Mentorship as a Way to Foster New Green Businesses?

The need for green workforce development is clear. It is also clear that the majority of new jobs are created by small business, roughly 60%, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

So how do we help get a lot of startups to lift us out of this recession and dramatically shift the makeup of our economy toward a local and green focus? One way is mentorship.

Mentorship of aspiring green entrepreneurs by veteran green entrepreneurs would help alleviate common pitfalls that might sink a new business venture by using a tradition that is as old as civilization: the passing of wisdom from one generation to the next. Two websites provide mentoring matchmaking services for exactly this purpose. It’s kind of like creating a virtual advisory board, which is a tremendous free resource for small business owners.

For existing small business owners looking for mentors, is a free online service that connects small business owners with Mercy Corps volunteers who are businesspeople committed to serving the small business community. The service, according to its press materials, has connected more than 2,000 people to mentors veteran to the business world. Businesses participating had a median 75% increase in revenues year over year and an 87% survival rate. There is no focus on green, however, and many of the businesses I surveyed didn’t have any mention of sustainability as a business principle.

For those who are aspiring entrepreneurs in the green field, you can learn from a veteran mentor green business owner about a business you want to start, whether it’s a green carpet cleaning service, green painting service, bicycle shop, or a farmer’s market. But what business owner would mentor an aspiring competitor? This website provides a matchmaking service for those aspiring and those doing, without the problem of competition. The service matches mentors with volunteers, who work for free for the veteran green entrepreneur, but only under the veteran’s specifications–if they don’t want anyone local, we try to match up willing volunteers who are looking for an adventure, who want to work in another place, and then return to their home to being the green business of their choice. The veteran ‘trep gets free labor, and the aspiring ‘trep gets invaluable knowledge.

Veteran green business owners with a replicable business model like those mentioned above can sign up here:, and those aspiring can sign up here:  In the spirit of transparency, is my company. In the spirit of transparency, I make not one penny on this service! Call it part of our CSR.


Scott Cooney is author of Build a Green Small Business (McGraw-Hill), which he is giving away for free on his website through the holidays, and Principal of

Join Scott on TwitterFacebook’s Green Business Owner group, or the LinkedIn group by the same name.

Scott Cooney, Principal of and author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill, November 2008), is also a serial ecopreneur who has started and grown several green businesses and consulted several other green startups. He co-founded the ReDirect Guide, a green business directory, in Salt Lake City, UT. He greened his home in Salt Lake City, including xeriscaping, an organic orchard, extra natural fiber insulation, a 1.8kW solar PV array, on-demand hot water, energy star appliances, and natural paints. He is a vegetarian, an avid cyclist, ultimate frisbee player, and surfer, and currently lives in the sunny Mission district of San Francisco. Scott is working on his second book, a look at microeconomics in the green sector.In June 2010, Scott launched, a sustainability consulting firm dedicated to providing solutions to common business problems by leveraging the power of the triple bottom line. Focused exclusively on small business, GBO's mission is to facilitate the creation and success of small, green businesses.