Startup Green Endeavor offers better cleaning


 

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BY LINDA BAKER

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Eco-cleaning entrepreneur B. Scott Taylor.
// Photo by Adam Wickham

B. Scott Taylor doesn’t wear his green credentials on his sleeve. “Environmentalism is not my priority,” says the 49-year-old CEO of Green Endeavor, a startup providing green cleaning solutions for industrial and institutional customers. “My priority is making money.” A serial entrepreneur, Taylor founded a relocation company in 1997, sold it to Monster.com in 2000 for just under $100 million, then launched TAOW, a creative agency in which he worked with the Nikes and Red Bulls of the world — “all real cool, sexy things,” Taylor says.

TAOW closed its doors in 2011, felled by the economic downturn. Now Taylor is setting his sights on a venture that couldn’t be less sexy if it tried: sourcing environmentally friendly cleaners, de-scalers and degreasers for food processors, waste haulers and the like. But if Green Endeavor is a departure from his previous, well, endeavors, Taylor, a New York native, is approaching the business with what appears to be a signature combination of manic energy and ambition, leavened by a dose of self-skewering humor.

“I’m taking my marketing savvy and applying it to a place that’s probably one of the stalest, most boring and mundane places on the globe,” says Taylor, noting the industrial-cleaning sector is worth $13 billion. “We want to be the Whole Foods for industry. This is going to be huge. It’s bigger than anything I’ve ever done.”

Taylor and his partner, Vince Loglisci, decided to explore green business opportunities in 2011. Their knowledge of the sector was limited, Taylor admits. “All we knew was: Green is the new black. Green is cool.”

The business partners soon found a niche.

“We discovered chemicals were the last elephant in the room when it came to sustainability,” says Taylor. Environmentalists like to talk about composting and riding bikes, he adds. “But no one is talking about the tons of toxic chemicals being used. And the more we started learning, the more excited we got, because there’s a huge void.”

Green Endeavor doesn’t make green cleaners. Instead, Taylor and his team source eco-friendly products from around the country, then consult with clients to find the best application.

It’s no easy task. Over the past decade, consumer demand has fueled tremendous growth in the green household products market. Not so in the industrial arena. Most manufacturers still rely on toxic chemicals to clean equipment, Taylor says, and employees charged with purchasing supplies are often suspicious of solutions bearing environmental claims.

Another problem is actually locating the industrial-strength, natural cleaners. Such products are typically created by small batch chemists for a single purpose — soot removal, for example. But they are rarely used for other applications.

“These guys will invent a really cool formula that will have zero, if any, impact on the environment,” says Taylor. “But chemists aren’t marketers. They’re happy working out of some obscure office in some obscure town making a couple hundred grand selling to some niche business.”

From his office in the former TAOW headquarters — a loft in Northwest Portland’s industrial district — Taylor is filling the marketing gap. His six-person team also includes representation from the scientific community. “These are people who are actually smart, who can legitimize what we’re doing. I’m just a knucklehead entrepreneur.”  Weighing in as the heavy hitters are chemist Mitch Tracy, the company’s technical director, and Jim Hutchison, a University of Oregon chemistry professor affiliated with the university’s nationally regarded green-chemistry programs.

Green Endeavor’s biggest challenge is avoiding “regrettable substitution,” says Hutchison, who is acting as an informal advisor and critic. Hutchison says the recipes for many cleaning products are proprietary, making it difficult to figure out “what the heck’s in them.” To ensure the sustainable alternatives are actually better for human health and the environment, Green Endeavor needs to develop an evaluation process based on “clear and defensible data.”

“It’s a tall order but Scott has addressed tall challenges before.”


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“We’re replacing the bad stuff with good stuff that works,” says CEO B. Scott Taylor.
// Photo by Adam Wickham

Taylor agrees authenticity is the key to success. “Our integrity has to be second to none,” he says. To date, Green Endeavor has replaced 4.8 million pounds of caustic, a commonly used toxic cleaner, with “EPA-DFE” (designed for the environment) approved formulas. The company’s 30-plus customers — “we’re adding more every week” — include blue-chip firms such as the Kellogg Company as well as local operations like Myers Container, a Portland company that manufactures and refurbishes industrial drums.

Green Endeavor recently announced its first funding round; the goal is to raise about $2 million in the coming year. The timing looks good. Although environmental regulations have been slow to move in this area, pressure is mounting. In 2012, Gov. John Kitzhaber signed an executive order to invest more resources in green chemistry; the directive requires state agencies to develop plans favoring healthy green products in purchasing for electronics, furniture and building.

A similar shift is taking place within industry. “For the younger guys and women in these companies, this isn’t just a conversation,” Taylor says. “They grew up with sustainability.” Kyle Stavig, Myers’ CEO, is a case in point. It took five tries before Green Endeavor found an effective substitute for the company’s caustic cleaner, says Stavig, who stuck with the trial-and-error approach and now serves on Green Endeavor’s board.

“Taylor is a change maker who has succeeded in a couple of other industries,” Stavig says. “That’s what gives me confidence.”

Taylor, whose varied accomplishments include co-authoring a roman à clef about West Hills matrons, The Great American Stay-At-Home-Wives Conspiracy (2006), says he’s positioning Green Endeavor to be an industry leader, growing jobs and Oregon’s reputation for pioneering sustainable businesses.

“My kids are like, ‘Dad, are you going to start wearing Birkenstocks?’ No, I have my Nike flip-flops. I’m not the poster child for the environmental movement. I’m a capitalist who may just do something really good for the world.”




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