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Finding your `green' niche

February 14, 2007|Karen E. Klein | Special to The Times

Question: With global warming all over the news, "green" technology seems to be an emerging market. How can entrepreneurs identify business opportunities in this area?

Answer: The opportunities in clean energy or technology have never been greater. There has been growing market acceptance of these ideas, accompanied by government awakening -- particularly in California -- to the dangers of global warming.

Along with that awakening, environment-friendly products have proved that they can be profitable, said Andrew Beebe, president of Pasadena-based Energy Innovations, which builds solar power systems. "That combination of awareness, government regulation and demand from consumers is catching the direct attention of market drivers such as venture capital firms," Beebe said.

A partner in one of those funds, Lee Bailey of US Renewables Group in Santa Monica, says entrepreneurial opportunities include new developments where site, engineering or technology selection involves wind, solar, geothermal or other renewable energy; sustainable projects, such as waste recycling and developing green buildings; energy technology, including clean coal and bio-solar; and clean fuel projects, such as ethanol and bio-diesel.

To find your niche, it's best to stay within your prior expertise whenever possible.

"Read the headlines, understand the markets for clean technology, subscribe to trade magazines and keep up with market analysis," Beebe said. "But you also need to look inside yourself and figure out whether you have a personal passion for this."

Another way to find business opportunities is networking with other entrepreneurs already operating in this arena.

The Harvard Business School Assn. of Southern California has an panel discussion Feb. 27 about clean technology. More information is available on the group's website, www.hbsasc.org. Additional clean energy information can be found at www.epa.gov/cleanenergy and www.cleantech.com.

How shares are owned determines inheritance

Q: I own a small business. When I die, what will happen to the stock I hold in this corporation?

A: Sounds like a simple question, but the answer depends upon how you hold title to the stock, said Harold S. Small, a San Diego attorney.

Many business owners hold title to their corporate stock as joint tenants with their spouses or business partners, or as "community property with right of survivorship," Small said. In those situations, your spouse or surviving partners will inherit your share in the company.

If your shares aren't held as community property or joint tenancy, the stock you own would be distributed according to your will or trust. If you're the sole owner of your corporation, the executor named in your will would take control of the assets in your estate after you die -- including the corporation -- and make management decisions until your assets could be distributed according to your wishes, Small said.

"These actions are done under the supervision of the probate court," he said. "However, if the stock is owned by a trust, the trustee takes control and acts without the need for first obtaining approval by the court."

If your firm is organized as a limited liability company or general partnership, the terms of your operating agreement or partnership agreement would control what happens to your share of the company after you die.

"In the case of a corporation, a shareholder agreement or buy-sell agreement between shareholders could control what happens following death," Small said. "That's why it's important that all these kinds of issues be carefully considered before you sign any legal documents pertaining to your business interests."

Got a question about running or starting a small enterprise? E-mail it to karen.e.klein@ latimes.com or mail it to In Box, Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012

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