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Published on May 2nd, 2008 | by Stephanie Evans

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GTR: Organic Goods and Flowers with Organic Style

Organic StyleSean Daily, Green Living Ideas’ Editor-in-Chief, talks with Gerald Prolman, CEO of Organic Style, about organic flowers, the development of Organic Bouquet, Organic Style Magazine, and the evolution of organic goods online and within the corporate marketplace.

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Transcript

Sean Daily: Hi, and welcome to Green Talk a podcast series from
greenlivingideas.com. Green Talk helps their listeners in their
efforts to lead more eco-friendly lifestyles through interviews with
top vendors, authors and experts from around the world. We discuss the
critical issues facing the global environment today as well as the
technologies, products, and practices that you can employ to go greener
in every area of your life.

[music]

Sean Daily: Hey everybody, this is Sean Daily with Green Talk Radio
and GreenLivingIdeas.com brought to you both by GreenLivingIdeas.com
and Personal Life Media. And today’s program is going to be on the
topic of online organic goods shopping and organic flowers. And, my
guest today to be talking to me about that is Gerald Prolman who is the
CEO of Organic Style. Gerald welcome to the program.

Gerald Prolman: Thank you Sean, I appreciate being on your show.

Sean Daily: Well, yeah it’s a pleasure to have you. It’s
interesting, I know that you guys started– Well, it’s interesting I
always ask guests to tell me their story because I like to start with
the story of why you’re here, why you’re doing what you’re doing. I
was particularly intrigued by a press release that went out. I’m going
to give the intro line to the story and I’m going to let you fill in
the rest because I thought– I found this fascinating because I have
two loves, one is all things French and then jazz. So here’s the
story, so “when Gerald Prolman fell head-over-heels in love with French
jazz singer Raquel Bitton he used magnificent floral bouquets to win
her heart. He went on to create something entirely unexpected: an
eco-floral revolution worth hundreds of millions of dollars.” So,
you’ve got to tell us that story.

Gerald Prolman: [laughs] Ok, alright, well, it’s a true love story. Let’s see, where shall I begin? Ok so–.

Sean Daily: Well, you don’t have to give us intimate details!
[laughs] That’s not really what I’m fishing for here, but just kind of
how that led you to be in the business you’re in…

Gerald Prolman: It was kind of funny, it was just a story I told to
somebody and all of a sudden it ended up in a press release and it went
out on a wire. And–.

Sean Daily: Ah, um-hmm, you’re whole life exposed.

Gerald Prolman: [laughs] Yeah.

Sean Daily: Be careful what you tell the PR people

Gerald Prolman: Yeah so I used to be in a very different business,
the food business when I was a young guy. Not that I’m still not a
young guy. And I had meet this lovely woman by the name of Raquel
Bittot and I was courting her and–and uh so I thought well– I was
just thinking, and I was really interested to pursue her. And, I was
thinking up every possible way I could get her attention, and so I was
thinking, OK flowers it would be a good thing to do! [laughs]

Sean Daily: Uh-huh

Gerald Prolman: And so after work everyday, I lived in the city, in
San Francisco, and I would go to this floral shop, it was called Keio’s
on Fillmore St., and I would try to put together a bouquet. I didn’t
really know anything about floral arranging or making, but I was very
much in love and quite a fanatic about trying to make sure all the
flowers were perfect and they looked really good together. I probably
tore up this poor lady’s floral shop every time I came in and…

Sean Daily: [laughs]

Gerald Prolman: And, then I’d made something that looked horrible
then I’d put it back and I was making quite a mess. So, this woman came
up, actually her name was Keio, and I think probably just to save her
store, started to show me how to– what I should be doing. And… [Laughs]

Sean Daily: Gave you some on-site training as it were.

