Corey Dinerstein of Green Earth Bamboo has managed to turn her online green business into a profitable one in about one year. That’s an amazing accomplishment given the competition vying for green consumer attention. Find out the keys to her success by checking out our interview with this green entrepreneur.
Can you explain to us what Green Earth Bamboo is all about?
Green Earth Bamboo is an internet store that sells organic bamboo bedding, clothing, bath towels and baby clothes. We do not have a brick and mortar retail store. We pride ourselves on our customer service, as well as offer 100% guarantee on our products. We have a newsletter subscription to where we send out 1-2 emails per month letting our customers know about all of our new products and special sales and/or discounts. We also work with several bloggers on reviewing our products and offer giveaways to people who enter the contests. We also offer a blog that has hundreds of articles on everything bamboo. It is the most informative blog for bamboo on the internet to date.
What was your inspiration for Green Earth Bamboo?
Our original plan was to start a chain of green or eco-friendly online stores. We spent a lot of time researching what niche market would not only have the demand we were looking for, but would be somewhat new to the market and offer products we believe in and equally enjoy as much as our customers. It’s important to believe in the products you are selling. When we came across bamboo in our research, we were sold! Our hope is to eventually have more eco-friendly related stores in the future, but at this point Green Earth Bamboo consumes a great deal of our time.
Where do you source your products? How do you overcome the challenges of sustainably-grown bamboo?
Once we realized bamboo textiles was the industry we wanted to get involved in, we then began researching suppliers. We did not want to deal with wholesale and warehousing so we went the drop ship route. It didn’t take long to realize there were a select few suppliers in the US for bamboo textiles, let alone on a drop ship basis. We began contacting each of them and reviewing/sampling their products, discussing where their products come from and how they manage their business, and many other factors came into play.
We made the decision that Yala® was the company we wished to work with. They run a very green office with all packaging being eco-friendly, they maintain a green shipping seal, Green America seal, and the bamboo used to produce their products is in fact USDA Certified Organic.
Bamboo is the world’s most sustainable resource. It requires no pesticides or herbicides to grow. It also requires no watering, as Mother Nature does her job so well, bamboo can grow up to 4’ per day. This was another reason we appreciated bamboo as a source for our eco-friendly products.
We feel that our product line is very extensive, ranging from bamboo sheets to bamboo clothing, consisting of over 100 unique products. Just this month we have a new style of bamboo sheets with print designs, which you don’t see with a lot of the stores. Most bamboo sheets only come in solid colors. Granted, there are certainly other vendors that carry the same line as we do.
We like to keep our website fresh, offer special discounts, keep an open line of communication with our customers and provide top quality customer service. One thing that most certainly sets us apart from other vendors is our extensive research that we share with consumers. We offer a bamboo facts page on our store that answers just about any question a consumer new to bamboo textiles might have.
We also have a blog called Green Earth News that provides hundreds of up-to-date articles on everything bamboo, ranging from its worldwide impact to case studies, the many uses of bamboo to health remedies and recipes. No other website on the internet provides as much information on the topic of “bamboo” then we do. We have been told time and time again by our customers that they really appreciate all the information we provide them and how easy it is to navigate through our website.
What best practices do you recommend in finding / vetting a drop shipping company that stocks eco-friendly products?
My advice is to research the heck of out every vendor you contact. I would start by compiling a list of vendors that carry the products you wish to sell. Then break it down to which ones drop ship. Take that list and create a Q&A to each vendor and narrow it down from there. I highly suggest looking for reviews, forums, references of any sort to see what sort of feedback other businesses have on those vendors.
I would also look at how long they have been in business, how many vendors/retailers they currently work with, certainly how and where their products are being manufactured, and compile a short list of your top picks. One of the biggest questions we had was how well they keep their products in stock. One thing you don’t want is to have a bunch of your product pages showing as “out of stock,” providing you have an online store.
What are your recommendations for finding the best SEO friendly ecommerce platform?
SEO was definitely one of our major considerations when choosing an e-commerce platform. That said, there are of course many other variables to consider. I think nowadays pretty well any of the major e-commerce platforms should allow for the customizations necessary to implement SEO best practices. In any case, I would recommend spending some time in the appropriate forums learning what others are saying about any challenges they’ve had with their store platforms.
What online marketing strategies work best for you, and what drives the most traffic that converts?
I should start with this: we don’t believe in buying our traffic. It’s very easy to just throw money at Google Adwords, PPC, and/or other various pay per visitor venues. However, your ROI may not be the strongest, and when you stop paying you stop getting traffic. Conversely, if you take the time to build something that ranks organically in the search engines, you now have a real asset. Some people might not be aware, but approximately 90% of the searches done in Google result in clicks on the organic results, as opposed to 10% for the paid results.
Most of our traffic comes from the search engines. We have an extensive keyword list that we vie for in the search engines, and we actively monitor our rankings, the visitors from those keywords, and the conversion rate as it applies to our visitors coming in under those keywords.
Our main marketing tactic in broad strokes is creating content that people will naturally link to. There is a lot of opportunity in the social arena as well, and we are working to develop that area in the near future.
How long did it take you to become profitable? To what do you attribute your quick success?
We don’t have a specific date that we became profitable as there are a lot of complexities to our financial situation, but I’d say roughly one year. We do most of the marketing and on-site work ourselves. It is important to let go of one’s control instincts and resign yourself to outsourcing the menial tasks, but we’ve educated ourselves to the point where we don’t need to pay the big consulting fees for SEO, on site conversion, etc.
This may not be the best move for everybody. One should evaluate their resources, and if they find that they have little time, but have the resources to pay a company to put together and implement a marketing strategy, then that may be the best course of action. In either case, if you’ve got the passion and dedication to making your venture successful then you’re already ahead of the game.
Are there any mistakes that you made on this entrepreneurial journey that you would like to share with other green entrepreneurs?
We did an awful lot of upfront research, so we don’t have any major mistakes that come to mind. I will mention one thing though: don’t go down the endless rabbit hole of shiny new SEO products or services, most of which will have little effect on your site. Instead, focus on creating content that people will want to link to, and building a social presence organically, and you’ll be way ahead of your competition.
What advice would you have for other aspiring green and social entrepreneurs?
A critical aspect of ascertaining whether or not you have a viable idea or business model is establishing potential demand for your product or service. Fortunately, the internet offers us this opportunity. Keyword research will not only help you to determine demand, but it is also the foundation for your business, at least in most cases; there are some exceptions though. So, my suggestion is to become well versed with keyword research, as this is a great skill set to have if you plan on having any kind of internet business. You can start with the Google Keyword Tool, and there are all sorts of educational products out there on keyword research.