Start-Up Aims to Cash In by Going Really Green
Start-up GreenCupboards wants to turn eco-friendly buzz words like "sustainable," "organic," "fair trade" and "non-GMO" into a booming business by capitalizing on the consumer appetite for eco-conscious products.
The company sells it all from "green" food to office supplies, toys, pet stuff and even electronics. And its 28-year-old co-founder and CEO, Josh Neblett, didn't even wait to graduate college before betting big on the green economy in 2008.
GreenCupboard's mission: create a customer-centric brand and streamline the way people buy green. "We do this through an easy, fun and educational shopping experience, over-the-top customer service and competitive prices," Neblett told CNBC.
Every product listed on the site must go through the company's Green Compliance Team, which assigns at least one of 25 "eco-traits" that include categories like "nontoxic," "BPA-free," "biodegradable," "handmade" and "energy efficient" to help consumers buy based on what's important to them.
The start-up raised $288,000 and has around 50 full-time employees, 800 suppliers, approximately 25,000 environmentally friendly products and some impressive revenue. In 2012, "we had sales over $13 million and we're profitable ... I expect in 2013 sales to be north of $25 million," said Neblett.
But there's some stiff competition in the space including retail heavyweight Amazon and other green online sites like Abe's Market and Vine.com.
Neblett acknowledges, "It's a funny situation—[Amazon is] our biggest partner, and also our biggest competitor ... you may not know it, but a lot of times when you're buying that product, you're actually buying from us, not necessarily Amazon on that platform, so that's part of our other partnership with them."
(Read More: Q&A with Josh Neblett)
In some ways the start-up is still "green," as in inexperienced. It doesn't currently have a mobile site and its social following on Facebook and Twitter is still small.
Neblett said expanding mobile and social are both on his radar. "In terms of mobile … [sometime] before September we'll roll out a mobile-friendly site not just for GreenCupboards but for ecomom."
Ecomom is one of Neblett's recent acquisitions. It's an e-commerce site for eco-friendly kids' products. The site is currently under construction with a relaunch planned for early this summer, which Neblett believes will usher in a larger social following.
As part of that acquisition, GreenCupboards changed its corporate name to etailz, which will serve as the parent company to GreenCuboards and ecomom.
—By CNBC's Erin Barry and Joanna Weinstein