Gerald Prolman: Yeah, and after a long day at the job I had, I was
actually having fun doing this and it became a ritual. Every couple
days I would be in that shop, going through all the flowers and we
ended up making these spectacular bouqu-oh, she did- she made these
spectacular bouquets. And I had this thought to myself: What a nice
Job! I just secretly told myself that I wouldn’t mind doing this for a
living.” But, I never, in a million years, imagined that I would be
in the midst of a field of flowers of twenty million stems of roses
doing this for a living, but–.

Sean Daily: [Laughs] Yeah. Well, what–.

Gerald Prolman: I remember I had that thought at that time. And,
well, it certainly worked because I brought Raquel those beautiful
bouquets every couple days and, ultimately, we got married and now it’s
almost twenty—well, it’s more than twenty-two years later–.

Sean Daily: Wow.

Gerald Prolman: Two kids later, and she still gets flowers from me every few days!

Sean Dailey: That’s great– that’s a great story. Well, I’m curious
now, at the time what were you doing as you’re walking into this flower
shop being the understudy of this woman?

Gerald Prolman: You mean professionally?

Sean Daily: Yeah. At the time you were doing the–.

Gerald Prolman: I had a specialty food company supplying
ingredients to top chefs in the white table cloth restaurants around
the country.

Sean Daily: OK. So, now you have this inspiration and this
epiphany, and I love the title of that press release to because it said
“Revolution Began with Love and Flowers”. So, forward to that what was
the– what sort of happened to you professionally in implementing this
company and going forward with it?

Gerald Prolman: Well, I’ve been working in the natural products
sector for the past thirty years. Building branded food companies and
specifically working in the organic agricultural business sector
developing organic ag projects. And, I had one of the early companies
in the world of organic produce, back in the day when organic fruits
and vegetables were considered to be somewhat funky in terms of their
cosmetic appearance. Let’s say an apple only that a organic mother
could love.

Sean Daily: [laughs]

Gerald Prolman: And, the name of the last company that I built was
called Made in Nature. And it was one of the first organic produce
companies that was able to gain acceptance at mass-market retail. And,
it was the company known for really helping to change the image of
organic produce with traditional supermarket buyers. And during that
time I had my hands in the conversions of over twenty-thousand acres to
organic production systems, and I did this in, um, a number of
countries around the world. Pretty much Mexico, and Central America
and, I was always working directly with farmers. I spent a lot of time
getting to know them and encouraging them to grow by organic methods.
So that’s what I did for a very long time and this gave me quite an
opportunity to work with a very diverse group of growers, which
included either large agro-businesses, mid-sized family farms, and I
also worked with many small, very poor growers in really rural areas of
the world. And, during all these experiences I got to know many
growers. I was spending a lot of time with them and their families and
I was able to see first-hand the positive impact of organic farming and
also the social benefits that are associated with paying a fair price
for goods. And, my job was also really interesting, well to me
personally, because I was fascinated really to discover where products
come from and to see the whole process from seed to market. So—but,
the situation was at-at that time, again this was in 1989—1990– early
‘90s, that growers were very willing to go organic but they needed a
assurances from the marketplace that would support the costs to convert
their farms or really the increased costs associated with small scale
agricultural production. And, so I was in this situation where I’m
selling to supermarkets and those buyers are used to getting more and
paying less.

Sean Daily: Right.

Gerald Prolman: Here I come along, offering what is perceived to be less for more.

Sean

daily: umm-hmm

Gerald Prolman: So, I was able to break through this by telling
stories about the growers that I met, that I knew, and their families
and talking about their commitment to the environment. And in many
cases I would bring the growers down to the fa–and would bring the
buyers– I meant to say that again. In many cases, I would bring the
buyers down to the farms.

