Magazine article Black Enterprise

Keeping It Green: Urban Planner Uses Business to Push Her Environmental Ideals

Magazine article Black Enterprise

Keeping It Green: Urban Planner Uses Business to Push Her Environmental Ideals

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

FOR MANY ENTREPRENEURS, THE NO. 1 CONCERN IS ADDING clients at any cost. But for Charnelle Hicks, it's more important to build an evironmentally responsible business, even if that has meant turning down work.

"When I started the firm one of the things I decided I would not do is work on a new greenfield development," says Hicks, president and CEO of CHPlanning Ltd., a Philadelphia-based urban planning firm. Greenfield developments are areas of undeveloped land such as farmland that are razed to build upon. Instead, "we wanted to promote the redevelopment of cities and towns," she adds.

Now, some clients that CHPlanning initially turned down have sought it out again, this time to embark on neighborhood revitalization projects. Delivering solid results for these and other clients richly affects CHPlanning's bottom line. Revenues were $920,000 in 2006 and just under $1 million toward the end of 2007.

Hicks, 41, first decided she wanted to launch an urban planning company while studying at Swarthmore College. After a few years working at an engineering firm and then as a management consultant for a professional services firm, Hicks branched out on her own, starting CHPlanning in 1999. As Hicks grew the company, she witnessed the conflict between some potential contracts and her desire values. Her solution: If clients didn't want to work to revitalize existing communities, the firm would walk away from projects.

"We're a green company," asserts Hicks. …

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