The Green Breakfast Club
is helping social entrepreneurs catch a break — a coffee break, that is. This new networking group facilitates resource exchange among green businesses and start-ups by gathering them to barter skills over breakfast.
Entrepreneurs, designers, technologists and the like meet once a month at this networking forum to discuss their needs. Then, various members of the group have an hour to barter their expertise in order to fill these needs.
"What is fundamentally missing in every city is a local destination point for the green entrepreneur," explains Danielle Lanyard, founder and "Chief Ecological Officer" of Green Breakfast Club. "There is no one place that they can go to get the roadmap of resources to get their venture going."
A green light for growth
Lanyard's vision for Green Breakfast Club grew from her passion for entrepreneurship and her faith in the power of good old-fashioned barter. Now, her extensive global experience in environmental studies, community action and business development has translated into a highly impressive vehicle for business growth.
Green Breakfast Club held its first event this past June. The group noted all of the "gives" and "asks" of each attendee and later redistributed this list to the entire group to prompt collaboration. Already, this forum inspired a green business leader to start developing a second chapter of the Green Breakfast Club out west.
This group is also attracting some of the top minds in the green business world as keynote speakers, from Jacquie Ottman and Jed Emerson to Joe Sibila and Carol Sanford. Impressive social entrepreneurs in attendance so far included new ventures Earth Garage, Exchange My Phone and Ahkun.
Somebody to lean on
Despite the extensive information and expertise green businesses have at their fingertips in New York, few outlets actually facilitate collaboration among these entrepreneurs.
"New York has every resource imaginable, but none focused solely on resource sharing and exchange," explains Lanyard.
Some of the most helpful green networks in New York, according to Lanyard, include organizations like Starting Bloc, Echoing Green, Jump Start and Acumen Fund, which primarily support social entrepreneurship. She also suggests startups in need of legal advisory turn to acclaimed New York attorney Kyle Westaway of Westaway Law, one of only six lawyers nationwide focused on corporate structuring for social enterprises
Useful educational resources for green entrepreneurs include The Foundation Center and the New York Public Library, both of which grant free access to pricey, high-level databases. The Kauffman Foundation's Fast Trac program also offers free, one-month business classes that are extremely valuable to green startups.
is perhaps the most popular networking venue as of now. This group is present in over 800 cities and holds entertaining events enabling green businesspeople to mingle.
Still, a centralized hub for bartering expertise on environmental, technological or business topics among diverse groups is unprecedented in New York.
A fair shot
Such teamwork just might give green entrepreneurs the leg-up they need in what is often a hostile environment for responsible business.
Lanyard feels the cards are stacked against green business in a world without full cost accounting
. Corporate law, she explains, has now come to enslave companies that are trying to be ecologically responsible. Most green businesses absorb the full costs of a product rather than displacing those costs as externalities, but most "legacy" companies
can avoid paying for hazardous practices by passing costs on to consumers and the environment.
"I don't see Green Breakfast Club as the end-all be-all to resolve this," explains Lanyard, "but we most definitely founded this startup in response to these very obstacles. There's no silver bullet solution, but in each city we've spoken with, all have expressed interest in sharing resources with likeminded entrepreneurs."
The next Green Breakfast Club event will be Aug. 8 at 8:30 a.m. at the New York Public Library. If you're looking for inspiration from green innovators or need ideas for your own green business, register here
for the event.