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|Archives - June 2009|
|Monday, June 01, 2009|
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.
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.
Thursday, September 25, 2014
Nick Herinckx, CEO of Obility, and Jake Weatherly, CEO of SheerID, share what they've been reading.
Thursday, September 25, 2014
BY KIM MOORE
University and college tuition fees have been rising for more than a decade, while state funds for higher education have steadily declined.
Friday, October 31, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR
Why are there so few transportation startups in Portland? The city’s leadership in bike, transit and pedestrian transportation has been well-documented. But that was then — when government and nonprofits paved the way for a new, less auto centric way of life.
Friday, September 12, 2014
BY TOM COX | OB BLOGGER
I often talk about what leaders can do. What about followers? If you’re a team member and you’d like to add positivity to your team, what might you do?
Thursday, September 25, 2014
BY LEE VAN DER VOO
Former newspaper reporters move into brand journalism.
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
BY DIANE BUISMAN
Some common misconceptions employers have about marijuana.
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
BY AMY MILSHTEIN
Meetings get a bad rap. A few local companies make them count.
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Is your business ready to join us in the call for action? This opening panel includes Oregon businesses who will discuss why they signed the Oregon Climate Declaration, the investments they are making to reduce carbon emissions, and how their actions are affecting their companies.
Get ready for two days of special events produced with the EPA, Portland Timbers and ISOS before and after the GoGreen Conference on October 16.
Rotary’s Oregon Ethics in Business aims to raise consciousness about business ethics by honoring exceptional companies.
Barran Liebman’s annual employment law seminar is an industry classic.
Business leaders descend on Portland in December for the region’s largest environmental conference and trade show.
More than 400 "Change Makers" will gather to invest in a socially sustainable community.