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|Articles - September 2013|
|Monday, August 19, 2013|
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BY LINDA BAKER
B. Scott Taylor doesn’t exactly wear his green credentials on his sleeve. “Environmentalism is not my priority,” says the 49-year-old CEO of Green Endeavor, a startup providing green cleaning solutions for industrial and institutional clients. “My priority is making money.” A serial entrepreneur, Taylor founded a relocation company in 1997, sold it to Monster.com in 2000 for just under $100 million, then launched TAOW, a creative agency in which he worked with the Nikes and Red Bulls of the world — “all real cool, sexy things,” Taylor says.
TAOW shut down in 2011, felled by the economic downturn. Now Taylor is setting his sights on a venture that couldn’t be less sexy if it tried: a company that sources environmentally friendly cleaners, de-scalers and degreasers for food processors, waste haulers, recyclers and others. But if Green Endeavor is a departure from his previous, well, endeavors, Taylor, a New York native, is approaching the business with what appears to be a signature combination of manic energy and ambition, leavened by a dose of self-mocking humor. “I’m taking my marketing savvy and applying it to a place that’s probably one of the stalest, most boring and mundane places on the globe,” says Taylor. Noting that the industrial-cleaning sector is worth $13 billion, Taylor says he aims “to be the Whole Foods for industry. This is going to be huge. It’s bigger than anything I’ve ever done.”
Founded two years ago, Green Endeavor consists of a six-person crew, most of whom work out of the former TAOW offices, a loft in Northwest Portland’s industrial district. “All we knew was: Green is the new black; green is cool,” says Taylor, explaining how much he and his partner, Vince Loglisci, knew initially about the environmental business sector. They soon found a more compelling reason to launch.
“We discovered chemicals were the last elephant in the room when it came to sustainability,” Taylor says. Green advocates like to talk about composting and riding bikes, he says. “But no one is talking about the tons of toxic chemicals being used. And the more we started learning, the more excited we got, because there’s a huge void.”
Green Endeavor doesn’t make green cleaners; rather, Taylor and his team source eco-friendly products from around the country, then consult with clients to find the best application. It’s no easy task. In the consumer-products sector, market demand has fueled huge demand for eco-friendly household cleaners. But many industrial manufacturers still rely on toxic products to clean equipment and machinery, and employees charged with buying the supplies are often disinterested or suspicious of solutions with green claims.
Another problem is actually locating the sustainable alternatives. Such products are typically manufactured by small-batch chemists for a single purpose — soot removal, for example — but are rarely used for other applications.
“These guys will invent a really cool formula that will have zero, if any, impact on the environment,” says Taylor. “But chemists aren’t marketers. They’re happy working out of some obscure office in some obscure town making a couple hundred grand selling to some niche business.”
If Taylor is filling the marketing gap, he is also surrounding himself with scientific experts: “people who are actually smart, who can legitimize what we’re doing. I’m just a knucklehead entrepreneur.” Weighing in as the heavy hitters are chemist Mitch Tracy, Green Endeavor’s technical director, and University of Oregon chemistry professor Jim Hutchison, who is affiliated with the university’s nationally regarded green-chemistry programs. Green Endeavor’s biggest challenge is avoiding “regrettable substitution,” says Hutchison, who is acting as an informal advisor and critic. The recipes for many cleaning products are proprietary, he explains, so it’s difficult to figure out “what the heck’s in them.” To ensure the alternatives are actually better for human health and the environment, Green Endeavor needs to develop an “evaluative process” based on clear and defensible data.
“It’s a tall order but Scott has addressed tall challenges before,” Hutchison says.
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