Important Media (formerly, Green Options)
Green Options (since renamed and branded Important Media) is not your father's business start-up. Then again, twentysomething founder David Anderson represents the millennial generation, people born after 1982 and into an era where the Internet reigned as a household staple next to peanut butter and jelly. David's technical knowledge, youthful zeal for environmental issues and skill set brought Green Options quickly to life at a time when the general public needed practical information about going green that was easy to relate to. The result is a venture snowballing, representing an inspiring example of how technology and the Internet can create an equalizing playing field for new ecopreneurs.
An internship while at the University of California gave David the inspiration for Green Options. "My experience in the green non-profit world of Washington DC convinced me that real change can only come through the for-profit market," David explains. "I saw many talented, dedicated people frustrated by the fixed game of the Washington status quo, convincing me that market solutions coming from the business world are what create effective change."
After graduating in 2005 and a brief stint as a technical writer, David left to focus on what eventually became Green Options, a green media portal launched in 2007 that focuses on engaging and informing people new to the green movement, taking advantage of the most useful and accessible formats that Web 2.0 has to offer. "Green Options is in the business of persuasion by providing information and connecting that information to our readers' own lives without being preachy," explains David. "We describe our niche not in terms of the 15 percent of people who consider themselves part of the green movement, but in the many simple ways that average folks, the other 85 percent, can start looking at any aspect of life through a green lens."
David founded Green Options through a Web-linked network of partners and staff countrywide, many of whom haven't met face to face. "As a recent graduate, I had very few business contacts to lean on for advice so I started a blog examining energy and environmental issues to network," David explains, quick to solve problems by harnessing the power of the Internet. Through blogging, David met his two partners, Shea Gunter, an ecopreneur based in Maine, and Jeff McIntire-Strasburg, an environmental writer and English professor living in St. Louis, Missouri. Bringing seasoned experts on board as partners proved immediately beneficial: Gunter had the venture capital experience to quickly find an angel investor, while McIntire-Strasburg provided provocative editorial content.
"Being practically fresh out of college, I realize I have a lot to learn about business in general, so I realized the importance of working with smart people with different skill sets," advises David. "My lack of experience has helped, however, in that I'm able to make connections and innovative scenarios that might not automatically occur to someone boxed into a particular business world experience."
Today David and Green Options is officially based in Berkeley, California, while his nationwide staff grows -- many blogging as independent contractors. David's challenge remains to keep connected, taking advantage of online workflow tools, many available at no or low cost, such as Skype for phone and video conferences and BasecampHQ and Google Docs for managing shared documents. "Efficient communication remains a challenge, and part of me misses the cubicle," David adds with a smile. "There's something to be said about poking your head over the cubicle wall to ask a quick question." Green Options pays independent contracts through PayPal, saving both paper and fuel costs by staff working from home remotely and not commuting.
Green Options thrives as a leading green information portal thanks to well-written, fresh material. "At Green Options, we say we are 'greening the good life,' focusing on engaging content from green experts and enthusiasts that we hope appeals to a broad range of readers who consider themselves normal consumers," David explains. "Our content is our marketing. We write about what people are searching for on Google, such as 'climate change solutions' or 'green building materials.' Once people find us for one green tip, trick or piece of information, we hope they'll come back to learn and share more. So far, they are." Their innovative "30 Days to a Greener You" is a free "e-course" newsletter that teaches subscribers how to lighten their environmental footprint, while still living a comfortable life, providing a month of step-by-step actions, from the simple and free (turning off the lights, recycling) to major investments in a greener lifestyle (greener cars, solar energy systems).
Future plans for Green Options include using Web 2.0 media, unveiling new Web properties, or portals, that address different niche markets within the green movement, some adding different revenue streams from advertisers. "We think we are seeing the emergence of a new kind of media, content seamlessly integrated with community functions that will take many forms, such as text, audio and video," sums up David. "Overhead will be much lower than traditional media, in part because technology enables people-powered dissemination of information. Green Options thrives on the challenge of using technology to bring sustainable living education to the masses and turning the tides of society for the better."
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