Women Ecopreneurs Create A Better World

Green Startups Bypass Corporate Glass Ceiling

Today’s red-hot green marketplace is witnessing an unprecedented phenomenon: women-owned businesses are increasing at twice the national rate. It’s natural for them to blend independent enterprises with their passions for organic food, healthy lifestyles and helping people live lighter on the land. They’re among the rising wave of “ecopreneurs”—entrepreneurs who use their businesses to leave this world a better place. And they’re serving as inspiring role models for how to create a healthy, thriving livelihood, by following our hearts and living our values.

These female ecopreneurs don’t judge success by typical business standards. Rather than accumulating assets and corporate drones, they tend to keep operations lean, local and sustainable. America’s race for endless growth and profits yields to devotion to an unbeatable quality of life. They move forward intentionally, playing by their own rules and priorities, often working from home, surrounded by their family.

Workshop facilitator Marguerite Ramlow runs Artha Sustainable Living Center from her farm in Wisconsin, where she shares her own and others’ expertise in organic gardening, herbal medicines, holistic body care, yoga and meditation, and renewable energy. “People are increasingly curious about green issues and want to experience things hands-on and learn new skills,” observes Ramlow. “It opens opportunities for new business startups. That’s what I created my business around.”

While the number of American farms continues to drop, the number of farms purchased and run by women under 55 is on the upswing, reflecting their yearning to connect with the land and nourish the generations. “Women farmers today are reinventing the face of organic agriculture,” comments Denise O’Brien, executive director of the Women in Food and Agriculture Network. “They’re focused on raising healthy food for their community and often sell their products through farmers’ markets or community-supported agriculture initiatives.”

Young women, too, are ditching traditional career paths for unexpected alternatives. Twenty-something Zöe Bradbury recently moved back to farm her family’s Oregon land after working for several years in non-profit agriculture advocacy. “Even though I believed in the work I did when I was sitting in an office,” she says, “my heart was always back home on the land, covered in mud.” Smiling now, she adds, “Knowing that people in my community are eating fresh asparagus and raspberries that I grew at Groundswell Farm yields deeper rewards for me than a regular paycheck, working for someone else.”

Calling the shots is important. “By running my own business, I’m empowered to make choices and decisions I feel good about, knowing that I’m doing my part to preserve our planet,” remarks Tawnee Dufur, innkeeper at Katy Trail Bed and Breakfast, in Missouri. She routinely uses natural cleaning products and chooses energy-efficient appliances.  “We’re reminded that we made the right decision every time energy prices go up,” she says.

Dufur, like thousands of women ecopreneurs, likes setting her own schedule, to work around the needs of her children. “By working from home with my husband, I stay available to experience my two kids growing up,” she says. “They’re also able to help and feel a part of our family business.” It’s certainly a healthier environment than that afforded by TV and video games.

Marguerite Ramlow’s advice for starting out is to “Follow your heart, approach your business seriously, and keep true to your core values of living in harmony with the Earth.”

Imagine, no more Monday-morning blues or punching a time clock. As these women ecopreneurs have realized, when we find meaning in what we do and know that it makes a difference for people and the planet, work becomes our love made visible.

Lisa Kivirist is co-author of numerous books, including
Rural Renaissance and ECOpreneuring: Putting Purpose and the Planet before Profits (at ECOpreneuring.biz, with startup resources). She is a Food and Society Policy Fellow and, with her family, runs Inn Serendipity B&B from their organic farm in southwestern Wisconsin.

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