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State of the State: Entrepreneurs

Pictures flash across the screen: the blue whale, the ocelot, the bald eagle. "Extinct is Forever," posted by Plant It Film Productions, is just one of more than 2,700 videos on EarthProtect.com.

Colorado-based Earth Protect launched its website worldwide in April, focusing on providing an entertaining place where people can stay connected and educated about environmental issues through videos.

Carol Barbeito and her son, founder Grant Barbeito, began Earth Protect in August 2007. Barbeito has a film background and co-founded Plant It Film Productions.

"He was impressed with ‘An Inconvenient Truth' and other films," Carol Barbeito says. "Those films reached a lot of people."

Grant Barbeito decided to marry the concepts of film and social networking to create a way to teach people to get involved with helping the environment. The mother-and-son team call it "edutainment" - informing site-visitors in a fresh and exciting way.

By 2012, the site expects to have 42 million users and anticipates providing a huge library of content for the website, as well as growing its partnerships to more than 600.

Earth Protect offers a wide variety of information on 13 categories of environmental concern. They are user-generated and welcome all views and interests.

The first Earth Protect website was opened to the public in September 2008. Barbeito says one of the first steps was getting the Web development team to begin to take the concept into a more visual form.

The company began by constructing an advisory council from a variety of different backgrounds. Companies such as the Colorado Carbon Fund and the Jane Goodall Institute make up the still-growing team of contributors.

The operation is run by four full-time employees as well as board members and other executives. Barbeito says they are still at a stage where they're using primarily contractors.

Former Nike and Coors exec Richard Franklin, founder of Envirobrand, a similar environmentally conscious business, is one of the contributing board members to Earth Protect. Earth Protect's marketing specialists as well as the accountants, CPAs and other employees recently hired are knowledgeable and help to focus on the nonprofit sector. The organization isn't a nonprofit, however; Barbeito calls it a socially conscious for-profit that raises awareness and connects people to information for free but relies on investors, sponsors and advertisers.

"There really is no other site out there to our knowledge that provides this platform for interactive video focused on the planet," Franklin says.
As a newbie, they've managed to stay under the radar of the competition for the most part. Having a different look has helped them gain respect in the Internet video world.

"We have made sure our business is secure financially," Barbeito says. "Environmental causes are very poorly funded. We expect to return a good value to our investors."

Earth Protect focuses on a more youthful audience using a Web-based design with engaging videos for teens who have grown up with videos and are heavily involved in social networking.

Earth Protect has initiated plans for a worldwide environmental youth contest and provides a blog for students on the website. Barbeito says because the site is monitored, it can help to get kids involved safely.

"We have a large youth organization in our country. They're the future and they have the most at stake," Barbeito says. "We have to change how we live on this Earth, and we have to change pretty fast."

- Carli Auran

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