Sean Daily: uh-huh

Gerald Prolman: and they get direct connection then between the
buyers and the farmers. And, once this connection was made and the
buyers got to know the growers they could see the difference between
organic and non-organic production, they seemed to feel they were part
of the movement and they lent their support to what is now a
multi-billion dollar industry. These are some of the early seeds that
were behind the start-up of Organic Bouquet which then became organic
style. In 1994 I sold that company, I sold Made in Nature to Dole Food
Company. That was a pretty big event in the produce trade at that
time because now the largest agro-business on the planet Earth had
embraced organics. This served to really legitimize the notion of
organic agriculture and had an important role to accelerate the whole
movement at that time.

Sean Daily: Now that’s timely because Clorox just bought Burt’s Bees
and, this is in the news constantly, with acquisitions of products by
companies that are very large corporate conglomerates and purchase
these types of lines that have small mom-and-pop type roots. Do think
that that brand has been carried on properly by the purchaser, in this
case? Can you speak about that?

Gerald Prolman: Well, you know that Dole, surprising to many, is I
found to be a really amazing company, a very responsible company and
the chairman of the company actually hates agro-chemicals and there’s a
quiet internal directive to eradicate them completely throughout their
organization. But, they never talk about it and they never talk about
the millions of dollars they spend on sustainable agricultural
developments. I guess just being a large corporation they just don’t
talk about the good deeds that they do.

Sean Daily: umm-hmm

Gerald Prolman: But they bought the company, I ultimately ended up buying it back from them, and then I sold it one more time.

Sean Daily: umm-hmm

Gerald Prolman: And then the company that I sold it to, sold it to another company [laughs]

Sean Daily: Wow, it’s really been around the block a few times…

Gerald Prolman: Yeah, it still lives on. The produce part of it has
gone away but the there is still one line that lives on, which is the
dried fruit line I introduced. The first packaged un-sulfured,
organic, dried fruit. A company bought it and they still sell it into
supermarkets and natural food stores around the world.

Sean Daily: So, now, tell us about the foundation the—well,
actually, we’re going to take a break and when we come back I’m going
to ask you this question about the beginnings of Organic Bouquet. So,
we will be right back. We’re talking about all things organic goods,
both online and not, with Gerald Prolman who is the CEO of Organic
Style at OrganicStyle.com. This is green talk radio, Sean Daily, we’ll
be right back.

[commercial break]

Sean Daily: And, we are back to green talk radio, this is Sean
Daily. I’m talking today on the topic of organic goods and flowers
with Gerald Prolman, who is the CEO of Organic Style. Gerald, we were
just talking about your previous company, Made in Nature, and I wanted
to sort of move forward a little bit to hear about Organic Bouquet, the
floral business that we started talking about with that great story you
had in the beginning. I’m curious about, now did that start as an
online business? Were you bricks and mortar for awhile or did it start
online?

Gerald Prolman: No, well the idea for Organic Bouquet, which is the
foundation business of Organic Style, was really born from my past
experiences. And when I was looking for a new company to build, I was
thinking about what I enjoyed most about my career in the past and
where I saw a need. At the same time I was learning about the Internet
and I thought this was the perfect vehicle, time wise this is around
2000, and I thought this would be the perfect vehicle to make a direct
connection between growers and artisans and consumers. And I was
thinking that in this way we could really minimize all the excess
handling, which included the importers, and the brokers, and the
wholesalers, and the distributors, all the people in the middle had
become a direct from-farm retailer. That was the idea. And because I
was so close to growers it was really just very easy for me to see that
the people who did the most amount of work got paid the least amount of
money. So, by selling direct from farms I thought we could remove many
of the hands in the middle, which would then allow us to pay growers a
premium to grow responsibly and at the same time be able to offer
really high quality organic products at competitive prices.

Sean Daily: Right.

Gerald Prolman: So, I saw flowers as a category that had been
overlooked by the natural products sector. And back at that time there
were over a thousand up-scale natural food stores, many with floral
departments right in the front. But, most people didn’t make the same
organic connection with flowers. People gravitated towards organics
very much for personal health concerns over pesticides residues in
their foods.

