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Reducing Dry-Cleaning Waste Is Jennie Nigrosh's Bag

Established Community Backer ***
6 11 5838

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Name: Jennie Nigrosh

QB Community member name@Jennie

Business: The Green Garmento

Founded: 2008

When Jennie Nigrosh first conceived of her company, The Green Garmento, she had no idea she’d wind up in the laundry business. Before launching her reusable dry-cleaning bag company in 2008, Jennie worked at a Los Angeles record label. She spent her days meeting famous people, enjoying “two-hour prosecco lunches” and dashing off to the Cannes Film Festival with her husband (and, now, Green Garmento co-founder) Rick.

Turns out Jennie was far more passionate about plastic than prosecco. Today, The Green Garmento is used in over 1000 dry-cleaning chains and by hoteliers across 25 countries. Jennie and her products have been featured in the New York TimesThe Today Show and on Shark Tank, and have won awards from the hospitality and housewares industries. Most impressively, thanks to her reusable dry-cleaning bag that doubles as a duffle, Jennie aims to cut single-use plastic-bag waste by a whopping 300 million pounds per year.

We caught up with Jennie when she was one of the featured speakers at QuickBooks Connect 2017

Why did you decide to start a reusable dry-cleaning bag business? 

Back in 2005, I realized there was something better in the world that I could be doing. I married later in life, and we tried to have kids for quite a long time, but it didn't work out. We were throwing a lot of money into that, and I thought, let's put our money into something that actually could grow. If procreating is not meant to be, maybe we can do something else positive.

I’m not necessarily a “green” person, I just hate waste. I'm not a hoarder, but I have a hard time throwing things away if I don't know where they're supposed to be thrown. I wasn't sure how to recycle all these plastic dry-cleaning bags that were ending up as my own personal landfill in my closet. My husband and I would fight about it. I would be naked in my closet looking for clothes to wear and then be late for work. It was a total nightmare!

I was also seeing what havoc this plastic material is having on our ecosystem. It's not just about the plastic patch that's growing in the ocean. Marine life are confusing it for food. How would you like it if your kids confused a plastic bottle cap for a Cheerio? It's no different. Marine life are going to look for something to eat to survive. And they're surviving on something synthetic we created to cover our clothing, which lasts for ten minutes. That just didn’t seem right.

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Your brand is all about sustainability and eco-awareness. How are you taking that message to others in the industry?

I've been working with large companies to create reusable or sustainable products. I’ve learned the general population doesn't really understand how to be more earth friendly. When I get in front of big companies I can say, "Listen, you're doing a promotional giveaway, why don't we make it something that's sustainable" or "You have a delivery service, why don't we have a vessel that people can reuse over and over again?” While we’re at it, why don't we get some marketing on that vessel!

I was asked by another company to make a plastic bag that wasn’t reusable, and I turned down the business. Sometimes I have a crisis of conscience because my business needs the money but that’s not what my mission is.

Now I'm looking into bioplastic, so if it has to be a single-use bag, perhaps I can work with a plant-based plastic or compound. I may be able to offer somebody research or ideas and come up with the right property and pricing. That's how I've been able to turn my one little garment bag business into a more nimble approach to different businesses.

In the last ten years your business has expanded and you’ve been consulting with other companies. How do you keep up and still find time for yourself?

I think that physical health is critically important. As the saying goes,"If you don't have your health, you don't have anything." For me to be productive at work, I like to start my day with a walk or a hike, a little bit of yoga or a quick bike ride. I'm a morning workout person. When I get that blood flowing and I’m feeling my muscles, my brain starts firing. Having that sort of body-mind stimulation and connectivity helps me find focus for the day ahead.

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You’re officially a seasoned entrepreneur. What insight can you offer small business owners who are just starting out?

You gotta have a business plan! If I had a business plan when I started -- and I didn’t -- it would have been easier to understand what potentially could happen to my business. I might have foreseen having a lot of competition and how that would completely distort my prices. I would have known more about doing business overseas.

Your friends and associates are going to say you have a great idea because they love you, and that’s lovely. We love our people because they love us and they think we're great and our business idea is a “no brainer.” And that’s exactly why you need real business mentors to review and critique your business plan so you can develop your own set of checks and balances.

Finally, don't ever think that what you do is so great it's a “no brainer” -- because there's no such thing!

Before you go

QB Community members, how often do you consider sustainability in your business? Can you share any tips for making your small business more earth-friendly? We’d love to know.

11 Comments
Super Contributor *

This is such a cool idea. I have always wondered about the sustainability of having each garment individually wrapped in plastic! I love that there are entrepreneurs who are looking at the big picture. Good businesses make life easier by solving a people problem. Great businesses solve a people problem while also reducing impact on the planet. 

 

Now...what should we do with all those wire hangers?

Established Community Backer ***

Love that quote, Ianbel08 : "Good businesses make life easier by solving a people problem. Great businesses solve a people problem while also reducing impact on the planet." I think sometimes in our race to make our lives more convenient and easy with products or services, we can totally forget about the impact on the planet. Jennie's business is the perfect example of the "great business" you mentioned. 

Established Community Backer ***

My husband has his uniforms dry cleaned every week...this is a brilliant solution to a real problem in the world! Thanks Jennie and thanks @SarahGonzales for this great small business story.

Frequent Explorer **

I'm humbled by this lovely article and positive comments - and honored to be part of the QB community!

 

I'd be delighted to answer questions about our products and our mission. And of course, if your dry cleaner is interested in switching to reusable Garmento bags, feel free to send them my way.

 

Thanks everyone for being fantastic and using less plastic!

~jennie 

Frequent Explorer **

 Ianbel08 glad you asked! We have a deluxe version of our Garmento bag that has a zippered pouch for hangers. Now you can return your hangers in pristine condition to be reused. https://thegreengarmento.com/products/as-seen-on-shark-tank

Thank you!

Super Contributor *

Haha, @Jennie - that's awesome!

Established Community Backer ***

Hi,

Jennie Nigrosh - A couple of scientist went to a un-inhabited pacific island in 2017. They went there to study certain species of birds. They had to stay there for a week. No human on the isle except for them. What they discovered while doing their research work was horrifying. They found appx 19 tonnes of Plastic waste on the sandy sun kissed beaches. People like you can really make a difference. 

Read more about it here

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/may/15/38-million-pieces-of-plastic-waste-found-on-unin...

Frequent Explorer **

Hi Sangeethmathew 

Thank you so much for forwarding that link. This surely is a travesty and we'll be sure to share this with our friends and followers.  And really - it's people like you who will make the difference. Imagine if everyone cared enogh to take thier clothes to the cleaner in a reusable Garmento bag and refused plastic - what a great difference we'd all make. Please be sure to join our social feeds so you can be a part of our growing #movemento! 

Frequent Explorer **

HI ShanaNiederman

 

That's great - we'd love to help your husband's uniform company to be fantastic and use less plastic! If they have questions on how our products work, we would be delighted to chat with them. They can reach us at help@thegreengarmento.com 

 

Thank you for the kind words! 

j

Community Founder

It's people like you @Jennie who are changing our world. Thank you so much for what you do. We're here to support you in any way we can!

Frequent Explorer **

Thank you