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(Lukiyanova Natalia/iStockphoto)
(Lukiyanova Natalia/iStockphoto)

Connections

Networking for green entrepreneurs Add to ...

When Laur Fisher moved from New Jersey to Toronto she didn't have a job lined up. Thanks to Toronto Greenhouse - a networking event for green business people - Ms. Fisher found work in Toronto in less than a week.

The Tufts University graduate, who knew she wanted to work for a green company, moved to Toronto on a Sunday. On the following Tuesday she attended a monthly Toronto Greenhouse event where she met a representative of a green energy consulting firm, who offered her a contract two days later. Ms. Fisher says she's heard of other people who have landed contracts or clients at the event.

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Toronto Greenhouse began in March, 2009. Its founder, Randy Tyrrell, an event planner and headhunter with an interest in the environment, notes that the city lacked a regular space for green business people to network and talk shop. At the time, there were either "one-off events or events focused on environmentalism as opposed to green business," Mr. Tyrrell says.

Mr. Tyrrell partnered with several companies for the launch. "When I started to put it together we didn't know whether or not we'd get that big of a crowd," he says. In fact, all 250 tickets were quickly snapped up. Since then, events have been held on the last Tuesday of each month (except December). Tickets cost $30.



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The green industry in Toronto is vibrant and growing, Mr. Tyrrell says: "I'm filling a need in the market."

Each event allows time for networking and a panel discussion. Upcoming topics range from transportation to marketing. Panelists have included CEOs, politicians, consultants and investors.

The events draw a mix of professionals, from green entrepreneurs selling eco-friendly products to representatives of large companies working to become greener. A diverse group of lawyers, accountants and marketing professionals "want to do business with a growing sector," Mr. Tyrrell says. There is "a fairly broad age range, anywhere from people fresh out of school to people who are retired."

That eclectic mix is what makes Toronto Greenhouse unique and useful, says Bernard Hellen, principal of Traffic Marketing + Design Inc., a Toronto firm with a focus on sustainability.

"Toronto Greenhouse is the sustainability crowd intermingling with the Bay Street power crowd, and when worlds collide that's when interesting things start happening," says Mr. Hellen, who has attended every Toronto Greenhouse event.

Mr. Hellen sells a product called the World's Greenest Business Card, made with vegetable inks, 100 per cent post-consumer-waste recycled paper and waterless printing. Through Toronto Greenhouse, Mr. Hellen has landed clients for his cards including an environmental lawyer and an eco-store.

Toronto Greenhouse also helps green entrepreneurs find investors at an annual event called Green Dragons (inspired by CBC's Dragons' Den). At the next Green Dragons, on June 29, five green companies will make pitches, including a green technology firm and an eco-friendly shoe company.

The events have become so popular they've inspired a secondary series. In January, Toronto Greenhouse hosted an event on green building, design and real estate. The event had such a strong turnout Toronto Greenhouse has since teamed up with green consulting firm Affecting Change Inc. to launch a monthly networking series for the green building sector. The next one will be July 13.

Mr. Tyrrell is pleased with his Toronto Greenhouse events, which today draw about 100 people.

When he hears that he has helped a company land a new client, a green professional find work or an eco-entrepreneur get funding, "that's pretty much mission accomplished for me," says Mr. Tyrrell.

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