In Episode 49 of The Wendel Forum(originally aired on February 2, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show host Dick Lyons welcomes Stuart Rudick of Mindful Investors, LLC, a San Francisco Bay Area-based private equity fund focused on investments in natural food and product companies and technology that supports healthy lifestyles.

Stuart Rudick of Mindful Investors

Stuart Rudick of Mindful Investors

Stuart has been committed to investing in these types of companies for more than 30 years. His interest in companies with a focus on sustainability and healthy lifestyles emerged from his personal development as a yoga practitioner and vegetarian.  As healthy living became more important to him, he also moved toward investing in sustainably-minded companies.

In the early days, he found himself involved in companies in areas ranging from wind power to rice growers who had developed a closed-loop system that used the stalks for rice paper, rather than burning them.

Dick and Stuart discuss the investing trends they have observed during the past couple of decades and the rise of the natural food and organic products marketplace.  Stuart had a front row seat to the evolution of some of today’s well-known companies, such as Whole Foods Market, Seventh Generation and Odwalla.

Mindful Investors’ current interests focus on consumer facing companies in areas such as food and beverage, healthcare and technology platforms that support healthy lifestyles. Not surprising, there is a lot of activity in web and mobile development that supports functionality for applications such as bar codes to track the carbon footprint of a product, rich media like video to promote products, and platforms for distributing coupons and discounts.

Stuart shares the Mindful Investors approach to investing, including insights into time horizons and exit expectations related to investments in their portfolio.  He also acknowledges some of the challenges and strategies related to ensuring that when a company is sold, the parent company keeps the integrity of the product post-sale. 

As one of the early B Corps, he’s also a fan of the recently enacted legislation in California for Benefit Corporations (AB 361 – Huffman), which Wendel Rosen attorney Donald Simon had a hand in drafting.

So what is Stuart’s advice for young businesses? 

  • Realize from the start that you will need to raise capital, and a lot more than you think you’ll need. 
  • Bring in like-minded investors who are connected to your values in order to build trust. 
  • Bring in experienced senior level people to advise and guide you through your growth to better avoid errors and accelerate the growth of your company.

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Stuart Rudick:  Episode 49 of The Wendel Forum(27:37 mins; mp3)

Mindful Investors website:  www.mindfulinvestors.com

960 KNEW AM Radio website: http://www.960KNEW.com

Dick Lyons’ online profile: http://www.wendel.com/rlyons

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In Episode 45 of The Wendel Forum(originally aired on December 17, 2011, on Green 960 AM radio), show host Bill Acevedo chats with Matt Bauer, President and co-founder of BetterWorld Telecom.  BetterWorld provides voice and data services to small- and medium-sized businesses and focuses on relationships with companies and nonprofits that support social justice and sustainability.

Matt Bauer - President and Co-Founder of BetterWorld Telecom

Matt Bauer, President and Co-Founder of BetterWorld Telecom

The interview touches on a number of subjects. Matt describes BetterWorld’s approach to business, the importance of running a “mission-driven” company, and legislative and economic trends he sees as opportunities for small businesses to succeed, particularly in this sickly economy.

A part of the $2 trillion global telecommunications industry, BetterWorld’s competitors are companies like AT&T, Version and Quest – companies not generally recognized as leaders in sustainable social circles.  BetterWorld has been mission-driven from the beginning, balancing people, planet and prosperity and focusing on serving organizations with similar goals.

They have also created a number of alliances with organizations such as 1% For the Planet (they’ve been a member since 2006) and are a certified B Corporation (in fact, they are a founding member of B Lab).  The company considers these types of organizations so important that it has committed to giving 3% of gross revenues (not just profits) to support social justice and sustainable causes.

BetterWorld’s mission goes beyond simply donating money to organizations; the company is attempting to change the fundamental paradigm related to how people work as a way of enabling companies to reduce their carbon footprint.  The company invested in research and analysis resulting in a program they call BetterWork.  On their website you can download a white paper that describes how to lower costs and carbon emissions, while increasing profits and employee morale through telecommuting, video, web conferencing and other communication tools.

