Startup Green Endeavor offers better cleaning

Startup Green Endeavor offers better cleaning

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BY LINDA BAKER

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Eco-cleaning entrepreneur B. Scott Taylor.
// Photo by Adam Wickham

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 customers. “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 closed its doors 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: sourcing environmentally friendly cleaners, de-scalers and degreasers for food processors, waste haulers, recyclers and the like. 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-skewering 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,” Taylor says. The industrial-cleaning sector is worth $13 billion, he claims. "We want 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 is housed in 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 about the environmental business sector. Eventually they found a more substantive reason to launch.

“We discovered chemicals were the last elephant in the room when it came to sustainability," Taylor says. People wax enthusiastic about composting and riding bikes — "but no one is talking about the tons of toxic chemicals being used. The more we started learning, the more excited we got, because there’s a huge void.”

Green Endeavor doesn’t manufacture green cleaners; instead, the company sources products from around the country, then consults with clients to find the best application.

It’s no easy task, Taylor says. Market demand has fueled huge demand for eco-friendly household cleaners. Not so in the industrial sector, where manufacturers still rely on toxic chemicals to clean equipment, and employees charged with buying supplies are often suspicious of solutions with green claims.

Tracking down sustainable alternatives is another challenge. Small batch chemists might create a low-impact industrial strength cleaner for a single purpose — soot removal, for example. But such products are rarely used for other applications.

“These guys will invent a really cool formula that will have zero, if any, impact on the environment,” Taylor explains. “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.”

Taylor is filling the marketing gap; to legitimize the operation, he's also brought scientists on board. "These are people who are actually smart. I’m just a knucklehead entrepreneur.”  The heavy hitters include chemist Mitch Tracy, Green Endeavor’s technical director, and Jim Hutchison, a University of Oregon chemistry professor who is affiliated with the university’s nationally regarded green-chemistry programs.

Green Endeavor’s biggest challenge is avoiding “regrettable substitution," says Hutchison, the team's informal advisor. The recipes for most cleaning products are proprietary, 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, Hutchison says, Green Endeavor needs to develop an evaluation process based on "clear and defensible data.

“It’s a tall order but Scott has addressed tall challenges before."