Sean Daily: Yeah. Well, why? Do you think it’s just the disposable
nature of it, oh a flower’s a flower no big deal, and its more about on
the food side and the personal care products, is that—do you think
that’s why, or?

Gerald Prolman: I think that’s where awareness was at the time, but
organic is not really about food, surprisingly. Organic is an
environmental farming method.

Sean Daily: Right.

Gerald Prolman: The food is a byproduct and it’s all about
protecting the Earth, that’s what organic is about. So it doesn’t
matter if whether it’s strawberries or cotton or flowers, its all about
caring for the Earth and this awareness wasn’t so apparent at that
time. But I thought it would, as the market developed, and I could get
on a soapbox so to speak—

Sean Daily: umm-hmm

Gerald Prolman: That I get the message out there. What a lot of
people don’t know, that many cases, fifty to a thousand times more
chemicals that are legally allowed on foods are used on flowers.

Sean Daily: Wow, that’s a lot…

Gerald Prolman: Yeah, and today about seventy percent of all the flowers you see in America are imported.

Sean Daily: Really?

Gerald Prolman: And the only requirement, upon importation, is that
they arrive to our borders pest free. So the import laws themselves
encourage the use of harsh chemicals.

Sean Daily: Interesting.

Gerald Prolman: And so flowers are just typically grown with many
strong chemicals and these chemicals can negatively affect the
environment, the farmworkers who are handling the flowers, the
wildlife, and ecology. So I thought there would be a need for a
company that arranged for flowers to be grown by responsible methods.

Sean Daily: Yeah, and the flowers aren’t getting nuked with chemicals
to the point of being harmful to the people that are purchasing them
and handling them, you know that certainly makes sense. So, then, so
bring us forward to that. Obviously you have had some success with
Organic Bouquet…

Gerald Prolman: Well–.

Sean Daily: Go ahead

Gerald Prolman: Well, I can tell you this. I didn’t really realize
how hard this was going to be. I thought that—the idea for the company
was to begin with flowers and then expand pretty quickly, within, I
thought, the first year to other eco-lifestyle products. Artisans,
fair-trade, craft, and again direct from the producers to consumers.
And given my background in the world of organic produce I thought this
was going to be easy, but I was not correct about that assessment, this
was very hard. And when I started this business, I like to say that,
we began there were no commercial supplies of organic flowers, so there
was no supply, there was no demand, people didn’t know why we need
organic flowers, and we didn’t have any money. So, no supply, no
demand, and no money that’s how we started. And today I am very proud
to say that we have a hundred-thousand dollars worth of sustainably
grown flowers in the Pipeline and the demand for all things eco are–is
at an all time high now. And we were, over time, through angel
investors and people who really cared, to support this vision which has
now grown into quite an enterprise that we’re all quite proud of.

Sean Daily: Now, that’s great to hear. Now, I’m just curious, how
have you guys fared against the sort of knee-jerk reaction that people
have to go to vendors like 800-flowers, or whoever, FDD network of
florists. How have you guys fared, is it still a niche market or are
you hitting really the mainstream audience with whatever search engine
marketing or whatever other type of marketing you might be doing. Is
it, really are you reaching the mainstream, or have you been reaching..?

Gerald Prolman: We are. And just to put this in perspective, this
last past Valentines Day there was well over two-hundred million
impressions of our brand on the media. We were on about 300 television
programs, we were in, I don’t know, well over five-hundred newspapers,
we were just out there. This has become the biggest story. Yeah,
it’s–awareness of the environment is at an all time high and people
just didn’t realize what was on flowers and our little company, Organic
Bouquet, has absolutely rocked the world of horticulture and we—people
are really taking notice and now some of the big companies are starting
to embrace sustainably produced flowers. And one company has added fair
trade and another has added sustainably grown flowers in a small way.
So, we’re very glad to see the competition because that’s what we want,
we want to see the world—the world of products produced in a
sustainable manner, so we’re glad to see that it’s starting to happen.

