As is the case on the second Tuesday of every month from 6pm-8pm, the Bay Area Green Business Meetup last month included a compelling and relevant speaker and an informal Mastermind session to support the success of every social entrepreneur participating.  We were fortunate to have Jeff Marcous speak.  Jeff is the Co-founder (along with his daughter, Alexia) and President of Dharma Merchant Services.  He and ten social entrepreneurs and change makers met at the Plant Cafe and Restaurant on Pier 3 in SF.

Jeff spoke of Dharma Merchant Services’ mission and vision to provide excellent service while showing compassion for our environment, our communities, our customers and ourselves.  As the credit card processing service for over 1,5000 companies nationwide that Jeff terms “right action, right livelihood” businesses, he shared his valuable perspective of trends and profitable directions in the green and socially responsible business arena.  He spoke of the cost-savings and profits to be made in renewable energy (e.g., Sungevity solar sales have increased by 250% in one year), re-purposing products, diverting potential waste by redistributing items such as hotel soap to the needy.  Big businesses like FedEx, Proctor & Gamble and WalMart are getting in the green game by committing to power their operations with renewable energy and Hasbro is cutting it’s footprint by using 75% recycled materials. He shared, “whether it’s altruistic or just for good marketing or to cut costs to boost their bottom line, things are starting to move.”  

Health and safety seem to be an alluring avenue towards the increase in going green. One interesting example Jeff cited was the soaring sales of Glass Dharma’s glass (reusable) straws. If I had been a savvy investor, this may have dawned on me, though the boom is just beginning. In my recent visit to my dentist, Dr. Namrata Patel, founder of SF Green Dentistry and the sponsor of this month’s Meetup, she encouraged me to drink my morning coffee out of a straw to maintain a bright smile. Other examples Jeff cited were the increase in sales for natropaths, organic cosmetics (an industry in which concerns for toxins run rampant), Organic India, whose revenue from sales of their tea grew by 37% in one year – an unusually large amount for an established company.  And sales of organic baby clothes have increased by a staggering 238%!  

After Jeff spoke, the social entrepreneurs and change-makers each shared a challenge they were facing, and everyone else shared ideas, resources and possible solutions to support their success.  Says Yebuny from Dharma Merchant Services, “... it was a great opportunity to meet a diverse group of others who are really passionate about being sustainable and socially responsible. Also, this meet up give you an opportunity to speak at some length about what you do and request guidance from others in the group. It is really a well thought out gathering that serves all who attend in several ways. The sustainable wine and food doesn’t hurt either.”

If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area and are a social entrepreneur, aspiring social entrepreneur or leader who is looking to make a real world positive legacy, you will find great value in participating.  Sign up at our Meetup group here and RSVP for the next Meetup!

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About The Author

Scott Cooney

Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, green business startup coach, author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and developer of the sustainability board game GBO Hawai'i. Scott has started, grown and sold two mission-driven businesses, failed miserably at a third, and is currently in his fourth. Scott's current company has three divisions: a sustainability blog network that includes the world's biggest clean energy website and reached over 5 million readers in December 2013 alone; Pono Home, a turnkey and franchiseable green home consulting service that won entrance into the clean tech incubator known as Energy Excelerator; and Cost of Solar, a solar lead generation service to connect interested homeowners and solar contractors. In his spare time, Scott surfs, plays ultimate frisbee and enjoys a good, long bike ride. Find Scott on

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