Green entrepreneurship: an ecological wave that also yields a lot for laymen

Apply lean technologies to labour-intensive jobs

For a long time, the only liquid that interested David Allouch was the one he earned in the London Chamber of Commerce. Until the bankruptcy of his employer, Lehman Brothers, in September 2008. Less young but still entrepreneurial, this HEC founded Nestor Wash the following year, at the age of 36. The concept: car cleaning without detergent and with only 1 liter of water.

“I lacked knowledge, but I had an idea: to apply the dry steam disinfection techniques introduced by my father in hospitals,” he explains. To develop the method, he hired a pharmacist, an engineer and a washing machine. But no investor believes in it and the doors close one after the other… until he meets the Ile-de-France Sustainable Development Network (DDIDF), which takes the risk of financing it. Not for nothing: after a turnover of 350,000 euros in 2010, it is aiming for a million next year.

Our advice: even if you are in the province, you can find funds by contacting Stéphanie Savel, the president of the DDIDF, a business angel specializing in sustainable development (bureau@ddidf.org or 06.88.63.73.27) .

Take advantage of the eco-constructive vein created by the Grenelle Environment Forum

By 2020, buildings will have to produce more energy than they consume. Good news for Jean-Philippe Cieslak, the founder of Terra Cités, who started green building and renovation in 2005. This 36-year-old Alsatian living in Burgundy, a biology teacher, became a promoter, devoured specialized books and attended evening classes.

“In order to reassure my interlocutors, I registered through Ademe for a training course in assistance and project management,” he clarifies. Not enough to convince the banks, when he only had 40,000 euros in his pocket, until the guarantee of the Ecoterritoire du Creusot made it possible to release money. The wooden houses are worth gold: 1 million euros in sales in 2010 and 20 million euros in orders for the next two years!

Our advice: the Ecoterritoires network (communities that help set up “green” businesses) will direct you to experts in your area and help you recruit investors for free (www.ecoterritoires.org or 01.44.10.41.20).

Think of tips for drivers who want to reduce their budget

The principle of Covoiturage.fr is as old as mutual aid: we travel with several passengers per vehicle and we share the costs. Frédéric Mazzella, 34, created the site in 2006, noting that this sector was fallow in France: “I discovered this practice while studying in California, says this physicist from Normale. On the way back I understood there was a place to take.

Today, his site has 1 million members who can contact him for free. Between a few paid services and the advertising that will attract its audience, it should reach 1 million euros in turnover this year. Backed by Isai, the fund of Pierre Kosciusko-Morizet (bet of €1.25 million), Frédéric Mazzella withstands his many competitors by continuing to practice carpooling himself, drawing inspiration from the advice of his road.

Our advice: carpooling, car sharing or renting your personal car on Zilok, the service niche is bottled up. Instead, focus on products, such as facilitating parking. The company SmartGrains has therefore installed sensors in the parking garages to identify free spaces and inform you on your mobile.

Taking advantage of the many new regulations that are weighing on companies

A real mine for former specialist engineers. Such as Jérôme Soistier, a former employee of Poweo, co-founder of Greenflex, or Eric Allmang, head of Incub’Ethic, former CEO of Veolia Cleaning. But you can also start without such a resume. Take Samuel Blaise, who in 2007 founded In Vivo Facilities, a company that greens general business services from carpet cleaning to scanner maintenance.

After thirteen years of experience in the sector, he knew the trade like the back of his hand, but not in the ‘sustainable development’ dimension. “I started meeting experts while swallowing tons of pages of decrees,” he says. At the same time, it sends its 24 employees to classes so that they can master the thermal regulations of 2012 and the effects of the Grenelle on construction. He even encouraged the Guyancourt CFA (Yvelines) to create a master’s degree in sustainable real estate management, to which he completed two
of his employees. That is a training budget of 4,000 euros per year and per employee, with a turnover of 780,000 euros in 2010.

Our advice: to acquire the skills you lack, you need to get closer to professional training centers such as Cegos or Comundi. Also contact companies that specialize in financial advice and sustainable development strategies, such as h3p or Utopies.

Anticipate the next ban on certain polluting products

Incandescent bulbs will be banned in Europe next year. Something that Ludovic Labidurie, who started selling diode (LED) lighting systems in 2007, was happy about. “After fifteen years in the high-tech industry, I took the plunge when I discovered during my travels that manufacturers were a hit in Asia,” says the founder of Neolux.

When the general public was not yet concerned, he turned to shops by offering them color modules intended for the manufacture of signs and the lighting of shop windows. Well done: the customers are pouring in, from Nivea to Chopard. Convinced that his success is based on the efficiency of LED systems, he does not skimp on resources by founding a design bureau made up of five engineers and a doctor of sciences (ie an annual budget of 250,000 euros).

Where does he find the money? First from Oséo (120,000 euros in subsidies), then from StarQuest Capital, as a result of which he has just raised 500,000 euros. Neolux wants to double its turnover by 2.1 million euros from 2012.

Our advice: to discover the products that exist in France and abroad, register on the GreenUnivers site (SME offer: 69 euros per month). Then, like Ludovic Labidurie, surf the European Innovact start-up forum to get in touch with venture capital companies.

Helping individuals save energy with solar panels

Since January, a new rule requires owners to include a “carbon label” on their property listing indicating the energy performance of their property. Result: 100,000 visitors flock to Quelleenergie.fr every month to get an online diagnosis. Antoine Châtelain and Julien Lestavel did not wait to graduate from Centrale Paris to create their energy-saving advice website.

“Studying the market, we realized from 2008 that there were many sellers of solar panels and ecological insulation, but individuals did not dare to rest for lack of advice,” explains Antoine Châtelain, 26 years old. The two friends therefore decided to offer owners a free energy study and then put them in touch with serious professionals.

How are they paid? The 300 installers in their network pay them between 30 and 50 euros each time an individual contacts them. The friends give themselves a year to achieve a turnover of 3.6 million euros.

Our advice: like them, contact the Entreprendre network to benefit from sound advice and perhaps get a fee of 15,000 to 50,000 euros. Then go to the Batimat fair, from November 7 to 12, Porte de Versailles, in Paris.

Import already proven heating techniques abroad

By 2020, almost 4 million boilers will have to be replaced by modern, less energy-consuming appliances. This figure did not fall on deaf ears! In 2006 Jorge Boucas decided to market boilers that run on wood and not on natural gas. We clicked during a mission in Brazil for an agri-food group.

“I wanted to imitate this country at all costs, because it has been successfully using the energy of wood for a long time,” recalls this 38-year-old engineer, of Portuguese descent. He then went on a local search and found manufacturers 10% cheaper than in Europe. He then returned to France to recruit his clients. Dairies, cardboard factories, paper factories: he contacts them by phone the old-fashioned way and then takes them to the machines in Brazil. Bingo! On the plane back, he signed his first contract with the dairy group Isigny Sainte-Mère, before seducing Nestlé. Enough to allow his company, NextEnergies, to achieve a turnover of 15 million euros in 2011.

Our advice: prospect in Northern Europe to find new energy solutions. Like Jorge Boucas, focus on Slovenia or Denmark, which use straw for heating. There are even solutions based on cow manure…

Our advice: prospect in Northern Europe to find new energy solutions. Like Jorge Boucas, focus on Slovenia or Denmark, which use straw for heating. There are even solutions based on cow manure…

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