Home Archives June 2009 Greens washing

Greens washing

| Print |  Email
Monday, June 01, 2009

TacticsEnvironne

CONSUMER HEALTH RESEARCH
www.environne.com
EMPLOYEES: 3
HEADQUARTERS:
Roseburg
SALES: Just under $1 million
PRODUCTS: Environné Fruit and Vegetable Wash, Stain Remover and other cleaning products

DIANE MAHONEY
President
Photo by Jon Meyers
Say you run a small company that sells a product you believe in passionately, something with enormous potential that has never quite been realized. How do you push it to the tipping point?

If you are Diane Mahoney, you find new markets in Turkey and China, establish a presence in Arizona and tap into the Beverly Hills celebrity culture to seek out a high-profile endorsement.

Mahoney, the 47-year-old president of Roseburg-based Consumer Health Research, sells nontoxic cleaning products under the Environné label online and through grocery stores such as Trader Joe’s, Fred Meyer and Whole Foods. Her best-selling item is a fruit and vegetable wash that removes dirt, oils and pesticides. She bought the formula and the company in 1996 with her husband, Michael, a child psychologist.

A Blackberry-toting mother of two with a degree in special education, Mahoney has deep opinions about the dangers of pesticides, the connection between toxins and learning disabilities, the murky origins of the food we eat and the awesome power of the $37 billion pesticides industry. She sees her produce wash as a simple solution to serious problems. “For a few dollars per month you can clean all your fruits and vegetables safely and get all sorts of health benefits for your family,” she says.

But while sales have grown steadily (up 7% over the past year), they haven’t taken off, as Mahoney believes they should. A drop in consumer spending last fall kept her just shy of grossing a million dollars for the first time in 2008. Grocery stores have passed on her products because they don’t want to insinuate that their food is not safe.

For Mahoney’s business to soar would require a major behavioral shift, from rinsing fruits and vegetables with water to washing them with nontoxic soap and then rinsing. “We learn in fifth grade that oil and water don’t mix, but people don’t make the connection.”

How to change that, when your energy level is high but resources are limited? Mahoney’s strategy focuses on new markets and consumer education. Consider her recent foray into Turkey, a nation that buys produce from farmers in Russia not known for applying chemicals sparingly. A physician who writes a wellness newsletter recommended Environné and several entrepreneurs in Turkey read the post and smelled opportunity. They contacted Mahoney and started negotiating a deal. Mahoney worked with Alexa Hamilton, an international trade officer with the state, to verify the buyers were legitimate, and once she was satisfied, she shipped the first order. Her Turkish partners have launched a television marketing program that she has seen online, although she doesn’t understand a word of it.

TacticsFruit

TacticsEggplant
TacticsCherries
TacticsAsparagus


She’s also exploring a partnership with Howenia Foods, which processes dried fruits and vegetables in China. But Mahoney’s greatest challenge is the domestic market. Recent successes aside (including a contract with Fry’s, a 120-store chain in Arizona), she needs to get the word out more effectively, but notes, “I’m not Procter & Gamble.”

Time to get whacky. At a natural products expo in California in March, she learned of a marketing company that organizes “gifting suites” backstage at Hollywood events. Entrepreneurs pitch their products to celebrities, hoping for a glamorous endorsement. It seemed dubious to Mahoney, but when the price dropped from $10,000 to $5,000, she consented. That’s how she got backstage last month at the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation’s 20th anniversary ceremony at the Nokia Theatre with Kathy Griffin, Ellen DeGeneres, Gus Van Sant and others in attendance. She didn’t nail the big Ellen endorsement, but she did get votes of confidence from the Desperate Housewives crew and other celebs, plus an invitation to return in August for the Emmys.

Hobnobbing in Hollywood is just the latest adventure for this multi-tasking mom, who mentors Douglas County entrepreneurs in her not-so-spare time. She dreams of manufacturing in Roseburg instead of contracting out, so she can create jobs in her hometown. But first things first: growth. “Once people start using these products, they don’t stop,” she says.

The never-ending challenge is convincing more people to start using them.
BEN JACKLET
 

Comments   

 
Mandy
0 #1 Mandy 2009-06-04 19:33:00
Great article! I love this fruit and veggi wash. I also REALLY love the multitask cleaner!
Quote | Report to administrator
 
 
Dr Tim
0 #2 $5,000 .......... ouchDr Tim 2009-06-10 12:12:18
that was a big loss and waste of 5 grand. Plus all the travel expenses.

Online advertising is much more effective. Spend that money on Keyword search ads to customers who want your product.
Quote | Report to administrator
 

More Articles

Portland rises

News
Monday, August 18, 2014

IMG 2551Portland is in the middle of another construction boom, with residential and office projects springing up downtown, in the Pearl and Old Town. OB Web Editor Jessica Ridgway documents the new wave.


Read more...

Interview: Dr. Mark Goulston

Contributed Blogs
Thursday, July 10, 2014
JustListenBY TOM COX | OB BLOGGER

Tom Cox interviews Dr. Mark Goulston, author of Just Listen, Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone.


Read more...

Updated: Disrupting innovation

News
Tuesday, July 08, 2014
070814 thumb disputive-innovationBY LINDA BAKER  | OB EDITOR

The New Yorker recently published a sharply worded critique of “disruptive innovation,” one of the most widely cited theories in the business world today. The article raises questions about the descriptive value of disruption and innovation  — whether the terms are mere buzzwords or actually explain today's extraordinarily complex and fast changing business environment. 

Update: We caught up with Portland's Thomas Thurston, who shared his data driven take on the disruption controversy.


Read more...

Green Endeavor cleans up

News
Wednesday, August 06, 2014
080614 ULnew greenendeavorBY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

Portland startup Green Endeavor strikes gold, inking a partnership with Underwriters Laboratories, an Illinois-based consulting and certification company with offices in 46 countries.


Read more...

Community colleges and sustainability

Contributed Blogs
Thursday, July 31, 2014
sustainabilityBY MARY SPILDE | OB GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

Faced with the aftermath of the “great recession,” increasing concern about the environment and dwindling family wage jobs, we have some very important choices to make about our future.


Read more...

Two sides of the coin

Contributed Blogs
Monday, August 25, 2014
0825 thumb moneyBY JASON NORRIS | OB GUEST BLOGGER

Ferguson Wellman’s investment views on the economy and capital markets.


Read more...

Trends in business succession

News
Thursday, July 03, 2014
TrendsBY TED AUSTIN & MIKE BAELE | GUEST CONTRIBUTORS

The Office of Economic Analysis announced that Oregon is currently enjoying the strongest job growth since 2006. While this resurgence has been welcome, the lingering effects of the 2008 “Great Recession” continues to affect Oregon businesses, especially with regard to estate planning and business succession.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS