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Jillian Makes The Journey

Activist to Environmental Entrepreneur:  A Local Small Business Success Story

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Let me begin by disclosing that this post is by no means objective. Oh no, It’s way too late for that. I’m not the first person to tell Jillian Fecteau’s story either. But I’ve been known to come up with some unique angles from time to time, dear reader, and here is one that I do quite rarely….

This post is more in the category of an unqualified endorsement. Meaning: I’m going to make Earth Sunflower products a major component of my gift giving this Holiday season, and urge you do the same.
 
A little background: Jillian Fecteau, the person and her mission, won me over a long time ago. Case in point: I still carry a badge on my backpack that has this on it.
 
A few years ago, before we ever met or even spoke, I noticed that there was a good deal of media buzz about this young local woman, who had a goal to rid the region of plastic straws, as a precursor perhaps, to ridding the world of them.

A noble goal: Plastic, during my adult lifetime, had gone from being a joke line in the movie “The Graduate;” to a cruel, insidious joke that was being played on all of us. A legacy of non-bio-degradable, single-use waste that we are leaving for next generations to deal with.

One trip to any major urban area landfill will tell you all you need to know: We are The Greatest Generation of Garbage Generators mankind has ever seen.

Against this tide, Jillian began a movement she called “Earth’s Last Straw,” and set out to make a difference locally. She visited restaurants and stores, preaching the gospel of re-usable (stainless steel or bamboo) or paper straws (which are easier to degrade.) Being an enthusiastic soul, Jillian did get plenty of attention, interest and a few success stories. However, she also ran up against some major obstacles, which could be broadly described as 1) price, and 2) supply or availability. In some quarters, she also faced resistance to change, and just plain old-fashioned laziness to be sure.

Against this array of hurdles, one could understand someone with a lesser commitment giving up. Not Jillian.

Though she had, in her words “Zero entrepreneurial experience,” but encouraged by her (then) fiance’, family and friends – Jillian plunged into that most American of business credos. She already identified the need, and now she she was going to fill it. Behold: Earth Sunflower!

An entire product line of environmentally-friendly, ethically sourced products that are available online or in local progressive stores such as Healthy Living Market & Cafe’, Saratoga Tea & Honey, Northshire Bookstore, Wild Birds Unlimited in Wilton and The Green Grocer in Clifton Park. It seems obvious that there will be more outlets in the near future.

Helping Jillian on this journey is Rita Cox, an esteemed businesswoman and a local mentor in the SCORE program, which is a nationwide network of volunteer, expert business mentors, that since 1964 has been dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals.

“I absolutely love her!” Rita said, with BIG EYES, referring to Jillian. I asked her cold – in fact, Rita had just come off walking the runway at last summer’s Saratoga Trunk fashion show, when I said ‘I have two words for you, Rita… Jillian Fecteau’

“OMG, she is the best – her enthusiasm is amazing, and her drive is incredible!” Rita said, with the aforementioned BIG EYES. “An inspiration to work with in every way.” Rita said.

All in all, this is still a story in progress, and it will be my pleasure to report on future successes that Earth Sunflower will enjoy, in the long-term battle to help the world move beyond plastic. With this being Holiday time, I urge you to give the gift of sustainability to your loved ones… and did I mention that everything Jillian sells fits perfectly into anyone’s stocking?

Call this an unqualified endorsement for a better world. Happy Holidays!

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