While more people start trying to live a lifestyle that’s eco-friendly now, some have lived that life for a while. Reena Kazmann is one of them.
Inspired by some products she had spotted at the NY Gift Show, Reena started a business based around eco-friendly products. She brought together a variety of products that fit her specifications and started offering them in one place, Eco-Artware.com. Nearly 10 year later her business is still seeing growth.
What was the inspiration behind Eco-Artware.com?
In Feb. 1999 I visited the NY Gift Show and saw two products made from recycled materials. Loved the designs before I realized they were made from castoffs. I was convinced this would be the future and that more products would be made from leftovers and decided to open a web gift store. I found a few more designers working with recycled and organic materials to have a respectable, if small stock. There were no models or mentors to help develop the store. We planned it and tried it out and opened on Thanksgiving 1999.
How many products are currently listed on your website?
Not sure of specifics. Over 150.
What specifications does a product need to meet before you will consider offering it on your website?
I look for designs that are attractive and well made. They must be eco-friendly — made from recycled, reused and natural materials. We do not use anything made from leather. If possible I check with others to see if the artist/workshop has consistent quality control and that they meet deadilnes.
If an artist has a product that meets those specifications, how might they get their product in for consideration?
I always love to see new products. Please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org and send one or two jpegs or a link to a site where I can see the work.
How has your business changed since it launched in 1999?
When we opened Eco-Artware.com in 1999 “recycling” was considered a dirty word and eco-friendly products were of interest to a small group of environmentalists. In the past 2-3 years the general public is now more eco-conscious and now looks for eco-friendly products. We see more visitors and sales. There are now more eco-friendly designs on the market and more artists producing them.
Besides the eco products you offer, what else makes your business “green”?
We try to green the workplace as much as possible.
1 – We replaced all light bulbs and now only use eco-friendly ones.
2 -We use recycled paper in the office; gift enclosure cards made from high content recycled paper.
3 – We ship with USPS as much as possible and use their priority boxes–all made from recycled cardboard.
4 – We reuse packing peanuts which we receive in incoming packages, collect from the neighbors and when they are not available, we buy ones made from cornstarch, that are biodegradable.
5 – We reuse office folders 3-4 times and paste labels ones with writing on both sides. We tear up paper with one clean side and use it for office notes. We use commercial printers who use both eco-friendly paper and soy ink.
6 – We offer great tea and coffee in the kitchen. Staff is encouraged to make some here rather than buy carryout at 7-11 or Starbucks. I buy healthy snacks from bins in the health food store and have fruit for snacks.
7 – We used recycled toilet paper, eco-friendly cleaning products and cloth napkins.
During the startup process and after your launch, what lessons has your business taught you?
Always have a Plan B if something doesn’t work. Most recent incident: We have printed our own USPS shipping labels and used the Click-and-Ship program which worked fine for 3 years and then broke down for two weeks in the middle of the 2008 Christmas season. We learned we could print these labels working with Endecia, a private company, which has a great track record for reliable service.
What has been the hardest part of running your business? What has been the most pleasurable?
The hardest part is the paper work and forms. The most fun is looking at new products and collaborating with the wonderful people who work here.
If you could pass on just one piece of advice to someone interested in starting their own business, what would you say?
Keep the faith.