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GreenCupboards.com was co-founded by students, Josh Neblett and Sarah Wollnick with professor Tom Simpson, after winning the Spokane Regional University Business Plan Competition while attending Gonzaga University. They want to be your green-living guides for the eco-savvy trailblazer within. Their goal is to provide you with accurate and useful information to aid your transition to more sustainable living.
GreenCupboards.com is an online retailer of environmentally friendly products for homes and businesses. The company differentiates itself by offering a vast array of products, pursuing multiple channels of distribution, providing exquisite customer service and serving as a source of intriguing content.
MO: What has the evolutionary process of GreenCupboards.com been from winning a competition for best business plan to actually putting your business model into practice? Were there any major differences or changes in how your idea looked on paper to what it was like to actually implement in the real world?
Josh: To say the least, going from a homework assignment to business plan to marketplace hasn’t been without its hurdles. Originally, we bundled products together in “cupboards” for kitchens, bathrooms and pets; assortments we thought would be useful to customers. However, we quickly discovered that customers preferred to pick and choose products rather than buying a parcel of what we thought would work for them. We’re continually changing, reforming and adapting to customer needs (yes, this even involves tweaking our own workflow), so our evolution consists of regular modification to make the GreenCupboards.com shopping experience variety-filled, educational and user friendly.
MO: How hard was it to put together such an impressive network of environmentally friendly and sustainable products on such a large scale?
Josh: Compiling an extensive variety of eco-friendly products has been a collaborative effort on behalf of the entire GreenCupboards.com team. While product research is undertaken by our Green Compliance and Competition Committees, we encourage employees to keep their eyes open for new, innovative “green” products to add to our repertoire. Our supplier relations team attends annual conferences and trade shows, hence a yearly fluctuation in what we add to our stockpile. Our wide array of products (over 18,000 sku’s) plays a large role in our goal of becoming a market leader, so expanding our product web is part of the jet fuel behind our development. This conglomerate approach also encourages personnel to engage in proprietorship of what we sell alongside continual efforts to diversify the products we would like to offer in the future … call it our affinity for looking forward.
MO: Where does your passion for the green movement come from? Were you raised to be environmentally conscious or was it more of spotting a great opportunity in a niche market?
Josh: I’d say it’s a mixture of both. The practice of recycling and buying low-impact goods is appealing. Our office recycles and (depending on the weather) the majority of our employee’s bike, walk, carpool or use public transit to commute. It just makes sense to take care of the planet. Riding on the recent eco-consciousness wave, we identified the large and growing demand for one-stop shopping for an exceptional variety of eco-friendly products and leapt at the opportunity.
MO: GreenCupboards.com is experiencing impressive growth and profitability. How have you managed to gain such serious traction since launching in 2008 and why do you think that the trend towards a greener lifestyle is gaining serious momentum?
Josh: To be sure, the use of multiple marketplaces boosts our web presence. It’s hard to pin the exact reason greener living is catching on so quickly. While the trend may be due to media attention on environmental issues and increased consciousness about what products decrease a consumer’s environmental footprint, the ease of access to a wide variety of these products at GreenCupboards.com has provided a real spur for customer traffic. Plus we try to impart our own witty, receptive and youthful office culture to shoppers to enrich their experience from just another click-and-buy routine to an eco-boosting, memorable interaction.
MO: How important has the process of educating consumers on making more sustainable choices been in growing the company?
Josh: Giving customers the option to research and interact with a particular product enables us to engage in a dialogue with shoppers, explaining why we choose to sell a certain item and providing them with adequate information on a product’s uses, origins, ingredients, warnings, certifications, awards and why it is “green”. We don’t want our shoppers left guessing. We’re here to guide them, so the provision of product information helps GreenCupboards.com establish an informative as well as diverse shopping experience.
MO: You have set your sights on international expansion. How much will you need to pivot your business model in order to reach a greater audience outside of the US?
Josh: Going international is a big step, so we’re in the process of revamping our business model to accommodate a move abroad. One of my primary concerns is maintaining our above-and-beyond customer service in non-English speaking markets. It’s an exciting move, but requires us to look at ourselves from the perspective of customers overseas. Not an easy move but self-critical modifications are nonetheless part of our unfolding.
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