Sean Daily: Yeah, but, that great. Is it true you—do you deal
with—I know there’s different eco-floral certifications there’s
organic, sustainable, enviro-dynamic. All of which are terms we have
talked about on this program quite a bit. Is it true you’re offering
products sort of in all those categories on the site?

Gerald Prolman: Yes.

Sean Daily: OK and I assume there are different pricings associated with different labels.

Gerald Prolman: Its not so much the pricing with different labels,
we—our pricing is quite unique, we’ve been able to offer our certified
sustainably grown flowers at competitive prices. At the same time we
are able to pay our growers a premium, so you might ask, well, how do
we do that?

Sean Daily: How do you do that? [Laugh]

Gerald Prolman: We pay more, sell it for less so how do we stay in
business? We were able to do this in the early days as I mentioned we
didn’t really have a capital to work with so we really had to develop
some grass-roots marketing initiatives. And one of the things we did
early on that has proven to be really great for our company and
everybody involved is that we started a whole-cause marketing
initiative, where we partner with charitable organizations. And today
we have partnerships with over fifty charitable organizations. Whether
that’s amnesty international or PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment
of Animals, or women for women or the breast cancer fund, we have these
wonderful organizations we work with. They take our products and
market them to their membership base and when anybody clicks on the
links they get a donation of ten percent of the proceeds. And in this
way we’ve been able to reach more than ten-million consumers on a
monthly basis. And these are consumers who passionately care about the
environment, social justice, animal welfare, just our kind of people.
This works out great, the recipients going to get this beautiful box of
roses, it looks like it came from the eco-Tiffany’s, it’s extremely
high quality, beyond anything you’ll see anywhere, we’re real sticklers
about quality. And then there’s a note card and there is this special
message and then at the bottom of the message it says a donation has
been made in your name to Amnesty International. So, it’s this ripple
effect of goodness and this is what really motivates and inspires
everybody who works here at Organic Style. In fact, I have to toss
people out of here late at night, no one wants to leave because we’re
having a really good time.

Sean Daily: That’s a good company to work for, that’s a good thing.
So I’m curious, and we have one last question before we go to our last
break and I want to talk a little about Organic Style the magazine
which you recently re-launched. But I was curious about the
Vera-Floral certification. I know there is a sustainable sort of
verification for the flower industry. I understand you had some hand
in starting, can you tell us a little bit about that?

Gerald Prolman: Sure. In my pursuit of growers to grow by organic
methods I went to—well I started in California so we have–we support
local agriculture as a priority but not all flowers grow locally so I
had to go to other places as well. So we source not only from
California, Oregon, but also Central America, and South America. And
Ecuador is known to have the finest, best quality roses in the world.
I visited farms there, in Ecuador and Columbia, and starting with
growers who were already involved in what they call “green-label
programs”. And green-label programs were some of the programs that
were developed from European influences when there was some very
serious concern over the treatment of farmworkers, back in the early
‘90s. And there was a lot of good programs that I saw, a lot of
progressive growers really trying to grow sustainably, really trying to
take care of their farm workers. But there was no consistent message.
Every certification was missing something. They all were doing good
work but not one certification had the answer for everybody and could
give the total comfort. Organic is a farming method for the
environment, but it doesn’t address the social issues. And some of the
green-label programs in Ecuador and Columbia were—had tremendous social
programs, but were a little bit lacking on the environmental side

Sean Daily: And just to clarify for the people listening, we are
talking about the social issues, we are talking about for example the
treatment of the indigenous people in the area where the products being
grown are in some cases manufactured.

Gerald Prolman: Yeah, we’re talking about what the farmworkers are
being paid we are talking about their exposure to the chemicals when
they’re working in the greenhouse.

Sean Daily: umm-hmm

Gerald Prolman: Just the conditions on the farm.