A busy man, Matt is also involved in a number of activities to influence his industry and support small business.  In a recent editorial that ran on http://www.thehill.com(The Hill’s Congress Blog) and http://www.triplepundit.com/, Matt addressed the issue of Net neutrality and the regulatory structure necessary to create a relatively even playing field for carriers like BetterWorld against the giants of telecom.

And because most of BetterWorld’s customers are small business (with under 100 people), they see first hand the economic challenges facing this market segment.  Realizing that capital to fund business growth is harder for small companies to get in this economic environment, Matt has been tracking some emerging non-traditional capital-raising solutions.  He and Bill explore some of the pros and cons of two newly popularized funding solutions for small businesses – crowd funding and Direct Public Offerings (DPOs), including some of the trends and legal issues associated with these two evolving areas of small business finance.

Show Notes:
For the next couple of weeks The Wendel Forum, like many of your favorite television and radio programs, will be running “Best Of” episodes.  On Saturday, December 24, tune in for a rebroadcast of Episode 36, in which Bill Acevedo and Donald Simon discuss the recent passage of Benefit Corporation legislation in California (AB 361).  Companies will be able to take this new form of corporate entity beginning January 1, 2012.  They are joined by Erik Trojian, Director of Policy for B Lab.

On December 31, we will rerun Episode 21, Part I of the compilation interviews conducted at last June’s San Francisco Business Times Cleantech & Sustainability Awards.  Companies featured in the program include:

  • InterContinental San Francisco
  • Propel Fuels
  • Primus Power Corp.
  • Numi Organic Tea

Post Links:
Listen to the interview with Matt Bauer: Episode 45 of The Wendel Forum(27:34 mins; mp3)

BetterWorld Telecom website: http://www.betterworldtelecom.com

BetterWork web page: http://info.betterworldtelecom.com/how-to-lower-costs-and-carbon-emissions-while-increasing-profits-and-employee-morale?hsCtaTracking=4fd1a1ce-e997-4c9f-ba6d-70c0cd896e52%7C43b6cc83-e720-4716-b881-1fb93cb5fd74

Green 960 AM Radio website: http://www.green960.com

Bill Acevedo’s online profile: http://www.wendel.com/wacevedo

In Episode 41 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on November 19, 2011 on Green 960 AM radio), show host Dick Lyons speaks with attorney Eugene Pak  about issues related to protecting trademarks and other types of intangible assets. Both Dick and Eugene are partners in Wendel Rosen’s Intellectual Property Practice group.

Photo of Eugene Pak

Eugene Pak, Intellectual Property attorney at Wendel Rosen

They explain the basic differences between patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets and then dig into a deeper discussion regarding some of the issues that entrepreneurs should consider as they develop their young companies and new products.

What makes a good strong trademark? Gone are the days when the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is readily willing to allowing marks that include “Green” “Eco” or “Solar” in the name. Those terms have become so commonly used within the green industry that they are now considered descriptive, rather than distinctive. Descriptive marks are extremely difficult to register. Dick and Eugene offer a little guidance on how to approach the selection of a name likely to be approved by the USPTO.

Even a trademark registration that goes undisputed will take nearly a year to file, so businesses should plan early for how to protect their company and product names. You won’t want to start over with your design, packaging, marketing and advertising materials if your mark is rejected or disputed, so it’s important to set out on the right path from the beginning.

Copyright issues, which can cover materials ranging from screenplays to software design, can be even more complex than many companies realize. Who owns the work product created by consultants and independent contractors? You might think you do, but don’t be too quick to assume. What about work for hire (WFH)? Just because you call something work for hire, doesn’t necessarily mean that you own it. The laws around this are tricky, so be careful. It’s best to have a contract that includes a clear assignment of rights. Who owns the work product and ideas of employees? That might not be so clear either.

What if you have a license to use software, technology or other work product created by a third-party? Is there such a thing as an implied license? Is your license exclusive, non-exclusive, assignable? The clearer that you can make these issues at the onset, the better chance you have of protecting the value of your company’s assets and avoiding costly negotiations or nasty litigation to protect your company’s future.

If you plan for your company to be wildly successful (and, let’s be honest, who wouldn’t), you’ll want to give proper attention to your intellectual property portfolio. How you handle these issues from the beginning can have a big impact on your ability to get funding from investors later. Being able to demonstrate clean ownership rights and clear marketplace value of your intangible assets will put your company in the best position possible.

Show Posts:

Listen to the discussion of Intellectual Property for Green Businesses: Episode 41 of The Wendel Forum(27:40 min, mp3)

Eugene Pak’s online profile: www.wendel.com/EPak

About Wendel Rosen’s Intellectual Property Practice: www.wendel.com/ip

United State Patent and Trademark Office website: http://www.uspto.gov/

Dick Lyons website bio: www.wendel.com/rlyons

Green 960 AM radio website: www.green960.com

In Episode 39 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on November 5, 2011 on Green 960 AM radio), show host Dick Lyons speaks with Cynthia Ringo, Managing Partner of DBL Investors.  Cynthia was also on a panel at the California Cleantech Innovation Conference held in Oakland on November 2-3, which the firm sponsored. And on the heels of his recent trip to Korea, Dick presented at the conference discussing issues cleantech companies should consider when looking to expand in global markets.

DBL Investors is a San Francisco-based venture capital firm with a double bottom line investment strategy. They focus on companies that value their communities and the environment, in addition to favorable profits.  What kind of companies are in their portfolio?  A pretty wide range, many with names you’ve heard, representing a variety of aspects of the cleantech economy, including alternative energy, solar, green vehicles, bio materials and fuels, and lighting.

Cynthia and Dick discuss the types of companies that appeal to DBL.  They find themselves working with companies in almost a proprietary manner to develop social, environmental, and economic benefit in communities in which the companies operate.  Portfolio companies are generally looking to transform neighborhoods and communities. 

Of course, DBL is an investment firm, so financials and returns are measured as one might expect.  But beyond that, twice a year DBL also issues a report to their investors on a number of qualitative and quantitative metrics that they employ to analyze the portfolio on factors such as the number of jobs created in low- to moderate-income areas, employee diversity and opportunity, and green initiatives.

The conversation explores the topic of international growth for cleantech companies.  Dick and Cynthia discuss issues related to when companies should start to consider the foreign market opportunities, as well as hurdles, including foreign certifications and entity ownership and partnership requirements imposed in some jurisdictions.  Many countries (such as China and Korea) require the company to form a joint venture with a party in that country, raising possible complications to protecting intellectual property, among other challenges. 

Cynthia mentions some of the cutting edge technology coming out of a few of the companies she works with, wich include Solar City, BrightSource Energy, Solaria, Tesla, OPX Bio, and Primus Power.

Take a listen and then drop us a line with your thoughts on impact investing and the market for cleantech innovation in the current economy.

 

SHOW NOTE:
Tune in at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, November 12, 2011, to hear Dick’s conversation with the Chairman and Executive Editor of GreenBiz.com, Joel Makower.

 

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Cynthia Ringo: Episode 39 of The Wendel Forum (27:43 min, mp3)

DBL Investors: http://www.dblinvestors.com/

California Cleantech Innovation Conference: http://www.grow-california.com/conferences/clean-tech-innovation/

Dick Lyons website bio: www.wendel.com/rlyons

Green 960 AM radio website: www.green960.com

In Episode 37 of The Wendel Forum(originally aired on Green 960 AM radio on October 22, 2011), show host Donald Simon talks with Randy Hawks of Claremont Creek Ventures to discuss current trends in the cleantech investment landscape. 

Claremont Creek Ventures is a venture capital firm investing in early stage information technology companies.  Their East Bay location allows them to work closely alongside many excellent research-driven “incubating institutions,” such as UC Berkeley, UC Davis and the Lawrence Livermore and Berkeley Laboratories.

According to Randy, the investment climate is actually seeing some positive moves, despite what you read in the papers.  He claims that there is a 12% uptick in 3rd quarter investing over 2nd quarter in the cleantech space this year.  And Northern California is a great place to be in this sector.  We still get 35 – 40% of the deals being done in the United States and about half of the total dollars.  While the early part of the year saw increased IPO activity, the overall venture capital investment climate is stronger now than it has been in the past couple of years.

Donald and Randy discuss the impact of the research and development funded by U.C. Berkeley and local labs.  Historically, these types of institutions have not been as nimble as some of the private schools and institutions when it comes to licensing the technology they develop.  Even so, the fundamental “game changing” research that they can inspire sets a great stage for technology to evolve into the marketplace.

