Greens washing

| Print |  Email
Archives - June 2009
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

Urban renewer

Linda Baker
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
UnknownBY LINDA BAKER   

One year after he was appointed chair of the Portland Development Commission, Tom Kelly talks about PDC's longevity, Neil Kelly's comeback and his new role as Portlandia landlord.


Read more...

Fixing Oregon’s broken roads

The Latest
Tuesday, June 09, 2015
RUCCostComparison rev4-30BY KIM MOORE | RESEARCH EDITOR

The technology at the center of Oregon’s road usage fee reform.


Read more...

The 5 highest revenue-generating parks in Oregon

The Latest
Thursday, June 11, 2015
parksthumbBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

In 2014, total revenue for camping and day use in Oregon State Parks was a little more than $17 million. That figure may even higher this year "because we've had exceptionally nice weather," Hughes says.


Read more...

Business partnerships: taming the three-headed monster

Contributed Blogs
Monday, July 06, 2015
070615-businessmarriagefail-thumbBY KATHERINE HEEKIN | OB GUEST COLUMNIST

Picking a business partner is not much different than choosing a spouse or life partner, and the business break-up can be as heart-wrenching and costly as divorce.


Read more...

Store Bought

July/August 2015
Friday, July 10, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER

Market of Choice is on a tear. In 2012 the 35-year-old Eugene-based grocery chain opened a central kitchen/distribution center in its hometown. The market opened its third Portland store in the Cedar Mill neighborhood this year; another outpost in Bend broke ground in March. A fourth Portland location is slated for the inner southeast “LOCA” development, a mixed-use project featuring condos and retail. Revenues in 2014 were $175 million, a double-digit increase over 2013. CEO Rick Wright discusses growth, market trends and how he keeps new “foodie” grocery clerks happy.


Read more...

Wildcards

Guest Blog
Tuesday, July 28, 2015
China A SharesBY JASON NORRIS, CFA | OB GUEST BLOGGER

Uncertainty in Greece and China, along with potential interest rate hikes mean investors are looking at the market and nervously questioning where they should be invested.


Read more...

Fueling Up for the Climb

July/August 2015
Friday, July 10, 2015
BY GREGG MORRIS

Rita Hansen aims to scale natural gas vehicle innovation.


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