Sean Daily: Which ties in to fair-trade and things like this…

Gerald Prolman: And labor practices, yeah. So, I was on some farms,
I saw some amazing things I hadn’t even seen in California. Where on a
farm they would have a medical doctor for—that was on staff, available
for the entire labor force. Where they would have also a dentist on
staff, and they would provide meals, nice meals, and the owners of the
farms actually eat with the employees. And they would have instead
of—instead of the laborers having to, you know, on these typical
situations where they would have to walk miles, they would pick up the
employees in very nice clean busses at their homes and bring them to
work and then bring them back home so they don’t have to walk miles
back and forth or situations like for example it’s payday and the only
place to cash a check would be a liquor store so sometimes the guys
wouldn’t get home with the money for their family and just little
things like that. So one farm put an ATM machine right on the farm and
they would direct deposit their paycheck so they wouldn’t have to stop
at the liquor store on the way home, and they could just take what they
need all these little things that show extra care and I saw these
programs first hand in Ecuador and in Columbia, and so I thought
there’s not a consumer message that can give the total comfort that
says these flowers are sustainably grown and produced in a manner
that’s safe for the environment, the farmworkers, the wildlife, the
ecology and there wasn’t one standard that addressed it all and it was
at the same time a big stretch for or—for growers to take the steps to
become fully organic, they needed a bridge and time to get there so
basically I saw a need for a new standard. And I went to a standards
developer in the East Bay, Scientific Certification Systems, and I said
that there’s an opportunity in the floral industry. They needed a
sustainability standard SCS as they are referred to Scientific
Certification Systems our expert sustainable standards developers.
They developed the Café program for Starbucks they developed the
Nutriclean program that most supermarkets in the United States use to
test produce, and they developed sustainability standards for the
forestry industry, and the fishery industry and the paint industry so
I thought they would be perfect to do this for the fresh cut flower
trade. And I helped organize—they agreed to do it and I helped organize
the first group of growers to provide as an advisory council and I put
together a group of industry leaders from around the world the basic
concepts

Sean Daily: Are you including your competitors in this? I mean, is
this only you and the growers or is it other industry members as well
who are getting in on this?

Gerald Prolman: Oh just industry members, this wasn’t for me to

Sean Daily: Oh, I just wanted to ask it..

Gerald Prolman: ..wasn’t for myself [Laugh]

Sean Daily: No, no but I have to ask that because there are two
camps of standards. There are the real standards, and I sort of
assumed this was it, but there are also various standards out there in
various industries, like in flooring, wood flooring, and things like
that where they are backed by one or a couple vendors, you know, so
anyway, so yeah..

Gerald Prolman: Yeah. I specifically went to some of the largest
growers in the world, some of actually the biggest distributors of
flowers in the country, one of the biggest retailers in the country.
And I just put together a group of interested concerned industry people
to provide SCS with the basic information that they could begin
developing their program from. And now this is actually becoming a
national government standard, it is actually draft ..standard and I
believe in three to five years from now you will not see a flower in
the united states that is not certified as sustainably grown in fact
its amazing to think that there are flowers on the market that aren’t.
I mean, you just make this assumption that products are produced in a
responsible manner.

Sean Daily: Yeah.

Gerald Prolman: And it’s really sad to learn that’s not the case.

Sean Daily: Unfortunately not.

Gerald Prolman: But, yeah, its retailers responsibility to make sure they know what they’re selling.

Sean Daily: And consumers to know what they’re buying, yeah, absolutely.

Gerald Prolman: Yeah.

