Monday, April 21, 2008

Natural Built Homes, an Earth Day Shout Out!

In honor of Earth Day, I am sending a big shout out to my friends Rachel and Tim of Natural Built Homes, celebrating their second year of business! Rachel opened the Natural Built Homes showroom in Minneapolis two years ago on Earth Day 2006.

Natural Built Homes is a one-stop shop for safe and sustainable building materials. They provide building material choices that are healthy for the environment and for the building occupants. Natural Built Home carries everything from healthy paint to dual-flush toilets (I still don't know what that means!).

Rachel boasts that her store carries the most environmentally friendly options on the market. They operate both a showroom in Minneapolis and an online business (hint hint, go order some cork flooring!).

Beth and I met Rachel and Tim when we moved to Phoenix five years ago. Tim lived across the street and we became friends when I started mountain biking with he and his roommate (who happened to also be named Tim). Tim met Rachel, who lived in Boulder at the time, and she joined our group of friends on various random activities including mountain biking and camping excursions, along with a group trip to San Carlos Mexico.

While their focus is more environmental, and our focus more social service, we have connected in our belief that, when given the tools to do so, people will make healthier decisions about how they live - whether it be in family relations or in their home construction. We shared many a fire side chat about finding and living your passion in life and about making a difference.

Eventually, Tim and Rachel moved to Minneapolis, where they are both from originally, and were married. Rachel had always wanted to open a business she was passionate about and her move to Minneapolis seemed like a great opportunity for a new career.

She used to work in the medical device industry and, as the story goes, one day, while sitting in traffic, the idea came to her to open a business selling environmentally friendly building supplies. The more she thought about it, the more she realized a green-building store would be the perfect business for her to combine her passion for science, entrepreneurship and the environment.

Four months later, the business was incorporated. Two months after that the Natural Built Home website went live. After four months of web-commerce, the first Natural Built Home showroom opened! Talk about making your dreams happen! Nice work Rachel!

I think, on one hand, it would be a helluva lot of fun, and very rewarding, to open my own business. On the other hand, it seems like a lot of work!

According to Rachel, its been both. Her entire team has had to figure out ways to develop systems from scratch, from choosing a POS system to finding the best way to truck pallets of merchandise across the country, she says its been a steep learning curve.

She says there have been a lot of long hours eating, sleeping and breathing the business, "If this was not something that I was passionate about, there would be no way that I would be able to commit the amount of time necessary to make the business successful. I may be the owner, but I am also the janitor, the delivery person and the paint mixer."

Rachel's advice to other's considering opening a business is to make sure you have the passion to work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week on your business - it's the passion which will make your business succeed.

All the hard work, according to Rachel, has a big payoff, "We deal with many people who are chemically sensitive and being able to help them make their lives better feels really good. It is also great knowing how much our store has done to save water, natural resources and increase indoor air quality for many families."

It's been fun watching, from afar, as Rachel has grown the business. After being open a year, they completed a store expansion, which doubled their showroom space. This has allowed them to keep up-to-date and bring in a lot more green building products as they respond to their growing customer base.

click the picture for a list of articles featuring Natural Built Homes

Rachel has developed presentations and classes for local community events and trade groups such as architects and interior designers. Natural Built Homes also co-sponsors events such as book-signings and social outings with other local businesses that support the eco-friendly lifestyle.

So often, as a nonprofit professional, I get caught up in thinking nonprofits are the only organizations that can bring about positive change. In fact, I sometimes forget the powerful, positive role business can take in making our world a better place.

What it takes for that to happen is values-driven business owners like Rachel, who combine personal passion with business savvy and market resources to bring about positive change. My kudos to Rachel and countless other business owners committed to doing good while doing well.

Rachel, through Natural Built Homes, embodies social entrepreneurship. She is helping people live better, healthier lives with less impact on the environment. It's what Earth Day is all about - through her business, Rachel is making our world more livable, helping make human life be more healthy and more sustainable. That for sure deserves a DRB Earth Day Shout out!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Aaron,
    Thank you for writing this article. It is very much appreciated! We can all make a difference in this world even if that difference is just choosing to shop at businesses that are working for change. Thank you for highlighting that! Have a wonderful Earth Day!
    -Rachel Maloney