Further, Randy shares his view on the market shift in the types of deals being done.  Previously bigger amounts of money went to fewer projects. More recently the trend has move toward smaller deals that look like early stage software technology deals.  The models of lean investing that have been previously used in the technology industry are becoming more popular in cleantech.  Deisgn, develop and deploy runs parallel to programs for customer engagement to speed the time to market and ensure a strong company launch.  While these tactics have been used for consumer internet companies for a number of years, other industries including cleantech and healthcare are adopting the tactics.

The two wrap up with a brief discussion of the common pitfalls that Randy has seen with early stage companies when they neglect some fundamental legal issues in their early development.  So often, young companies start out with a couple of friends and a handshake. That may be a fine way to start out, but ignoring issues regarding how the company will be structured and who owns what rights to innovation can lead to problems down the line.  As he says, “It matters if you’re successful.”  So what are the three key areas that deserve attention?  Randy suggests:

  1. Corporate Formation 
  2. Intellectual Property and Licensing
  3. Employment

If you’re interested in hearing more perspectives on the investment climate and meeting some of California’s “Game Changing” clean tech companies, check out the California Clean Tech Innovation Conference happening in Oakland on November 2-3.  Randy will be a panelist at the Energy Efficiency session.  Go to the conference website for more information or to register. 

California Cleantech Innovation Conferencecleantech conference icon
November 2-3, 2011
Kaiser Center Auditorium

At the Kaiser Center in Oakland CA, you will see California’s leading Clean-Tech policymakers… Hear from “Game Changing” Clean-Tech companies on Energy Efficiency, Water, Recycling & Environmental issues along with renewables such as Solar, Water, & Wind & Green transportation. Also speaking will be Clean-Tech experts from California’s leading Universities & Federal Labs, as well as numerous Angel Investors, Venture Capitalists & Private Equity Funds. Grow-California brings all the influencers together at one Clean-Tech Conference.  http://www.grow-california.com/conferences/clean-tech-innovation/

Post Links:

Interview with Randy Hawks of Claremont Creek: Episode 37 of The Wendel Forum (27:35 mins; mp3)

California Cleantech Innovation Conference website: http://www.grow-california.com/conferences/clean-tech-innovation/

Claremont Creek Ventures website: http://claremontcreek.com/view.cfm/3/Home

Green 960 AM radio website: http://www.green960.com/main.html

Donald Simon website bio: www.wendel.com/dsimon

In Episode 34 of The Wendel Forum(originally aired on October 1, 2011 on Green 960 AM radio), show host Dick Lyons speaks with Flory Wilson, Director of International Standards at B Lab.  Flory has been instrumental in helping to develop a new rating system for impact investing in North America and around the world – GIIRS.

In their discussion, Flory and Dick discuss the origin of “impact investing,” a term that really only came into popularity about three years ago. Impact investing refers to investors placing capital in companies and funds that deliver positive financial returns while delivering positive social and environmental impacts on their communities.  The concept is relatively simple, but achieving a reliable way to measure, verify and report on a company or fund’s impact has been a challenge, leaving investors with no real way to gauge their impact investments.

Investors knew how to judge returns on their money – profits (just look at the bottom line).  But what has been lacking is a way to analyze and report the other two contributors to the triple bottom line (referring to people, planet and profits). 

The GIIRS crew has spent the last couple of years setting up a framework for reporting and verifying the results of entities that might be desirable vehicles for impact investors.  The audit process takes into account such aspects of a company as governance structure, entity ownership structure, workforce engagement, community support, and environmental footprint.  They look at how the company manages the supply chain and distribution structure and the actual environmental impact of the company’s products and services. 

When assessing a fund, the rating system takes into account the fund manager’s track record, how they screen investors and portfolio companies, how rigorous their standards are, how they manage the investment over time, and their investment exit strategies.

Flory explains some of the reporting features and the review process, as well as the types of businesses and funds that are currently participating in the program.

