Green business: an ecological wave that can pay off big, even for laymen

Apply lean technologies to resource-intensive jobs

For a long time, the only liquid that interested David Allouch was the one he served in the trading room in London. Until his employer, Lehman Brothers, went bankrupt in September 2008. Less young, but still enterprising, this HEC created Nestor Wash the following year, at the age of 36. Its concept: car cleaning without detergent and with only 1 liter of water.

“I lacked the knowledge, but I had an idea: to apply the dry steam disinfection techniques that my father introduced in hospitals,” he explains. To develop the method, he hired a pharmacist, an engineer and a washerman. But no investor believed in it and the doors closed one after the other… until he met the Ile-de-France Sustainable Development Network (DDIDF), which took the risk of financing it. With good reason: after 350,000 euros in revenue in 2010, they aim for a million next year.

Our advice: even if you are in the provinces, you can find funds by contacting Stéphanie Savel, the president of DDIDF, a business angel specializing in sustainable development ( or

Take advantage of the eco-construction vein created by the Grenelle Environment Forum

In 2020, buildings must produce more energy than they consume. Good news for Jean-Philippe Cieslak, the founder of Terra Cités, which started green construction and renovation in 2005. Biology teacher turned promoter, this 36-year-old Alsatian living in Burgundy has devoured specialized books and taken evening classes.

“To reassure my interlocutors, I signed up via Ademe for training in assistance and project management,” he explains. Not enough to convince the banks, as he only had 40,000 euros in his pocket before the guarantee from the Ecoterritoire du Creusot made it possible to release funds. Its wooden houses are worth their weight in gold: 1 million euros in sales in 2010 and 20 million euros in orders for the next two years!

Our advice: The Ecoterritoires network (communities that help establish “green” businesses) will guide you to experts in your region and help you look for investors for free ( or

Imagine tips for motorists who want to reduce their budget

The principle of is as old as mutual assistance: we travel with several passengers per vehicle and we share the cost. Frédéric Mazzella, 34, created the site in 2006 and noted that this sector was fallow in France: “I discovered this practice during my studies in California, says this physicist from Normale. On the way back I understood that there was a place to take .

Today his site has 1 million members who can get in touch for free. Between a few paid services and the advertising that its audience will attract, it should reach 1 million euros in revenue this year. Backed by Isai, Pierre Kosciusko-Morizet’s foundation (€1.25 million equity), Frédéric Mazzella defies his many competitors by continuing to practice carpooling himself to take inspiration from the advice of his path.

Our advice: carpooling, carpooling or renting your personal car at Zilok, the service niche has been tapped. Aim instead for products, e.g. facilitation of parking. The SmartGrains company has thus installed sensors in the car parks to identify available spaces and notify you on your mobile.

Leveraging the amount of new regulations weighing on businesses

A real mine for former specialist engineers. Like Jérôme Soistier, a former Poweo employee, co-founder of Greenflex, or Eric Allmang, head of Incub’Ethic, former CEO of Veolia Cleaning. But you can start without such a CV. Take Samuel Blaise, who in 2007 founded In Vivo Facilities, a company that puts general business services, from carpet cleaning to scanner maintenance, on green time.

After thirteen years of experience in the sector, he knew the job like the back of his hand, but not in its “sustainable development” dimension. “I started by meeting experts while devouring tons of pages of decrees,” he says. At the same time, it sends its 24 employees to training so that they can master the 2012 thermal regulations and Grenellen’s impact on construction. He even encouraged the Guyancourt CFA (Yvelines) to create a master’s degree in sustainable property management, where he enrolled two
of its partners. It is a training budget of 4,000 euros per year and per employee, for a turnover of 780,000 euros in 2010.

Our advice: to acquire the skills you lack, get closer to professional training centers like Cegos or Comundi. Also contact companies specializing in financial advice and sustainable development strategy such as h3p or Utopies.

Anticipate the next ban on certain polluting products

Light bulbs will be banned in Europe next year. Something that pleased Ludovic Labidurie, who started selling diode (LED) lighting systems in 2007. “After fifteen years in the high-tech industry, I took the leap when, during my travels, I discovered that the manufacturers were a hit in Asia,” says the founder of ​Neolux.

At the time when the public did not yet feel concerned, he targeted the shops by offering them color modules intended for making signs and lighting shop windows. Well done: customers flock in, from Nivea to Chopard. Convinced that his success is based on the efficiency of LED systems, he spares no resources by creating a design office consisting of five engineers and a doctor of natural sciences (ie an annual budget of 250,000 euros).

Where does he find the money? First from Oséo (120,000 euros in grants), then from StarQuest Capital, thanks to which he has just raised 500,000 euros. Neolux plans to double its turnover with 2.1 million euros from 2012.

Our advice: to discover the products available in France and abroad, register on the GreenUnivers site (SME offer: 69 euros per month). Then, like Ludovic Labidurie, you can surf the European Innovact start-up forum to get in touch with venture capital companies.

Helping individuals save energy with solar panels

Since January, a new rule has required owners to include a “carbon label” on their property listing, indicating their property’s energy performance. Result: 100,000 visitors flock to every month to get an online diagnosis. Antoine Châtelain and Julien Lestavel didn’t wait to graduate from Central Paris to create their energy-saving advice website.

“By studying the market, we realized in 2008 that there were many sellers of solar panels and ecological insulation, but that individuals did not dare to equip themselves for lack of advice”, explains Antoine Châtelain, 26 years old. The two friends therefore decided to offer a free energy study to owners and then put them in touch with serious professionals.

How are they paid? The 300 installers in their network pay them between 30 and 50 euros each time a person contacts them. The friends give themselves one year to reach 3.6 million euros in revenue.

Our advice: like them, contact the Entreprendre network to benefit from good advice and maybe get an honorary loan of 15,000 to 50,000 euros. Then go to the Batimat fair, from November 7 to 12, Porte de Versailles, in Paris.

Import heating techniques that have already been proven abroad

In 2020, almost 4 million boilers must be replaced with modern, less energy-consuming appliances. This figure did not fall on deaf ears! In 2006, Jorge Boucas decided to market boilers that run on wood and not on natural gas. It clicked during a mission in Brazil for an agri-food group.

“I wanted at all costs to imitate this country because it has long successfully used the energy from wood”, recalls this 38-year-old engineer of Portuguese origin. He then prospected on site and found producers 10% cheaper than in Europe. He then returned to France to seek his clients. Dairies, cardboard factories, paper mills: he contacts them the old-fashioned way, by telephone, and then takes them to see the machines in Brazil. Bingo! On the plane back, he signed his first contract with the Isigny Sainte-Mère dairy group before seducing Nestlé. Enough for his company, NextEnergies, to get 15 million euros in revenue in 2011.

Our advice: prospect of finding new energy solutions in Northern Europe. Like Jorge Boucas, aim for Slovenia or Denmark, which use straw for heating. There are even solutions based on cow dung…

Our advice: prospect of finding new energy solutions in Northern Europe. Like Jorge Boucas, aim for Slovenia or Denmark, which use straw for heating. There are even solutions based on cow dung…

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