WORDS David Bentlety & Justin Fields | PHOTOGRAPHY Tim Sugden
“Why is it that sometimes the most obvious solutions, staring us right in the face, are the hardest damn things we can ever see?” This is the first thing that comes out of the mouth of B. Scott Taylor, CEO and Co-Founder of Portland’s Green Endeavor, Inc.
Taylor is a disruptive entrepreneur from New York who moved to Portland over 20 years ago and honestly, not the first person you would associate with a company founded on the premise of saving the planet from hazardous chemicals. He made a personal fortune after selling the internet company he co-founded to Monster.com in 2000 for nearly $100M. It’s obvious that Taylor has a lot on his mind this morning, and it looks like he’s getting ready to give me the works. That being said, another voice seems just as eager to talk. Joining Taylor is Chandra Brown, President of the company. She looks much more relaxed and in control. This is going to be fun.
Ms. Brown is back home in Portland after serving a three-year term as a political appointee within the Obama administration. She served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Manufacturing, where she led the manufacturing sector. It should be noted that I have been following Green Endeavor on and off for some time. I was curious about how they were doing. Were they thriving or just surviving?
As we sit down to talk, Brown smiles and looks at Taylor. Taylor then looks at me and says, “Ask her the questions. I want to see why a smart, well-respected, presidential appointee – and experienced business woman executive – would get mixed up with the likes of me.” The three of us are meeting at Breken Kitchen, a popular NW Portland coffee and nosh spot. It’s crowded today with young advertising professionals and some out of town grandparents visiting family.
I smile at them both, shift my chair towards Chandra Brown and begin our interview.
Really quick… Have you met the President? And if yes, what is he like? How about Hillary? (CB) If by President you mean former “President” Barack Obama, then yes, I have met him and it was a great honor to work for him! I have also had the privilege of meeting Secretary Clinton and doing some campaign work for her. I have not met our current president, and that’s probably all I want to say about that… (laughs)
Sorry about that. I know you swim in those bigger ponds, so I just had to ask. Shifting gears, how did you discover Green Endeavor? (CB) Scott and I had been friends for a while. He had asked me to join his board back when I was CEO at United Streetcar and I was planning on accepting as I really believed in the vision of removing these hazardous chemicals out of the industrial arena. But then the call from D.C. came letting me know I was chosen to be the new Deputy Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing, so I had to decline as it would have been a conflict of interest. I never thought four years later I would be working at Green Endeavor as their president.
You and Scott seem very different, how do those differences play out in making Green Endeavor successful? (CB) That is probably an understatement. We are incredibly different but what works is we completely appreciate and respect our inherent differences. Scott is a consummate visionary with huge ideas and enthusiasm and I am more of the realist and implementer. I would also add I am definitely more of the diplomat! While we both believe in the Green Endeavor vision, I temper his great ideas with the details of how we are actually going to accomplish our goals. We believe that our differences, both in personality and style, make the company more effective and adaptable, and it certainly makes board meetings livelier. (ST) I definitely think it’s useful to have a diplomat involved. (laughs)
Scott, when I first heard you were starting this company I was a little puzzled. It seemed like a real departure from the creative things you had done in the past. Why this? (CB) Like many of us these days, I want to make a positive impact on this world, and I want to leave my children a better planet. Together, Chandra and I possess the skill sets to make an eco-industrial company that is profitable, and that is actually currently making a big difference in decreasing the amount of hazardous products out there. So with that ability to help make a difference, it’s not just a desire to help, but also a responsibility really.
Chandra, why do you think Green Endeavor brought you on board? And with your skill set, you could have done almost anything – why did you say yes? (CB) I think they realized they needed an experienced, realistic leader who could take the start-up dream to a reality. They also wanted someone who was a true believer in their vision for the future. As for why I said yes, well some days I do wonder. (laughs) But seriously, it fulfilled the main things I was looking for in my next career. One, I wanted to make a difference in our environment. I care greatly about the planet and I wanted to do something tangible to help it. Two, I also wanted something of scale, where I could grow a company, and use my international experience as well. This is a worldwide problem and what better than a green Oregon company to help be part of the solution? Third, there has been a lot of emphasis on green products in the consumer market, but there has been a lack of focus on the industrial markets where huge amounts of toxic chemicals are being used every day. It’s an area that is not talked about enough and I wanted to shine a light on it. Finally, I wanted to do something I have not done before and give myself a bit of a challenge. I have never worked at a true start-up before and it has certainly been eye-opening. I have learned so much in the past six months! I believe in life long learning and I wanted to contribute my experience and skills to a small business with a mission I cared about. Green Endeavor fit all the criteria.
Back to you Scott, what progress are we making as a city to clean our act up, and how can we do better? (ST) Portland is blessed to have so many great companies and non-profits that are working everyday on making the city a better place to live and work. Particularly in the areas of clean energy and sustainability. I do think hazardous chemical usage has not been looked at as closely as some other areas. It is not as “sexy” of environmental topic as many other areas, and is therefore not on the minds of most residents. Much of this happens behind the scenes, but we are working on changing that!
Chandra, within conversations about the environment we hear a lot about carbon footprints and conserving energy, but what about our rivers, oceans and fresh drinking water? What does Green Endeavor do to address that? (CB) The interesting thing is changing out the hazardous chemicals can cause an entire detrimental process to be disrupted, and has many additional benefits that just the replacement of a specific chemical. For example, hazardous chemicals may need to be heated and certainly they need to be flushed out of tanks or wherever they have been used. They may also need to be treated with other chemicals to render them more harmless. So, by using completely biodegradable, triple net zero products you not only remove the chemicals that are harmful to your employees and equipment, but you may also save energy because there’s no need to heat them. Perhaps even more important you save on water usage. So, one product change can cause an entire process to change, which is why it’s such a win-win. When you look at all these costs, you see why “going green” in this case is actually the most cost-effective option. (ST) That is exactly what drives me crazy! We have a cost-effective solution that benefits people, equipment, and the environment. So why isn’t everyone on board with changing? It’s the right thing to do on all levels.
So what’s next on the horizon for you guys? (CB) We plan to grow, grow, and grow! It would be great to hit a $1M in sales this year and we are right in the middle of a final fundraising round. We are currently meeting with investors and hoping to raise around $2M to hire more sales staff and support growing the company to the next level as quickly as possible. It’s a fun time to be moving forward, and the timing is right! (ST) She’s good isn’t she? We are going to Make Oregon proud. Thanks for showing interest in what we are doing, David. It means a lot.
FAVES >> favorite thing about PDX | Seeing Mt. Hood every day. >> favorite brunch | I love John and Renee Orlando’s, Meriwether’s Restaurant
and Skyline farm in NW Portland. >> favorite hike | Angels Rest in the Columbia River Gorge. >> favorite brewery | Bridgeport.
>> favorite dinner | Piazza Italia. >> favorite writer | Ernest Hemingway, John Cheever, and Mark Twain. >> favorite hobby | Building
companies. >> big dream | To create an eco-industrial category or cluster in Oregon that has a bigger impact on our economy than shoes or parkas, while globally setting a standard for clean industrial manufacturing.