Sean Daily: Well, we’re going to take one last break. And, just on
that note, I want to mention too, it’s just like for people who are
interested this is a twenty-one billion dollar industry, the floral
industry, and I think— and I was reading too the Vera-floral
certification you guys are expecting I understand that you are going to
certify more than a billion floral stems this year. So the numbers are
pretty staggering so anyway we will be right back with Gerald Prolman
who is the CEO of Organic style and also OrganicBouquet.com and we’ll
be right back on green talk radio, thanks everyone

[Commercial break]

Sean Daily: Alright and we are back on green talk radio, topic today
is organic goods and flowers and all things organic farming really. And
my guest to talk about that is Gerald Prolman CEO of organic style.
And Gerald, I wanted to give you an opportunity, we wanted to hear a
little about organic style magazine. Now, that is a magazine I think
is going to be familiar to a lot of people out there listening in, it
certainly was to me. When I first heard about the re-launch of it I
didn’t realize kind of what had happened there, it sounds like, and
correct me if I’m wrong, what I read was that you guys had expanded
into the lifestyle market and you had made an acquisition from Rodale
Publications, who I think was the original publisher of this magazine.
Tell us about that decision, both in terms of moving into lifestyle and
growing from—expanding from flowers and also the decision to purchase
the magazine and what you are doing with that.

Gerald Prolman: Ok. Well, as I mentioned before the original vision
of the company was to be an eco-lifestyle company marketing an array of
certified products that are all produced in a responsible way direct
from farmers and artisans to consumers that was the idea, it—I thought
it was going to take about a year to develop flowers and then expand on
that to other categories. It actually took seven years to develop the
eco-floral market and once we were able to get things going and we’re
generating sales and the interest started taking and we are having
thousands of visitors a day to our website well I thought this is a
good time to expand into the other categories into really carry out the
original vision of the company. And, I was searching for a brand and I
was a huge fan of Organic Style magazine and of the Rodale Company in
particular. And there’s actually quite an interesting story which I
would like to share a lot of people don’t know that J.I. Rodale who is
the founder of Rodale, they’re the largest privately held publisher of
heath and wellness books and magazines in the world. You’ll recognize
them as men’s health and women’s health and prevention magazine they
put out twenty-five million magazines a month around the world. But it
all began with J.I. Rodale in the late 1930s and he was one of the
first people to start writing about the negative impacts he perceived
to be coming from agrochemicals. And those early writing evolved into
what became Organic Gardening magazine, which is one of the oldest
magazines in America today

Sean Daily: Wow.

Gerald Prolman: And from that he built an empire so J.I. Rodale actually coined the word organic.

Sean Daily: Huh.

Gerald Prolman: In terms of agriculture. And several generations
later his granddaughter Maria Rodale, who is the chairman of Rodale,
put out this magazine, I think it came out first in 2001, and it was
really a tribute to her grandfather because she viewed him as a stylist
environmentalist. And she wanted to show that organic could go to the
next level. It didn’t need to be kind of scratchy hemp clothes it
could be–.

Sean Daily: Kind of like an E. Schaugaard of Patagonia kind of figure.

Gerald Prolman: Exactly. And so Organic Style was a tribute to her
grandfather in that concept and, they really did quite well. They got
lots of subscribers and many people were buying it on the news stands.
And then, around 2005, they made an internal decision to pull it from
the market for the time being. I guess because the market hadn’t caught
up just yet, and they just parked the brand; so it was sitting as a
dormant brand. Maria Rodale is a customer of ours and I called her on
the phone, just by chance, and I said what are you doing with Organic
Style magazine? We need a name for our company and we want to introduce
a magazine. And I made an offer to purchase it and they accepted and we
were very grateful. Then we launched organic style in the end of ’07.
In January, we reintroduced Organic Style magazine but as an online
magazine and–.

Sean Daily: So it’s online only, not print, now?

Gerald Prolman: Just online, because that’s what we are all about.

Sean Daily: Yeah, it’s greener, that’s for sure!

Gerald Prolman: [Laugh] Yeah, its greener. And so the whole point of
Organic Style magazine is this is a window to our world. Where you get
to meet our growers and growers we’re not necessarily working with, you
can meet growers you can meet artisans, you meet humanitarians,
environmentalists, and people who can inspire us to make conscious
purchase decisions and make this world a better place.

