Jennie Nigrosh is the Co-Founder of The Green Garmento. As seen on ABC’s Shark Tank, winner of IHA Design Defined award and named Entrepreneur’s top 100 Brilliant Companies to watch, The Green Garmento® created a reusable dry cleaning bag to help eliminate the estimated 300 million pounds of single-use dry cleaning plastic that has entered US landfills and waterways, threatening marine and wildlife.
Since the company’s inception their reusable bags have helped eliminate an estimated 2 million pounds of dry cleaning plastic, creating cleaner closets and a cleaner planet. Ready for the next step, The Green Garmento has added two new products to its line of innovative, eco-friendly home solutions.
BusinessInterviews.com: What were you doing before deciding to tackle waste within the dry cleaning industry?
Jennie: Sleeping better. And also, I worked for Warner Bros. Records in the Strategic Marketing Department, then as a creative copywriter on new releases and projects. I also worked as a marketing consultant for Pixxlz.com, a green printing company.
BusinessInterviews.com: Can you talk about the process from having your first flash of inspiration to actually taking your product to market? What was the biggest challenge that you encountered and how did you overcome it?
Jennie: If you’ve ever stood half naked in your clothing closet searching for the perfect outfit, or any outfit, but can’t find anything because it’s all covered with dry cleaning plastic and hinged together by annoying twist-ties, all the while wishing there was a better way to find your things so you wouldn’t be last one in the door to work, then you’ll understand that flash of inspiration was a long time coming.
Once my husband and I realized we could eliminate closet clutter with a reusable dry cleaning bag, we went to work – and fast. We found a somewhat primitive and incredibly expensive version in cotton then our due diligence led us to a lapsed patent from a think tank of dry cleaners that created (what we believe to be) the first reusable dry cleaning bag in the 1980’s.
Realizing timing is everything; we went from concept to creation within a few months. Our biggest challenge was how to reinforce the fabric. I knew I wanted non-woven polypropylene (the same fabric as reusable grocery bags). It’s washable, breathable and water resistant- perfect for dry cleaned clothes. It takes little water and heat to care for (less expense for the dry cleaner and better for the environment). This fabric is affordable and recyclable and consumers already understand it as “green” and reusable. Basically we created a reusable grocery bag for your clothes.
We launched our first production run at a dry cleaner’s convention in Long Beach California. We hadn’t perfected the reinforcements (which we included in our utility patents) and the fabric and printing was less than perfect. What could have been a total nightmare turned out to be the best focus group we could have asked for. The dry cleaners gave us feedback and what they would need and how to perfect the bags. And, we took orders. Big ones. Game on.
BusinessInterviews.com: What lessons have you learned when it comes to a doing a great pitch?
Jennie: We work with so many different types of businesses from dry cleaners and launderers to hoteliers to promotional products professionals and buyers for major retail. No two pitches are the same but honesty and integrity and passion for the product should always shine through.
BusinessInterviews.com: How have you been convincing dry-cleaning professionals to embrace and implement your product with ease?
Jennie: First, we need to listen to their needs – to their “pains.” I need to find out if they are spending too much money on plastic. Do their customers care about the plastic? Do they want to send a positive “green” message to their community? Do they need to improve customer loyalty? Do they need help with implementation at the plant? Do they need help with marketing and eventually PR? Whatever the issue is – we try to help. We offer a free in-store display kit with marketing materials. We offer a free personalized flyer explaining to their customers why they are switching to The Green Garmento reusable bags. We offer help at the plant – and we offer a mentor program so other dry cleaners can help them with implementation. It’s a small community and the help from our customers has been overwhelming.
BusinessInterviews.com: What’s one marketing strategy that’s really worked well for you?
Jennie: We attend mostly all trade shows for the dry cleaning industry. This helps us meet new clients and strengthen our relationships with existing ones. We’re all about education and that’s our best classroom.
BusinessInterviews.com: Can you share a bit about your experience on ABC’s Shark Tank, for instance how you prepared, if the experience matched your expectations and what advice you would pass on to others going on the show?
Jennie: The Shark Tank should be renamed the Surreal Tank. For the half hour I spent in the tank, I felt like I was floating. I was actually supposed to shoot my episode the season before but my shoot date got moved. For this reason I had too much time to prepare, to over think, under sleep and over eat. Not pretty.
That said, I think it was an awesome experience. When does an entrepreneur ever have the chance to educate 6 million viewers about a new product – twice (it has already rerun once).
My advice to the next guy or girl is to be passionate about your product and be prepared to turn every negative into a positive. And don’t take it all too personally. It is after all, reality TV.
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