Friday, March 13, 2009

Killer Green Beer

I’ve never thought about running my own business because I’ve never had any good ideas of things to sell and I’m not one of those can’t-work-for-anybody-else sorts of people. I’ll work for the Man no problem – as long as I believe in the mission and values of said (figurative) Man. And for the most part, I’ve been perfectly happy executing the vision of someone else, most recently my former boss, Seattle City Council President Richard Conlin.

Being a complacent cog in a machine, I haven’t focused on the challenges of running a small business -- if it’s too hard Working For Yourself, then be a happy little cog like me or quit complaining. Until now. You might remember that my husband, Matt, is starting a brewery from scratch, in the midst of a financial catastrophe, with 2 kids at home and a wife whose marketable skills are inversely related to her education. Plus, Fremont Brewing Company is striving to produce beer as sustainably as possible, which can mean more expensive equipment, ingredients, and all that.

Mayor Greg Nickels has spoken a lot about both the importance of climate protection and supporting small businesses. So, using my contacts at my old place of employ, I set out to see what bennies were available for small businesses trying to do the right thing. Loan assistance for small green businesses? Nope. City Light did a site visit and told us that we could get a rebate by using certain lights and VSD pumps to conserve energy. But overall, there’s no single program for small businesses that are either producing green technologies or trying to be green in their operations, procurement, facility, etc.

So I’ve drawn up an outline for a City of Seattle program for a One-Stop-Shop for green-inclined businesses who need technical assistance (in designing their space or figuring out which equipment is most energy efficient etc.); information on incentive programs for water, electricity, and gas conservation; building permit expedition; and so on. Most of this is already available but it’s hard to access because there’s no integrated program to go to – businesses have to contact SPU, OED, DPD, City Light, etc. And who has time for that when you’re trying to Make Money? Even though my program has gotten positive feedback from City staff, there’s no cash to fund anything new these days.

In the meantime, businesses should check out the Seattle Climate Partnership ( It’s a group of businesses that pledge to reduce their carbon footprint. And Fremont Brewing Company will be the very first brewery to sign up (paperwork in progress). Stay tuned…

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