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SMALL BUSINESS

Eco-friendly relationships blossom at green-networking events

Groups have sprung up around the country to provide a way for environmentally minded entrepreneurs to meet and drum up business.

September 29, 2009|Cyndia Zwahlen

Environmentally minded business professionals are increasingly finding one another -- and finding jobs -- at green-networking events.

Tatjana Luethi landed a gig as an independent sales representative for a compostable-packaging company at such a meet-and-greet. Jodi Plaia found the first customer for her soon-to-be-launched business making organic dog treats. Drumming up business and capital is still a time-honored goal for business networking. But these networks purport to push the more noble agenda of saving the environment.

"I find that the people you meet at the green-networking events are usually people who are of integrity," said Luethi, a native of Switzerland. "And that's the type of people I want to surround myself with, be it on a friendship level or be it on a business level."

For Tanya Peel, who opened her All Things Green shop in Woodland Hills in April to sell eco-friendly pet food, jewelry and other items, hosting a local event for the networking group Green Drinks last week was part of her plan to build a grass-roots network in her community. She wants to find environmentally friendly businesses she can work with and to which she can refer her customers.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday, September 30, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 National Desk 1 inches; 30 words Type of Material: Correction
Green networking: An article in the Business section on Tuesday about green networking events for small businesses incorrectly identified the Woodland Hills shop All Green Things as All Things Green.

"It's kind of going beyond strictly the quest for profits," Peel said.

So-called green-networking organizations have sprung up around the country in recent years, and have begun to form an infrastructure for entrepreneurs and others to meet and share ideas. Some are organized as nonprofits. Others operate as informal networks. Most charge a minimal event fee of $10 to $20 to help cover costs.

Greg Wendt, director of sustainable investing at Torrance-based Enright Premier Wealth Advisors Inc. and a founder of Green Business Networking in Santa Monica, said he was working with other green-business advocates to create a broader association that could advocate for an eco-friendly economy and advise on policy and legislation.

A number of chambers of commerce have green-business committees, but many business owners prefer the broader connections the typically larger networking events offer.

If you want to check out networking events near your small business, here is a look at four groups that are active in Southern California.

EcoTuesday: Founded in San Francisco in 2007, this group now holds events in six cities, including Los Angeles.

The evening meetings, held the fourth Tuesday of each month, are very structured. Each person has a chance to introduce himself or herself to the group. There is a short presentation by a sustainable-business expert, followed by a question-and-answer session. Then general networking commences.

"It's not so overwhelming," said Jennifer Gooding, who runs the Los Angeles events, which are attended by 30 to 40 people. "You don't have to walk into a room and introduce yourself over and over and give your elevator pitch 1,000 times."

She held her first meetings in Silver Lake and Los Feliz but switched to Santa Monica's Wokcano lounge for subsequent events when it turned out most attendees were commuting from the Westside. Cost: $10 to $20.

Green Business Networking: This local group started in 2005 and meets the second Tuesday evening of each month at the Ambrose Hotel in Santa Monica. It's a classic meet-and-greet with no speakers, billed as "the only pure networking event for owners and decision-makers in L.A.'s green economy. Cost: $10.

Green Drinks: Southern California has a number of monthly Green Drinks events in various neighborhoods, from Peel's new group in Woodland Hills to Pacific Beach in San Diego County. These are typically more casual, less business-oriented than some networking events, with no set agenda.

The group is in 610 cities worldwide. It started in London in 1989. Cost: $10.

Women of the Green Generation: This new group held its third evening meeting last week in West Hollywood, and it is already the subject of a documentary on women in eco-oriented businesses. It was organized by Kris Willey for professional women involved in what she calls "the green movement."

"I started going to all these green-networking groups but realized that 95% of the people I was connecting with were women," said Willey, who does product sampling for Coconut Bliss, a vegan ice cream maker, among others companies.

The response to her new group has been overwhelming, she said. About 45 women attended her most recent event celebrating raw foods at the Vernare eco-showroom in West Hollywood. Cost: $10 suggested donation.

Many people who organize and attend such networking events feel a sense of urgency in what they are doing, beyond the desire to just line up the next deal.

"There's either going to be a green future or there's going to be no future at all," Gooding said. "People are realizing the absolute urgency no matter what industry they are in."

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smallbiz@latimes.com

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