Founder & CEO,
“Don’t get discouraged if business doesn’t materialize quickly! Especially with large companies, it takes time for them to figure out what they need and whether a company has the right capabilities to meet their needs. There can be significant lead time, so plant the seeds for business, be patient and nurture them.”
About EcoPlum, Inc.
EcoPlum® is an environmentally focused business-to-business, e-commerce, and media company. EcoPlum Business Gifts, the Sustainable Swag® division, is its primary service and sells eco-friendly promotional products to companies and organizations. EcoPlum brands and customizes these products for its clients with their logos or messages. We also write about sustainability in the EcoPlum Business Blog with information, news and lifestyle articles for business decision-makers. The company began as an eco-friendly online boutique for consumers, then in 2016 shifted efforts to a growing demand for its unique promotional products. Our for-profit company has a strong social mission to help combat environmental issues and is committed to a triple-bottom-line strategy focused on people, planet and profit.
Headquartered: New York, NY
Company Website: https://ecoplum.com/
When and how was your business started?
Founded by Gia Machlin in 2007, EcoPlum opened an online boutique for consumers in 2008 with the goal of building an environmentally friendly business with a social mission. The company sold sustainable, yet stylish fashion and home items. EcoPlum Business Gifts, the Sustainable Swag® products line, launched in 2016 to meet the growing demand for sustainable promotional products that could be branded and customized with an organization’s logo or message. EcoPlum, Inc. is primarily “bootstrapped” by the owners, with little outside funding.
How has being a WBENC-Certified WBE helped your business?
Since gaining certification at the end of 2017, we have identified numerous new potential clients. Some companies have also found EcoPlum through WBENC and have expressed great interest in knowing more about our unique offering of sustainable promotional products. Attendance at the WBENC National Conference & Business Fair in Detroit this year was very useful.
What is your business philosophy and how has it impacted your success as a business?
Great customer service will lead to success. That has made a big difference in the growth of EcoPlum Business Gifts. We do more than just sell promotional products. Our Sustainable Swag® products embody our clients’ values and we help our customers find the best ideas to enhance their brands.
What are some of the biggest challenges and barriers you’ve faced as a woman business owner? How have you overcome them?
It hasn’t been too much of an issue, as the green space is progressive, with lots of women entrepreneurs and people with a social conscience.
What is your proudest moment thus far in business?
Obtaining our first Ivy League university contract for sustainable promotional products was an honor and big boost to our business. First, we went through rigorous examination by an external licensing agent to qualify as a potential distributor for their select set of major universities. Then we made our first sale.
What advice do you have for new entrepreneurs?
The best advice we offer is to follow your passion. If you don’t believe in the business idea, don’t do it. You must believe it down to your core and be prepared to eat, breathe and sleep working on it sometimes! But it should be enjoyable, too -- have fun!
How did you first learn about WBENC Certification?
Gia Machlin learned about WBENC Certification as a member of the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO), which she joined as a partner in another company, before starting up EcoPlum.
What advice would you share with a newly certified WBE looking to make the most out of her certification?
EcoPlum suggests a new WBE attend its first conference as soon as possible. We also offer a reality check on expectations. Don’t get discouraged if business doesn’t materialize quickly! Especially with large companies, it takes time for them to figure out what they need and whether a company has the right capabilities to meet their needs. There can be significant lead time, so plant the seeds for business, be patient and nurture them.
Have you partnered with other WBENC-Certified WBEs on contracts or utilized other WBEs as suppliers? If so, what has been the benefit? Why do you feel it is important to work with other WBEs in the WBENC network?
Yes, we have a few suppliers for various categories of products. We expect to find and prioritize other WBENC suppliers of promotional products. Working with women-owned companies was a priority before we received the certification and having the WBENC network is making it easier to seek out and find these businesses. Just as we would like to see businesses support our WBE, we want to support other women-owned businesses as our product vendors.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?
In short, the best career advice received is along these lines: “Believe in what you are doing and so will everyone else around you! Keep moving forward, be flexible, and correct course when needed.”
What tips do you have for WBEs to get the most out of their time at the National Conference & Business Fair?
First and foremost, it is important to prepare a good Capability Statement in advance and have copies ready to hand out. Review the list of attendees to determine who you would like to meet in person. Research people and companies of interest to know something about them and understand what they may want and need. Since EcoPlum has a focus on sustainability, we review a company’s sustainability practices. We also reviewed supplier diversity sections to understand their priorities. EcoPlum prepared for its matchmaking sessions with even more thoroughness. Then attend everything you can!
What should a every first-time attendee know about the conference before they arrive?
The written Capability Statement is an entrée to your business, so new attendees must understand how to prepare one and do it beforehand, so they have them ready to give out to potential corporate, or governmental, inquiries.