Rob Katz

2007 Socially Responsible Business Plan Awards

Aram Kang PhotoAram Kang is Program Coordinator for the Sustainable Enterprise Program at WRI.? Originally from Seoul, Korea, Aram holds an MEM from the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University.

By Aram Kang This past Friday, April 13th, WRI hosted the William James Foundation?s 4th Annual Socially Responsible Business Plan Competition.? Although slightly different from our enterprise development work here at WRI, the event was a kindred spirit in the sense that it was all about promoting sustainable business and entrepreneurship.??

After a few welcome remarks (Sheri Willoughby–WRI associate, John Nelson–WJF President, Chuck Dell–WJF Founder, and Ian Fisk–WJF Executive Director), the event got right down to what everyone had come for–finalists? presentations.? Of the sixty entrants this year, the top three finalists were indeed impressive as they addressed sustainability from various different angles.

Third place was awarded to EcoMisha, an environmental consulting service for individuals who want to make lifestyle changes that benefit the environment.? Part of the business is to approach companies to include such consulting services into employees? wellness packages, similar to a gym membership.? Targeting the lifestyle transformation sector is no easy task, and I was encouraged to see an innovative model such as EcoMisha?s.?

Winning second place was, an online social networking platform for individuals, nonprofit organizations and corporations interested in social and environmental issues.? With its unique design and model, offers an online platform that distinguishes itself from all the others that exist today (check out the website).?

Natural Capital took the gold that evening with plans to build near-zero-net-energy homes in urban St. Louis.? Incorporating design elements that utilize nature’s capacity to heat and cool as well as materials that have low impact on the environment, the model brings energy efficiency and sustainability to traditional urban renewal projects.? I hope that the people from Architecture for Humanity and the Open Architecture Network take note of this laudable project.

Kudos to the finalists on their creative business ideas and hard work! And kudos to the William James Foundation and all the volunteers involved in providing feedback and expertise to these entrepreneurs.? What makes this business plan competition different from the rest?? Each submitted plan receives quality feedback.? This year, there were 149 readers, ranging from venture capitalists to entrepreneurs themselves, providing comments to all entrants.? The fact that every entrant can better their business plan through this process and move one step closer to becoming a viable business is what makes this competition special.? At the end of the evening, I heard Ian Fisk say ?This is the best time of the year for me – when I get to read all these amazing business plans.??