GIIRS recently had a “coming out” party of sorts at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in New York.  During this event held September 20-22, 2011, fifteen pioneer investors with $1.50 billion in impact assets, declared their preference for GIIRS-rated funds and companies. They included JP Morgan, Prudential, the Rockefeller Foundation, private equity funds, family foundations and philanthropic organizations, as well as international public sector financial institutions.

Listen in to the episode and let us know your thoughts.  Will these types of metrics have a significant impact on the future of investing?  What might be the next steps in this evolution?

SHOW NOTE:
Tune in on Saturday, October 8, 2011, to get a sneak peak preview of Sustainable Industries Economic Forum featured speakers Bonnie Nixon, executive director of  The Sustainability Consortium, and Alex Bogusky, founder of the FearLess Revolution.  The Forum will be held on October 20 in San Francisco and there is still time to get your ticket by visiting the Sustainable Industries website.

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Flory Wilson: Episode 34 of The Wendel Forum(27:45 min, mp3)

GIIRS website:  www.giirs.org

Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting website info: http://www.clintonglobalinitiative.org/ourmeetings/2011/default.asp?Section=OurMeetings&PageTitle=CGI

Sustainable Industries Economic Forum website: http://sustainableindustries.com/events/economic-forums/sustainable-industries-economic-forum

Dick Lyons website bio: www.wendel.com/rlyons

Green 960 AM radio website: www.green960.com

In Episode 29 of The Wendel Forum(originally aired on August 27, 2011 on Green 960 AM radio), show host Dick Lyons sits down to chat with Nick Flores, Director of Investment and Entrepreneur Services for Investors’ Circle.

Investors’ Circle (IC) is a network of more than 150 angel investors, professional venture capitalists, foundations and family offices that are using private capital to promote the transition to a sustainable economy. Since 1992, Investors’ Circle has facilitated the flow of $146 million into 225 companies and small funds addressing social and environmental issues.

Of note, Investors’ Circle and SJF Institute announced a merger effective July 1, 2011.

In his conversation with Dick, Nick discusses the investment network and some of the many opportunities they have for sustainable businesses to obtain exposure to investors.

Companies in the portfolio are generally not start-ups, but are operational having started with friends and family investors. The investors who participate in IC want to know that the business founder has some skin in the game. Once the company is ready to raise its Series A round of stock, it’s time to submit to IC.

Of the types of companies that IC serves, there are six primary sectors. They are identified as:

  • Cleantech, Energy & Environmental solutions
  • Sustainable Consumer Products
  • Education (focused on K-12)
  • Health, Biotech & Wellness
  • Community and Economic Development
  • Social Media and Software

IC has a number of opportunities throughout the year for companies to showcase their business to the investor community. Currently, they are promoting both an Online Venture Fair (September 14) as well as their Fall 2011 Venture Fair in Philadelphia.

Show Note:

Tune in to Green 960 AM radio on Saturday, September 3, 2011 at 11:30 a.m. for an interview with Rory Bakke, President of Sustainable Concepts Studio and Director of Sustainability at GreenBiz. She’s been working with Underwriters Lab to develop the environmental health and sustainability standards for companies. While there are many forms of product certification, this comprehensive set of standards is meant for the enterprise or organizational level.  Should be an interesting discussion.

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Nick Flores: Episode 29 of The Wendel Forum (mp3)

Investors’ Circle website: http://www.investorscircle.net/

Press release re Investors’ Circle and SJF Institute merger: http://investorscircle.net/accelsite/media/2796/IC%20SJF%20Merger.pdf

SJF Institute website: www.sjfinstitute.org

Dick Lyons website bio: www.wendel.com/rlyons

Green 960 AM radio website: www.green960.com

In Episode 28 of The Wendel Forum(originally aired on August 20, 2011, on Green 960 AM radio), guest Thomas Simone, President and CEO of Simone & Associates,  shares with show host Dick Lyons  his perspective on the investment landscape for health and natural products.  He’s got a long history in the business, having work with companies including United Natural Foods (distributor for Whole Foods) and Spectrum Organics (oils and supplements), among many others.  His early involvement in this industry started around 20 years ago, after watching his daughter’s interest in natural products.

