City Hippy occasionally gets the chance to interview a green pioneer, someone who has put their career and money where their mouth is and started up a green enterprise.
We have been following the progress of the GuideMeGreen.com website for a while now.
GuideMeGreen.com is a great UK focused online shopping directory with a heavy slant on location. No point buying green or fair only to have it shipped half way round the world producing tons of CO2. GuideMeGreen.com helps you source green and ethical products and services as close to you as possible. A very good idea.
GuideMeGreen.com offers a basic free listing in all locations including national categories to anyone providing a green or ethical product or service. They also offer paid services for those businesses looking to upgrade their listing. If you are not in this directory...you probably should be...and it is free...so what are you waiting for?
We were delighted to interview the founder of GuideMeGreen.com, David Oglaza, about why he started up the site, his experiences and what his advice is for any green entrepreneurs out there.
City Hippy: Hi David, pleasure to get in touch with you. What inspired you to go green yourself and what kept you going during that time?
David Oglaza: My first real job after university was working for an insurance company in Manchester on a good wage for my age. This truly opened my eyes to the rat race.
I became disillusioned with the rat race and insurance products pretty quickly and with a yearning to travel I worked for eighteen months with endless overtime.
Then with money in the bank I set off to Nepal to live in a village teaching English to both students and Nepali English teachers who sometimes spoke less English than their students.
The real Third World poverty and the friendleness of the people changed my outlook on life. After Nepal I travelled round Asia and became interested in Fair Trade (or unfair trade) and the meaning at the grassroots level.
The seed for GuideMeGreen.com was planted.
I came back to the UK and studied for a Masters Degree in Development studies to enhance my knowledge of this area and to try and find a future career path. After my MA, months and months of unemployment and low paid temporary jobs followed which saps away at the strength and dignity of even the best of us but throughout this time the idea of a Fair Trade and green website kept my mind busy.
It's a shame that confidence was low at this time and the funds even lower.
After more voluntary work in the UK, at last I found employment working to reduce social inclusion in the local community.
This boost in confidence and funds meant that I could take my Fairtrade ideas to the next level.
While speaking to family and friends about green issues they revealed that they were interested in organic and vegan food.
I found that they struggled to find where to buy these items as supermarkets sold only a very small range.
The idea of a green directory was born!
I did the research and looked at hundreds of green related directories and websites that were often poorly built and none offered a variety of categories and the possibility of finding your 'local' store easily.
Eighteen months later of thinking and planning GuideMeGreen.com was born.
City Hippy: Cool...it's always a struggle to get these ideas off the ground but you did achieve that and we are sure you are proud of that. As you have indicated there were dark times when confidence was low and funds were even lower. What was your biggest fear before starting the site?
David: That people in the UK would not see the benefits of shopping locally and hence GuideMeGreen.com and its locations would not be fully utilized.
All other websites only advertise national companies or they advertise regional companies on a national basis which is wasted advertising for those regional companies.
Incidentally, GuideMeGreen.com doesn't make a profit at present as 10% of turnover is donated to charity and the rest is spent on advertising and running costs.
City Hippy: We don't imagine you have much to worry about as the vast majority of companies don't make a profit in the first year either. It's bound to be tough but it sounds as if GuideMeGreen.com has a very competitive edge. Take us through what is different about GuideMeGreen.com?
David: Well essentially you can find different green food and non-food items on a town, regional and national level.
There is also an ethical directory which uses the Good Shopping Guide research to recommend ethical products.
We feel that GuideMeGreen.com covers ground no one else is covering.
City Hippy: Agreed. We have not come across anything similar to be honest, yet! Sounds like GuideMeGreen.com has a rosy future to us but ultimately what is your vision of the world in the future?
David: My vision of the world in the future is a greener and less wastful world!! A world where more people shop locally to rejuvenate their local high streets and bring jobs and prosperity to their own local areas.
The world needs to become much more of a Fair Trade world so that producers are paid a fair price for their products which leads into the anti-poverty campaigns of 'Trade not Aid'.
Subsidies in Europe and the US should be reduced to create a level playing field. At the moment it is cheaper to buy sugar from the EU and the US in Kenya than it is to buy locally produced sugar due to the amount of subsidies that US and European farmers receive. This practice is known as 'dumping' and creates poverty and resentment throughout the developing world.
City Hippy: We agree and really do believe that Fair Trade is the key to almost all our global social justice and environmental problems. You must have had a whirlwind couple of years setting up GuideMeGreen.com and we would love to know what advice you would give to other budding green entrepreneurs out there?
David: Just do it! Green markets are growing ten fold every year creating a demand for a new generation of social enterprises and related products.
Operate your business in a green, ethical and sustainable way and in the long run it will look after you. If you are expecting a quick return on your investment you could be in for a long wait!
City Hippy: Excellent advice for budding green entrepreneurs AND for potential green investors. OK just before we leave you alone to run your green and growing business do you have any juicy gossip for us?
David: Well not sure if its juicy or gossip but would like to let all your readers know that GuideMeGreen.com has passed the 200,000 hits mark since its launch in March and that we are looking to add a discussion board in the next few months as resources allow!
City Hippy: Thanks David...30,000 a month seems like tons of site traffic...and a discussion forum sounds like a perfect addition to the site. You clearly have a great vision and City Hippy agress with you all the way. Good luck with the site and keep us posted.
David: Thanks for your support City Hippy. Good talking with you and good luck to you too.
City Hippy's final thought:
GuideMeGreen.com is clearly a good idea launched at the right time. When we are all starting to think about food miles more and more a site that allows us to find local suppliers of green and ethical products and services is clearly called for. We have no doubt we will be hearing more about GuideMeGreen.com in the future.
Have you used GuideMeGreen.com? Got any feedback or thoughts? We are sure David will be glad to hear your thoughts.