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Going Green: Stamford Lawyer Launches Green Shopping Network

Whitcomb addresses the crowd at Monday's official website launch party while CEO Collins looks on.
Whitcomb addresses the crowd at Monday's official website launch party while CEO Collins looks on.
For all the efforts to increase the availability of environmentally-friendly products in the world today, there was one area where Jon Whitcomb, his wife, Rachel, and his childhood friend Tim Collins saw a greater need: unification of the community.

Whitcomb, a New Canaan resident and Stamford attorney at Diserio, Martin, O'Connor & Castiglioni, LLP, said the idea to bring together those seeking out green products was something that came to him a few years ago. He'd trademarked the names Green Shopping Network, Green Shopping Channel and Kindergreen then, and talking through the idea with his wife and Collins led to a more substantial direction for growing a community."

"We decided to launch and work on the company together," said Whitcomb, who's taken on a role of investor while Collins has settled into the role of CEO. "We were likeminded in our approach to a 'green' world, but didn't want to create an image out of phoniness. We aren't Green Peace, tree-hugger, earthy types. We just both fervently believe the environment needs to be protected and the current state of affairs needs to be improved."

The trio launched TheGreenShoppingNetwork.com this week at The Whelk in Westport. The Whelk chef and owner Bill Taibe operates Westport's LeFarm as well. Both restaurants are the initial corporate clients associated with The Green Shopping Network as Taibe looks to push his operations in a greener direction. And that's what the Whitcombs and Collins ultimately hope to accomplish; not just a business-to-customer environment, but a fostering of business-to-business relationships as well, so companies looking to lessen their impact on the environment might also learn about the best tried-and-true products available to them.

"We're in talks with companies outside of Connecticut. I'd call it a national initiative right now," Whitcomb said. "Hotels, restaurants, hospitals. We want to address the 'B2B' side and we already have our first two restaurants signed on."

The site currently offers roughly 10,000 products from 40 different categories, items ranging from categories like 'Solar' products to 'Home Cleaning Supplies' to 'Natural Household Items' and similarly-themed sections. The site is more than just a shopping site, though. As Collins and Whitcomb foster community relations, they encourage open discourse and conversations about the products they offer and any 'green' news to be found.

"The site really has three major components," Collins said. "Interesting information that comes from a variety of sources, like newspapers, online news sites, research publications and original content from our editors. We want the site to be full of that kind of information to make it 'sticky.' We have over 10,000 green products in 40 categories, that's the commerce end of things, products and services. And then there's the community itself, building up that community of consumers and green companies."

Collins said the idea of "going green" has never permeated society more than it currently has, but that the saturation of products labeling themselves as "green" can dilute the potency of products that actually live up to the standard, which get lost in a number of products looking to take advantage of a label. That's why the community is so important. Their reviews, discussions and recommendations will play as large a role in the final decision-making process for products offered on the site as any of the head office decisions.

"The timing is right, right now, because 'Green' has gone mainstream. This is not a small niche market anymore," Collins said. "There are thousands of companies offering green services. Thousands of companies that sell products. There are thousands of places people go to find information. None of them are known entities. Our mission is to become the dominant, trusted green name, a place where customers can go to find out more and purchase trusted products."

Whitcomb said aside from the site that just launched, The Green Shopping Channel will become a television channel featuring the products offer as well, similar to a QVC-type presentation. And ultimately, Kindergreen would be a line of childrens toys, clothing and similar age-oriented products to get youngsters started early in thinking about a healthier earth.

"We're trying to attract people like us," Whitcomb said. "'Tree-huggers' are not targeted, but we welcome them. We're looking for relatively-inexpensive products that are also functional and feasible. If it's both of those things, we choose the greener option. Conversely, if it's exceedingly expensive or too hard, most people, like us, are not going to choose 'green.' That's why the technology is trying to catch up and make things easier to use. [It's] trying to catch up with the demand for simpler 'green' products."

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