City Hippy comes across many great websites, companies, books, magazines, ideas and so on all trying to address the issues that are of concern to us and our readers. Whilst we normally like to simply highlight what green and fair choices they offer occasionally we connect to a real pioneer. We need these heroes of the new green evolution and City Hippy feels compelled to bring these role models to your attention.
In the first of many interviews with green entrepreneurs we were delighted to speak to Josh Dorfman, the founder of Vivavi.com
Vivavi.com has a simple goal: to provide 'environmentally conscious design and fashion'. Their mission is to give people the choice to choose a luxury lifestyle that does not compromise people or planet. They consider themselves purveyors of eco-luxury!
City Hippy totally agrees with what they are doing. We accept that not all people are going to change their patterns of consumption radically: that they still want to consume. We believe that if they at least have the choice to consume more responsibly then many of them will do just that. They will give their money to companies that provide them with green and fair choices. Vivavi.com delivers that choice.
We spoke to Josh about how it all began, what he would say to budding green entrepreneurs and also discovered what he considered to be his darkest hour and how he overcame it.
City Hippy: Hi Josh, first of all can we just say how great it is to be in touch with you. We love your site and we applaud what you are trying to do. Very City Hippy in our opinion. Our first question is: What was the spark that drove you to set up Vivavi.com?
Josh Dorfman: Thanks for your support. To answer your first question I was two semesters into a Ph.D. program focusing on the impact of globalization on the environment. Thankfully, I realized fairly quickly that theoretical discussions of environmental problems were well, too theoretical for my tastes. Still, I really wanted to pursue a career that would resonate with my personal values and my concerns about the challenges facing our environment. I hit upon Vivavi.com as a way to actively promote a cleaner environment while doing something that would feel considerably more tangible to me and decidedly more fun. And the best part about it was that it would offer consumers great ways to support a cleaner environment without really having to alter their behavior too much. I think at heart we all really would prefer to live in a cleaner environment. I think we all would like to see global warming addressed. I think we all want to leave an enduring positive legacy to our future grandchildren. And I also think we're all pretty damn lazy so the idea of making environmental action super easy and fun is really appealing to me.
City Hippy: That makes a lot of sense Josh. We totally agree with your analysis. There are definitely two camps: the people who will radically alter their consumer behavior and the people who will not sacrifice their quality of life. Plenty of other folks spend a lot of time judging either group for one reason or another. We sense that we both, however, are more concerned with making the world better instead of arguing about the politics. If people want to consume then so be it but at least they can consume more responsibly. We guess that is what Vivavi.com is all about.
Our next question is what three tips would you give to budding green entrepreneurs?
Josh Dorfman: First of all, understand your target market. Be very clear about to whom you are selling. One of the challenges of running a green business in my industry is that people with core green values make lousy consumers because they often choose not to consume. While that's a good thing for the planet, it's a challenge for my business. I have to find people with environmental values who also like to buy luxury products.
City Hippy: Spot on...it is about giving the group of people who will not alter their lifestyle the chance to at least consume in a way that benefits, as opposed to harms, the people and planet.
Josh Dorfman: Exactly. Secondly, surround yourself with people who know more than you. Thats true for any business and I think its especially true for ideologically driven green entrepreneurs. You need to surround yourself with seasoned professionals who will ground your vision in reality and help you realize it.
City Hippy: Makes sense. You have got to be humble enough to know when you need help and have the courage to accept help when you need it. We can't all be experts in everything.
Josh Dorfman: Yep. Finally, always remember that you're a trailblazer and an inspiration. As a green entrepreneur you touch the lives of many people who you don't know and may never meet. They're rooting for you to succeed and your success gives them the confidence to pursue their own dreams.
City Hippy: Absolutely. Being humble is all well and good but you should also feel very proud of what you are trying to achieve and how far you have come.
The green and fair evolution needs heroes and Josh we think you are a fantastic role model.
It can't have all been a bed of roses though. When was your darkest hour in trying to set up Vivavi.com?
Josh Dorfman: The darkest hour came a month after our website launch.
City Hippy: Wow! That was quick. What happened? What caused this rough patch?
Josh Dorfman: Well, the first month was really exciting. The Washington Post wrote about us. I was invited to exhibit our product lines at the LOHAS conference in Los Angeles (City Hippy: LOHAS 2005 is next week by the way for those of you in California - LOHAS stands for Lifestyles Of Health And Sustainability).
Friends were emailing to say how envious they were of me. Old bosses were calling to congratulate me. The only problem was that no one was actually going on the site to buy anything. Suffice to say, it was discouraging. I was burned out from a year and half of non-stop work. I was running out of cash, and I was demoralized.
City Hippy: We guess that happens to most concepts...one kind of assumes that evidence of success will be quite quick. So what got you through it?
Josh Dorfman: I was sitting at my desk one day when my office manager came in and handed me yet another bill to pay. She saw my head droop and my shoulders sag and heard me mumble something rather unpleasant under my breath. She'd only been working with us a month and didn't know me that well, but she said bluntly, You know what, Josh, you chose this. No one is making you do it. I started laughing because I recognized the obviousness of her statement and it made me feel silly and a little embarrassed at how dejected I'd let myself become. I thanked her, bought her lunch and started making my to-do list.
City Hippy: So it is all about staying focused and keeping the faith. Success will come, just not necessarily overnight. Thanks so much for talking to us Josh. We know you are busy and lets face it, saving the world is a big task so we will let you get on with it. We wish you and Vivavi.com every success and we think you have a great concept and that it will continue to succeed.
Josh Dorfman: Thanks City Hippy...your support is really appreciated.
City Hippy's final thoughts:
Vivavi.com and Josh Dorfman have much to be proud of...we salute them. But that is not enough. Go and buy something from Vivavi.com. Tell your friends...especially anyone you know in the US where they are based.
City Hippy has no hidden agenda...we get no commission or other reward from Vivavi.com. The only thing we get in return if they and other companies like them grow and succeed is that we get to live in a greener and fairer planet. And that is good for all of us.
City Hippy's green entrepreneur summary:
If you have a good idea run with it. Regret is a horrible thing and it never goes away.
Green and fair businesses can and are working.
Investigate LLC and LLP status for your business to prevent it falling out of your control.
Be professional and if you need help be humble enough to go get it. You cannot do it all on your own.
Feel fantastic...because chances are that you are doing something wonderful.
Have patience. Success will not come over night. Don't give up ... keep your head down, get stuck in, solve the problems and success will come.
No problem is insurmountable. You just have to be creative.