Green business: an ecological wave that can pay off big, even for laymen

Application of sober technologies to very resource-intensive professions

For a long time, the only liquid to interest David Allouch was the one he earned in the trading room in London. Until the bankruptcy of his employer, Lehman Brothers, in September 2008. Less young but still enterprising, this HEC created Nestor Wash the following year, at age 36. Its 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 techniques provided by my father in hospitals,” he explains. To develop the method, he hired a pharmacist, an engineer and a washer. 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 financial risk. One reason: after 350,000 euros in turnover in 2010, it is aiming for one million next year.

Our advice: even if you are in the provinces, 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-construction vein created by the Grenelle Environment Forum

In 2020, buildings produce more energy than they consume. Good news for Jean-Philippe Cieslak, the founder of Terra Cités, who started green construction and renovation in 2005. A biology teacher has become a promoter, this 36-year-old Alsatian living in Burgundy has devoured specialized books and taken evening classes.

“To reassure my interlocutors, I registered, via Ademe, for training in assistance and project management”, he specifies. 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 funds. Its 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 guide you to experts in your region and help you canvass investors free of charge (www.ecoterritoires.org or 01.44.10.41.20).

Imagine tips for motorists 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 during my studies in California, says this doctor who graduated from Normale. On the way back, I understood that there was a place to take.

Today, his site has 1 million members who can get in touch for free. Between a few paid services and the advertising that its audience will gain, it should reach 1 million euros in turnover this year. Supported by Isai, Pierre Kosciusko-Morizet’s fund (€1.25 million bet), Frédéric Mazzella resists his many competitors by continuing to practice carpooling himself, to draw inspiration from the advice of his itinerary.

Our advice: carpooling, carsharing or renting your personal car on Zilok, the services niche is bottled. Instead, aim for products, facilitating parking, for example. The SmartGrains company has thus installed sensors in the car parks, to identify free spaces and notify you on your mobile.

Harnessing the slew of new regulations weighing on businesses

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

After thirteen years of experience in the sector, he knew the job like the back of his hand, but not in its “sustainable development” dimension. “I started by 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 2012 thermal regulations and the impacts of the Grenelle on construction. He even encouraged the Guyancourt CFA (Yvelines) to create a master’s degree in sustainable real estate management, in which he enrolled two
of its collaborators. That is a training budget of 4,000 euros per year and per employee, for a turnover of 780,000 euros in 2010.

Our advice: to acquire the skills you lack, get closer to vocational training centers such as Cegos or Comundi. Also contact firms specializing in financial advice and sustainable development strategy such as h3p or Utopies.

Anticipate the next ban on certain polluting products

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

At the time, the general public not yet feeling concerned, he targeted stores by offering them color modules intended for the manufacture of signs and the lighting of shop windows. Well seen: wealthy customers, from Nivea to Chopard. Convinced that his success is based on the efficiency of LED systems, he does not skimp on resources by allowing a design office made up of five engineers and a doctor of science (i.e. an annual budget of 250,000 euros).

Where does he find the funds? First from Oséo (120,000 euros in subsidies), then from StarQuest Capital, thanks to which he has just raised 500,000 euros. Neolux plans 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 make contact with venture capital companies.

Helping individuals save energy with solar panels

Since January, a new rule obliges owners to include a “carbon label” on their real estate ad indicating the energy performance of their property. Result: 100,000 visitors flock to Quelleenergie.fr each month to obtain an online diagnosis. Antoine Châtelain and Julien Lestavel didn’t wait to graduate from Centrale Paris to create their energy saving consulting website.

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

How do they get paid? The 300 installers in their network pay them between 30 and 50 euros each time an individual contacts them. The friends give themselves one year to reach 3.6 million euros in turnover.

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

Importer of heating techniques already proven abroad

Nearly 4 million boilers will need to be replaced by 2020 with modern, less energy-consuming appliances. This figure did not fall on deaf ears! 2006, Jorge Boucas decides to market wood-fired boilers, not natural gas. It clicked during a mission in Brazil for an agri-food group.

“I wanted at all costs to imitate this country, because it has long successfully used the energy supplied by wood”, recalls this 38-year-old engineer, of Portuguese origin. He then prospected on the spot and found manufacturers 10% cheaper than in Europe. He then returned to France to canvass his clients. Dairies, cardboard factories, paper mills: he contacts them the old-fashioned way, by telephone, then takes them to see 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 garner 15 million euros in turnover in 2011.

Our advice: prospect in Northern Europe to find new energy solutions. Like Jorge Boucas, aim for Slovenia or Denmark, which uses straw for heating. There are even cow house solutions…

Our advice: prospect in Northern Europe to find new energy solutions. Like Jorge Boucas, aim for Slovenia or Denmark, which uses straw for heating. There are even cow house solutions…

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