03/09/2009 - 00:00

de Corti wants Enjo to clean and be green

03/09/2009 - 00:00

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Barb de Corti has built a $100 million cleaning empire, and now plans to make Australia's cleaning industry greener.

de Corti wants Enjo to clean and be green

Barb de Corti has built a $100 million cleaning empire, and now plans to make Australia's cleaning

industry greener.

BARB de Corti believes the life skills she learned growing up on a remote farm in Austria played a major role in helping her establish the $100 million Enjo cleaning empire in Australia.

"I grew up on an organic farm. I was the oldest of eight kids and I suppose I developed a sense for business at the age of seven when I took it upon myself to be the family debt collector," Ms de Corti said.

"Because we really struggled financially I made it my business to knock on the doors of neighbours who would take produce and promised to pay later.

"I was the type of girl to make them pay and with my seven brothers and sisters, or as I liked to think of them, my heavies, no-one ever defaulted on me.

"Looking back, I think I can credit those early days in the village in Austria for instilling the values in me that I needed to succeed - perseverance, self-motivation and discipline."

Those values led the entrepreneur to make a life-changing decision in 1993, when she was introduced to an Enjo cleaning glove in Austria.

Immediately impressed with the chemical-free microfibre technology, Ms de Corti was on the phone to the German manufacturer and a year later she became the sole Australian distributor of Enjo products.

But her business philosophy echoes the words of Gabrielle Bonheur "Coco" Chanel, who once said: "In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different".

"And that's what Enjo brings to the market, difference," Ms de Corti told WA Business News.

In 2001, she also brought difference to the structure of Enjo by recruiting former National Australia Bank corporate and international banking manager, Damian Pike, as joint chief executive officer.

It was a strategic move aimed at securing a larger slice of the domestic market in the chemical-dominated cleaning industry.

Ms de Corti said the new dynamic had brought the "best of both worlds" to the business with Mr Pike's banking and advertising experience complementing her entrepreneurial spirit and "emotional input".

"At first I struggled, I must say, because you want to keep your finger on the pulse, but you get a reality check at times when you're too much involved and you just have to move to the next level then," she said.

"I knew, though, what strength Damian would bring to the company and I had no problems with sharing the load; I was actually quite relieved."

Mr Pike said the co-CEO structure ensured Enjo's business strategies and marketing plans were thoroughly debated and assessed before being implemented.

"In that sense there are lots of checks and balances," Mr Pike told WA Business News.

"Also strategically I find it works much better because it's not like there's just one CEO who decides strategy and what we're going with.

"It works a lot better because you test things much more vigorously before you implement a strategy.

"It's a very different energy too; Barb is generous and very people-oriented where I'm probably more facts and figures kind of oriented, so that difference in thinking makes a better blend."

As the Enjo business has grown, so too has Ms de Corti's commitment to green technology. In 2007, she was trained by Al Gore to deliver his climate change slideshow, which is designed to drive cultural change around the controversial issue.

Her passion and drive also led her to expand the business into home cleaning services and introduce a line of green cleaning products into supermarkets through Method Australia, where she is also chief executive officer.

However, both Ms de Corti and Mr Pike conceded that Enjo had barely penetrated Australia's cleaning industry, with significant growth opportunities ahead.

It is estimated that 10 per cent of Australian households use Enjo products.

"I think the growth has been quite good in the past few months; it's not saturated with our consultants out there, it's not saturated with our product. People are getting greener and want to make a difference, but they also want value for money, and that's where our product comes in," Ms de Corti said.

"We really want to be a big green and clean company in Australia and we are very well on our way to establishing that.

"We are still here 15 years later, we're gaining market share and I believe with education and with more people understanding about the environment and people's health, we can continue to gain market share.

"We have a brilliant record. It's a new business, it's a green business, it's a smart business, it's something nobody else is doing, it's unique, so we want to go out there and earn our money and be a part of something which makes a difference and is different."

Mr Pike said as a direct selling business, which is structured similar to a franchise system, growth could only be achieved by increasing the number of Enjo consultants past the current mark of about 1,000.

"It couldn't be a better time for that. I think maybe the biggest growth opportunities are in the green category, and that's pretty much where everyone now is focused in regards to being able to make a difference, so I guess Enjo's time has really come," he said.

"This is our time to shine, basically."

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