Marin businesses sell eco-friendly products and donate to causes
Nancy Isles Nation
Article Launched: 11/30/2007 04:58:49 PM PS
A rose isn't just a rose when it's purchased from a Marin-based online site that offers organic flowers and donates a portion of the price to a charitable cause.
The latest in the company's product line is "Freedom: A Rose in Honor of Rosa Parks," the civil rights leader. The company, Organic Style, donates 10 percent of the $49.95 purchase price to the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development, a charitable organization founded by the Parks in 1987.
Organic Style Limited and its Organicbouquet.com brand are among several Marin businesses that offer merchandise they tout as being produced in a socially responsible manner online, wholesale and at retail sites.
Organic Style lets shoppers choose from a variety of causes to donate to as part of a bouquet gift. Charities include the Nature Conservancy, Project Hope, Adopt a Minefield and others.
When Organic Style founder Gerald Prolman of Novato founded Organic Bouquet, he was determined to build a successful business and further causes such as protecting the environment and extending social justice.
"We are aiming to build the world's largest eco-boutique for people who are seeking inspirational products that encourage the well-being of the planet and humankind," Prolman said recently at company headquarters at the San Rafael Corporate Center.
Organic Style is privately held by Prolman and a variety of investors including venture capitalists and angel investors, so sales numbers are not public. But Prolman said the company has been growing exponentially as the brands have gained recognition and as he acquired like-minded companies.
His vendors also are philosophically in line with his ideas - they believe in producing organically, sustainably and paying a fair wage.
The organic cotton bed-and-bath firm Coyuchi, for instance, works with growers in India and imports their organically grown cotton while helping the farmers and their communities improve their lives.
Beginning in January, Coyuchi - which offers its products through Organic Style - will work with the Chetna Project, an organization of farmers from India that grows only fair-trade, certified organic cotton, according to company founder Christine Nielson.
Nielson, a longtime West Marin resident who now lives in Montana, established Coyuchi in Point Reyes Station, where she continues to operate a warehouse, office and outlet store.
"From the beginning our mission was to work with sustainable agriculture," Nielson said. "Organic and fair trade means these farmers are paid an extra amount and it gives them a meaningful improvement in the quality of life."
With Organic Style, Prolman is expanding his product line to include organic wines, fruit and food items, apparel and pet supplies.
The Web site features dog beds made from recycled plastic bottles starting at $37.95. A 24- by 19-inch pad is made with 14.64 bottles, while a larger 35- by 22-inch bed reuses 26.45 bottles - and somehow they are as soft as fur.
Women's apparel is labeled "sexy and sustainable," and features fabric made from silk, bamboo and organic cotton.
"The Internet is a great a tool to tell stories of the growers and highlight the growers and artisans," Prolman said.
Prolman said he created the U.S. market for organic and eco-friendly flowers at a time when there was no supply and no demand. The segment is now a rapidly growing part of the $20 billion U.S. market for fresh-cut flowers and plants.
Prolman founded Made In Nature, a nationally distributed brand of organic produce, which he sold to Dole Food Co. in 1994.
His new mission is "cause marketing."
"We had to find a way to reach people who care about the environment, animal welfare and social justice," said Prolman, who added that Organic Bouquet has written more than $250,000 in checks to more than 45 charitable organizations.
"It's naming a rose for an extraordinary person who has done something to change the world for the better," Prolman said.