn’t allowing me to have a balance between being an entrepreneur and other things. I wanted to move on to a different working environment, where I could leverage all the experience that I had gained over those four years.

Between the highs and the lows, and all of the excitement and challenges that we had, I felt that was something that needed to be shared with other entrepreneurs. And I really, really enjoyed being in this kind of green, or now called clean-tech sector, that I wanted to reach out to other younger entrepreneurs that were in that same market, and try to give back to them.

After leaving Simply Green, Andrew became an entrepreneur in residence at the University of New Hampshire’s Green Launching Pad (GLP) program (http://greenlaunchingpad.org). The GLP is a business accelerator program focused on assisting new and growing business in renewable energy and energy efficiency. In that role, Andrew is assisting sustainability-focused businesses in their start-up and early growth phases. He also became an advisor and engaged in development efforts for Revolution Energy (http://www.rev-en.com/company/about-us). Revolution Energy was a company that the GLP helped launch in 2010. The company assists in the financing of renewable energy projects with a focus on municipalities, schools, and colleges. Based on this work and his experience with Simply Green, Andrew was selected as a Mel King Community Fellow at MIT in 2012 (http://web.mit.edu/colab/people-mel-king-community-fellows.html). All of these allow Andrew to help others learn from his experience with Simply Green and enable him to continue to act on his commitment to sustainability.

Postscript: What Would Andrew Kellar Want Students to Know?

For Andrew, the next generation has the opportunity to focus on learning from his successes and mistakes and those of others in the first generation of sustainability entrepreneurs. What he suggests to students interested in being sustainable business entrepreneurs is to

  • take advantage of the resources available to learn all you can about sustainability science, engineering, and business;
  • try to get an internship with a local sustainable business;
  • on your own or with a friend, try out a small sustainability project idea at your school and in communities.

As Andrew describes it, “There are a lot of great opportunities for young students, at the undergrad level up to the MBA level, to get involved in different way in sustainable businesses…(a)nd they’re not just stuffing envelopes. They’re actually getting involved with these businesses. We used to bring in interns, and we had our interns do a lot of in-depth work. It wasn’t mindless work, it was actually in-depth market analysis.”

Key Takeaways

  • Success in sustainable business entrepreneurship requires commitment to sustainability and problem solving, creativity, innovation, and “day-to-day” business management skills.
  • The entrepreneur, Andrew Kellar, started the company out of concern for the environment and for future generations.
  • The entrepreneur entered a mature industry with no experience but with a new product.
  • The entrepreneur used personal contacts, relations, and social networks to gather useful information and resources.
  • The start-up successfully employed creative marketing and low cost public relations to grow the company, appealing to the public’s concern for the environment.
  • The company was environmentally and socially focused but had to also focus on core business fundamentals, such as effective management of liquid, or cash, resources and strong customer service to be successful.
  • Simply Green focused on the people and planet side of the triple bottom line and had to learn over time how to more effectively manage to achieve the profit side of the triple bottom line.
  • The sustainable business founder lacked business training and skills that could have helped him to maintain ownership of the business. Commitment to and passion for sustainability are important and so are financial and other management skills.

Exercises

  1. What factors contributed to Andrew Kellar starting the biodiesel business? Were you surprised at the reasons that he gave for starting this business? Do you think his decision to start the business was wise? Why or why not?
  2. Discuss how Andrew Kellar is a social entrepreneur. What do you think were his strengths in running the company? What do you see as his main weaknesses? Discuss how an action that Andrew undertook was good for both sustainability and the business. Discuss how an action that Andrew undertook may have been good for sustainability but not good for the business.
  3. Do you think that Andrew Kellar is well suited to be a successful entrepreneur? Why or why not?
  4. What similarities do you think a sustainable business start-up shares with a “normal business” start-up? What differences do you think there are? Give an example of a business challenge that both Simply Green and a conventional fuel dealer share. Give an example of a business challenge that was unique to Simply Green and would not have affected a conventional fuel dealer from the chapter.
  5. Discuss the charitable actions that Simply Green took in regards to customer accounts from failed fuel businesses in a triple bottom line context. Was this a smart business move? Why or why not?
  6. Explain how Andrew Kellar used low-cost public relations to educate potential customers and promote Simply Green.
  7. Describe how you might use personal contacts to start a business venture. What would that involve? How would you start? What type of people would be most useful to draw on for information and resources when starting a sustainable business?
  8. Assess your skills and ability to manage a business start-up effectively. Do you have course work, training, or experience in financial and operations management? How are you at leading and motivating others, communicating and getting a message out, and organizing efforts and people at a workplace? Are you task oriented? Are you good with details?