Greenmaker Supply

When Greenmaker Supply won one of the 2006 Innovate Illinois prizes awarded to the state’s most innovative small businesses, the green home-improvement retail store was not even a year old yet.

The store was a perfect fit for Chicago, a city where the mayor’s very public commitment to green principles includes a 2004 executive order that Chicago’s new public buildings must be built with eco-friendly designs and materials. Greenmaker Supply helps homeowners make that commitment, too.

“Green building is something I’ve always been interested in,” says co-founder Ori Sivan, who has a master’s degree in environmental engineering. “Business is the biggest engine for innovation, and while I could have gone into engineering or academics, I thought the thing to do was start a green business.”

After having trouble finding a source for low-VOC paint for his own home, Sivan decided to create a green remodeling business. He joined forces with his childhood friend Joe Silver, who had already worked in his family’s remodeling supply company for 15 years. Silver saw it as an opportunity to diversify his family’s business into an emerging market segment he believes in, so together, Sivan and Silver began leasing a showroom and warehouse from the Silver family business.

From those beginnings, Greenmaker Supply was born, making it easier for homeowners in the Chicago area to make eco-friendly choices when remodeling their homes. In addition to the low-VOC paint that had been so difficult for Sivan to find in his home city, Greenmaker offers low-flow bathroom fixtures, solar water heaters, cork and bamboo flooring, energy-efficient windows, and more. Sivan points out that even small, often- overlooked items like everyday adhesives have green counterparts, made from bio based materials like soy or linseed oil instead of petroleum or toxic chemicals. Such ingredients are far more likely to benefit local US economies, he says.

“I try to get information like that in front of people who might be the least likely to be our clients,” says Sivan. “These are issues for anybody. Everybody wants to create jobs in local economies, everybody wants nature, nobody likes toxins, and our business wants to have an impact on all that. The world we live in is defined by the business we do.”

—Andrew Korfhage