Women building a greener and profitable tomorrow

Panel draws together female business owners who are leading the way

Seleyn DeYarus of Colorado\'s Best Organics
Cayte Bosler | Boulder Weekly

Creating a forum for women to explore their own potential in the growing world of sustainable business practice motivated Seleyn DeYarus to bring together three of Boulder’s examples of women leading the way towards a vision for a green economy. Hunter Lovins of Natural Capitalism Solutions, GoLite’s Kim Coupounas and Bhakti Chai founder Brook Eddy will serve on a panel at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 12. The event, hosted by DeYarus of Colorado’s Best Organics, will also feature an open discussion with the women in attendance.

“Each one of us can articulate our mission — why are we doing what we are doing and that we are emboldened to do it because we feel like it has an important function to play in society,” DeYarus says of what each speaker shares in common. “So there is a much bigger motivation, and you have to have that if you are wanting to be an entrepreneur. Because the big bucks might not arrive, but if you are hitting the points that matter in terms of being a respectable part of the business community: giving back and helping those around you flourish … Those are the intangibles sometimes, but where the real inspiration and motive come from.”

Hunter Lovins of Natural Capitalism Solutions

DeYarus is not alone in her conviction that underlying values of a business are just as important as a dollar sum, if not moreso. According to a spokesperson for Natural Capitalism Solutions, women own two-thirds of sustainable businesses in the United States. And the attention to tenets like care for the environment, empowering employees and creating a collaborative versus competitive workplace is proving financially successful as well. According to a study done by the Women’s Business Research Center in 2009, if U.S.-based women owned businesses were their own country, they would have the fifth largest gross domestic product in the world.

“When you get into social mission and look at the companies that women are starting, a lot of the businesses are building into the DNA of the business from the beginning these sorts of conscious capitalism tenets,” DeYarus says.

So how are women generally doing things differently?

“The observation is that women tend to be nurturing by nature,” DeYarus says. “It is part of our mothering instinct, and seeing the connection between caring for the earth and how that translates into a healthier world for everything upon it is a native observation that the feminine seems to understand rather more easily.”

For Coupounas, running a value-centered business was important to her from the start.

Kim Coupounas of GoLite

“When my husband and I founded GoLite, it was important to both of us that the company be an expression of our deepest-held beliefs: getting ourselves and other people into nature, respect the environment and a systems approach to how we view the world and operate our own company,” Coupounas says.

Eddy, CEO of Bhakti Chai, considered a trip she took to India years before she decided to up the ante by turning home-brewed chai drink into a business.

“I was studying a movement that was based on the word Bhakti and I noticed that people were living their Bhakti by helping their neighbors,” Eddy says. “That is how they prayed instead of going into a cave or temple or meditating. Their way of devotion was through service, so that inspired me to make an impact that would help people. When I decided to start a chai tea company I wanted to build in some of those tenets — doing good things for the planet and being sustainable.”

Brook Eddy of Bhakti Chai

Lovins was out of the country and not available for comment at the time of Boulder Weekly’s interviews, but her business, Natural Capitalism Solutions, drives the idea of businesses for a greener economy home. The term Lovins has popularized, “conscious capitalism,” simply means a company that has values embedded in its mission and how it operates day to day.

“It’s always about getting the message out because it’s a very competitive landscape, and it’s the challenge that you are operating on a principle-based business and that the whole motivation is a much bigger mission,” DeYarus says.

And getting the message out about how women can excel in their current organization or how they can stretch their legs and feel encouraged to grow as entrepreneurs is exactly what DeYarus and the event speakers are hoping women gain by attending.

“Entrepreneurship is fraught with all sorts of challenges, and you’re not guaranteed success, but we want people to come away with some practical ideas of how they can take sustainable business practices that help cultivate leadership and culture wherever you are, that inspire new ideas of how you can ratchet things up a notch of how to be more mindful of the bigger picture,” says DeYarus.

Keeping in mind the bigger picture is particularly important in this time when environmental and economic problems are complex and challenging, Coupounas says.

“I want attendees to have a clear sense of empowerment of how they can be a part of building the conscious capitalism of tomorrow,” she says. “That they understand how to put their own best foot forward, knowing that these problems that we are tackling in the sustainability realm are bigger than gender, or any company, and we can solve them only by working together. So knowing what our strengths are and why women tend to be dominant in this field is also a lens into how can we engage more men into this endeavor — and how we can work better with both women and men to contribute to the solution.”

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