Tom Simone of Simone & Associates

Tom Simone, CEO of Simone & Associates

Over the years, he’s seen this industry as one of the highest growth areas in the economy.  What common denominators for success does he see?  The successful companies all start with a great team. Products don’t build a company, the people do.  An operating action plan is critical.  Tom is able to bring infrastructure and practical advice to start up company teams to help them turn their visions into sustainable enterprises.

He discusses the triple bottom line and its impact on investment decisions. He offers insight into how investors might go about valuing a business, how profits and prospects affect the valuation, and what kind of return investors might expect out of a business opportunity.

This is a man who knows the natural food and product landscape; in fact he’s been instrumental in shaping it.  We hope you enjoy what he has to say.  

SHOW NOTES:

Tune in to Green 960 AM radio tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. (Pacific) to hear an interview with Nick Flores of Investor’s Circle. 

 

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Tom Simone:  Episode 28 of The Wendel Forum  (mp3, 27 min 48 sec)

About show host Dick Lyons: www.wendel.com/rlyons

Green 960 AM radio website: www.green960.com

 

Jose Corona of Inner City Advisors

Jose Corona of Inner City Advisors

In Episode 27 of The Wendel Forum(originally aired on Green 960 AM radio on August 13, 2011), Jose Corona, Cheif Executive Officer of Inner City Advisors (ICA), shares with show host Dick Lyons how the organization promotes the competitive advantages of locating a business in an inner city neighborhood.

Founded in 1996 in Oakland, the nonprofit group was born out of a Harvard Business School initiative.  Its mission is to help both companies and communities by promoting the advantages of locating in inner city neighborhoods and by providing companies with the advice and resources to grow their businesses.

Currently, they use a three-pronged approach:

1) They offer portfolio companies a network of experienced advisors that can provide both strategic and tactical, real-world advice to address the company’s business problems.

2) They provide an advanced entrepreneur program, modeled after a Stanford business course, to provide company leaders with the education they need.

3) They are developing a network of capital sources, including an ICA fund, to help portfolio companies grow when they’re ready.

Among their portfolio are several familiar names in the green community.  Who have they helped?  Well, here are a few names that you may recognize:

ICA is doing some great work.  And the proof is in the numbers.  Jose shares some inspiring statistics in his interview.  The companies in their portfolio are creating jobs and infusing wages and wealth into inner city neighborhoods. 

Let us know what other innovative business growth programs you see out there!

SHOW NOTE: Tune in to The Wendel Forum on Green 960 AM radio tomorrow, August 20, at 11:30 a.m. for an interview with health and natural product investment expert Thomas Simone.

Post Links:

Listen to interview with Jose Corona: Episode 27 of The Wendel Forum (mp3, 27.47 min.)

Inner City Advisors website: http://innercityadvisors.org/

ICA Case Study about Premier Organics: http://innercityadvisors.org/companies/portfolio/premier-organics/

Dick Lyons bio: www.wendel.com/rlyons

Green 960 AM radio website: www.green960.com

You’ve got to love a sustainable business whose slogan is “Change Starts With Your Underwear.” 

PACT is a Berkeley, California-based company that makes organic underwear with a social mission.  Listen to PACT co-founder and CEO Jason Kibbey in a discussion that traces this company’s path from a business school idea to a thriving company with a national distribution on the internet and in boutique retail outlets. 

In Episode 26 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on August 6, 2011, on Green 960 AM radio), Jason shares with show host Dick Lyons  how the company’s values for sustainability and social impact affect all aspects of the supply chain, including sourcing the organic cotton, product manufacturing, distribution and packaging. 

The company initially launched as an e-commerce product and is now found in about 50 stores, including boutiques and Nordstrom’s.  Not only do they make a sustainable product (even the shipping bags are 100% compostable), in addition their social impact mission includes incorporating business solutions such as working with a third-party logistics service that offers employment training and paid work opportunities to adults with developmental disabilities. 

Other discussion topics include the PACT model for impact giving, what the company did as a start up to tap into early funding sources, and the desire to add fun to environmental activism.

Want to know what the name PACT represents?  You’ll have to listen to the show to find out.

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Jason Kibbey:  Episode 26 of The Wendel Forum  (27 min 36 sec)

PACT company website: http://www.wearpact.com/

About show host Dick Lyons: www.wendel.com/rlyons

Green 960 AM radio website: www.green960.com