I caught this the other day on Huffington Post; Tracy Metro on what she calls eco-entrepreneurs:

Starting a new business is often referred to as the “American Dream,” but it’s not always so dreamy for many entrepreneurs. The phrase “9 out of 10 new businesses fail in the first 5 years” is all too true, for most. Getting bogged down with payroll, workers’ comp, taxes and legal issues are the harsh realities for anyone launching their own business. Now, imagine the uphill battle for eco-innovators who are creating environmental and sustainable products and services to compete with mainstream business… in a country that’s just beginning to see the value of “green.”

Who would be crazy enough to try and start something under such tough parameters? Allow me to introduce you to the eco-entrepreneur.

The eco-entrepreneur is a rare bird that believes “making money” and “doing good” are not mutually exclusive. This is a person whose goals are to provide better products, services or innovations while leaving a minimal footprint on the environment. Eco-entrepreneurs live today, to green the world of tomorrow.

I’m all in favor, frankly; but to be fair, this isn’t something that the shiny new “eco-entrepreneurs” have just discovered.

Combining making money and doing good is essentially what drives most of the people who start businesses, any business, eco-friendly or not. You don’t think the restaurateur believes her food makes people happy, and that making people happy is good? Or that the software entrepreneur believes her application is good for the people who use it? Or the taxi driver, graphic artist, butcher, baker and even the candlestick maker? Not to mention recycling, clean energy, tutoring, documentaries, debt counseling and so many others.

The best book out there on starting a business, Guy Kawasaki’s “The Art of the Start,” emphasizes “make meaning” and “be a mensch. ” As you get into real business, small business, entrepreneurial business, most people need to believe in it in order to do it well.

So combining making money and doing good has been around for a very long time.

So what’s exciting here, to me, is that the world has opened a market window for eco-friendly entrepreneurship, so that eco-friendly has some market power. People care and will choose eco-friendly over eco-neutral or eco-exploitive, and will even pay more for eco-friendly.

Good luck with your new cardboard business and welcome aboard. Just don’t think you started the movement.

Oh, and by the way, that  nine out of 10 new businesses fail stuff has been pretty much disproved now.  Things are tough out in the real world, but not quite that tough. It turns out the statistics–which aren’t quite as bad as she quotes–are actually skewed by businesses that start and stop for tax reasons, not business reasons.

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Tim BerryTim Berry
Tim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.