1141 Catalina Drive #299
Livermore, CA 94550
Goza Gear, certified since 2003, is a Livermore based screen-printing business. Owners Steve and Bonnie Melgoza's ardent pursuit of cleaner cottons and safer printing inks recently gained the attention of the East Bay Business Times, which aptly describes their story below:
Motivation for becoming certified as a Bay Area Green Business: The requirements of certification correspond to their core values, and they were already implementing the recommended measures. They saw the certification as strengthening their bottom line through conservation and efficiency, giving them an edge over the competition and solidifying their status as an environmental leader.
Together, Steve and Bonnie Melgoza have built Goza Gear into one of the greenest companies of its kind - and one that is experiencing rapid growth.
Steve Melgoza told his customers about his environmentally friendly practices, which include the use of nontoxic water-based inks, citrus- and soy-based solvents and organic cotton. Goza Gear, in fact, was the first certified "green" screen-printing shop in California. During the first few years, none of this mattered much to potential customers turned off by the fact that some of Goza's products cost twice as much as those of his competitors. Melgoza told them the price was justified because it reflected the "true" cost of the products. He explained that regular cotton harmed the water supply and environment and that this was not reflected in the final price.
He even went so far as to document what he was doing for the environment. He calculates that he diverted 690 pounds of toxins in 2005, and more than 800 pounds in just the first half of this year. The products are also friendlier to labor. The manufacturers of green clothing, including those used by Goza, do not use "sweat shops." His explanations fell on deaf ears, at least for the first few years. "It was a challenge selling something that I truly believed in but nobody else did," he said.He did not get discouraged. "He kept saying, 'It's coming, it's coming,'" Bonnie Malgoza said.
And indeed, it did. As organic foods became more popular with consumers, people and companies became interested in everything green, including clothes. Steve Melgoza believes that clothing will be the next big green trend, and there are already signs of a breakthrough. Their business has doubled this year, spurred in part by companies that are seeking environment-friendly contractors. Business from Goza's Web site has soared more than 75 percent during the first part of 2006. The Melgozas estimate that 25 percent of their customers in 2006 are "green," up from 17 percent in 2005.
As business prospects improved, Bonnie Melgoza joined Goza Gear full-time six years ago to help with the books and do embroidery work on T-shirts and other products. Their children, Robert, 31, Renee, 32, and her husband, Wayne Gregory, all of Livermore, also work part-time at Goza Gear. While they have not necessarily replaced their salaries from the corporate world, they are getting close.
They have become active in several organizations, including the Sustainable Business Alliance, the Tri-Valley Haven women's shelter, and Relay for Life, a breast cancer fund raiser.
Meanwhile, Steve keeps up the drumbeat about green clothes. "More and more people are thinking about what they are eating. We want them to start thinking about what they are wearing, too," he said.