Startup Interview: Eco Concierge Helps to Make Lives Greener
Sustainability specialist and lifestyle manager, Kirsten Jack, has set up and launched ECOCONCIERGE. Recently she has been awarded a place on the LEAD sustainability 2009 programme.
1. How did you come up with the idea of your start-up?
I came up with the idea because I noticed that a lot of people are very well intentioned, but also very busy and don't always know where to start when it comes to making their lives greener. Working in sustainability and environment world, I often get asked about the how's and why's of ethical options, from organic food to solar energy to realistic alternatives to car use.
These personal observations made me want to look into the idea further. I found a recent government (DEFRA) publication showing that 80% of people in the UK want to be greener but only 18% are actually living in that way already, which I found an amazing statistic - that's 62% of the population who wish they were doing more!
I also found a report from the National Consumer Council saying that the main barrier to people making more ethical choices is having enough time to make it a priority. All this made me think Eco Concierge was an 'of the moment' service.
2. How did you form your team?
The business partnerships I have now include lifestyle managers, experts in particular aspects of sustainability, an advisory board and many high level supplier partnerships across the eco- sector. My extensive eco supplier list includes Ecotricity, Abel and Cole and City Car Club, to name a few.
Some were contacts I already had, others I've established by directly contacting people and organisations who share the values of the brand and the vision of helping individuals find their own way to be greener.
3. How did you fund it, with how much money, and what is the business model?
Getting the business to this point has involved a very high investment in time, because it is such an innovative idea and because the potential range of support offered to clients is very broad. I wanted to make sure that the quality of service was high, and that took time.
I invested that time by working round the clock, fitting Eco Concierge around bringing up my son, now 18 months. My husband became sadly used to being an Eco Concierge widow for a while! Other than time, the business hasn't so far required a significant amount of financial capital, so I have covered that myself using personal savings.
4. What makes you different from other players in your sector?
There aren't any other direct players in the sector at the moment. There are some similar services, that offer coaching or that offer practical support with one area of lifestyle greening, but so far Eco Concierge is the only service that offers practical support and advice for people to green their lives - across their whole lifestyle and whole impact.
The other thing that I believe will continue to differentiate Eco Concierge from similar services is our commitment to overall sustainability goals - we want to have a net positive effect on the world, supporting individuals, businesses and charities to interact and create a more sustainable world.
Contributing to sustainable development is really important to me personally. I won a place on the LEAD programme, who train 2000 global sustainability leaders of the future, as is endorsed by the World Bank and UN agencies amongst others. I want to use this position as well as Eco Concierge to make my contribution to creating a better society.
5. What was your biggest challenge during the development process and how can other start-ups learn from that?
Hmm.. There are so many big challenges and tough lessons I've faced!
I didn't set out to be an entrepreneur; the idea just came to me and wouldn't go away. So a big one for me has been to seize the day! Another tough daily challenge is that 'you don't know what you don't know' and that can feel very daunting, but that the only way to overcome that ignorance is to ask, and keep asking, the silly/ obvious questions until it makes sense. Humility, self-reflection and good humour go a long way too!
6. What's your turnover this year; (when) are you profitable?
I'm only three months into my first trading year so I don't yet have any turnover figures for you. I hope to be profitable by the end of 2009.
7. Where is the company in 1 year?
My objective for this year is to ensure that Eco Concierge offers an outstanding quality of service and that we maximise all opportunities for customer insight in order to continue to learn and grow.
Kirsten Jack is founder of Eco Concierge, which supports local people to lead greener, happier lives through providing hands on practical advice and support. has a relevant MSc and is an Associate of the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment. She has seven years experience working in the environment sector – across business, charity and government sectors in the UK and internationally. She has just been awarded a place on the LEAD sustainability 2009 programme.
The LEAD programme aims to mobilise, train and support a network of 2000 global sustainability leaders of the future to achieve sustainable solutions at a local and global level. The programme has been endorsed by United Nations agencies, the World Bank, the World Resources Institute and Forum for the Future, among others.
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