Sean Daily: Yeah, well, very cool. So what is the editorial—I’m
curious abut the editorial side because I run an online publication
myself that’s obviously about sustainable editorial. So I’m just
curious about what is your vision? Are you changing it from the
original magazine? I mean obviously the format the media has changed,
but in terms of the editorial voice and the content. What is your
vision for the magazine? Is it changing at all? Are you are pretty
much going back to what was being done before in 2005?

Gerald Prolman: Its quite different than the earlier publication.
Because, well, first of all we make no secret about we are a commercial
company called organic style.com and we have things for sale.

Sean Daily: Now, that’s kind of what I was dancing around there,
too. That you guys are selling products, and that’s a big difference
is…

Gerald Prolman: Yeah. So we sell products. However, we have a place
to sell products in the magazine called the Organic Style Boutique and
we’re very clear that his is a selling place and the rest of the
magazine is information that’s valuable to your life. And its just good
information and what we are trying to do is this is just an expression
of the original vision of the company which is to make a connection
between source and consumer. So you can have a relationship with the
people that produce the products. I find these stories really
fascinating and, again, it’s a window to our world. Our premier issue
says “Eco-Roses from a Person Who Matters”. So, on the cover is this
young lady and she is one of the employees at our partner rose farm in
Ecuador, and she’s the cover girl. And you can actually see the person
who actually grew your roses, and you can feel really good knowing
she’s earning a livable wage, she’s working in a healthy environment,
and this is just a positive environmental and social initiative all the
way around. And you get to learn where stuff comes from, and that is
really what I found most interesting about this business in the first
place.

Sean Daily: Yeah. It really harkens back to the early part of your
career you described earlier; of taking the supermarket buyers out to
the farmers and having them meet them. Essentially that is thematic for
you, and that’s a very powerful connection. So, yeah, appreciate that.

Gerald Prolman: So yeah, so I’m—we’re putting things in the magazine that is just information [laughs]

Sean Daily: So you see–.

Gerald Prolman: Helps other people, too. For example, people talk
about oh this chocolate is to die for. Well, our article was “Chocolate
to Live For”!

Sean Daily: Yeah.

Gerald Prolman: And we have the artisan who produces our
chocolates, does it with organic and fair trade chocolates and we tell
why that’s important. And you get to meet him. Or we have a discussion
on fashion, or about color, actually where colors come from. Its all
the things you don’t stop to think about typically. And realize there
is constant negative impact to the environment with all these consumer
products we buy day in and day out, and the whole idea is to in a very
positive way to give valuable information so that people can practice
responsible purchasing.

Sean Daily: Well, that is all the time we have today but I have
really enjoyed having this conversation and hearing the story, I mean
all the stories, from your wife Raquel Bitton, and we wish her best of
luck, by the way, in her career. I understand she has performed to
sold-out crowds at Carnegie Hall and recorded albums and so forth. So
our best to her, and again appreciate having on—having you on the
program today and we wish you great luck with the new magazine, which I
have read and I have to say was very impressed with the quality of the
editorial end as well as the aesthetics of it. So, congratulations on
that.

Gerald Prolman: Thank-you Sean, and thank-you for having me on your program.

Sean Daily: Yeah. My pleasure, so our guest today has been Gerald
Prolman, who is CEO of organic style they’re an online magazine and
eco-boutique for people seeking inspiring products that uphold the well
being of the planet and humankind. Their flagship floral brand is
www.organicbouquet.com, widely recognized as the worlds pioneer of
organic and eco-flowers. This is Sean Daily from Green Talk radio and
we’ll talk to you next time.

Thanks as always to everyone listening in today remember for more
on-demand podcasts, articles and other information related to living a
greener lifestyle visit our website at www.greenlivingideas.com. We’d also love to hear your comments feedback and questions send us an email at editors@greenlivingideas.com





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