Managers of a company in Brooklyn, Iowa, selling products that compete with oil-based soaps, paint thinners and grease says their biggest challenge is getting consumers to try something new that’s not made with petroleum. Soy Clean owner Rusty Clayton says the company’s products have been easier to market elsewhere.

“Iowa’s not a very green state. You know, Minnesota’s a lot greener than Iowa and Colorado’s getting very green. Of course California, Oregon and Washington are green,” Clayton says. “Now the mid-Atlantic states in the northeast have turned quite green.”

Soy Clean marketing director Curt Branyan says the other challenge for the three-year-old company is figuring out which of their 26 soybean-based products will sell best. “We’ll think we’ve got everything figured out and then all of a sudden have somebody call in and say ‘We’ve got to have more of this,'” Branyan says. “One of the products that we’ve had great success with has been the Soy Seal wood sealant and that’s really just taken off where maybe we didn’t think it that was our number one product two years ago. It’s one of our top products now.”

Soy Clean owner Rusty Clayton says their bean-based paint stripper is another big seller because it has a very low “VOC” rating — a measure of the percentage of “Volatile Organic Compounds” in a product like paint, or paint remover. “The VOC…that’s your petroleum solvents that evaporate into the air and cause problems and that’s what the mid-Atlantic states and California have those laws against,” Clayton says. “For instance, a normal paint stripper’s probably got a VOC of approximately 500. The new laws in those states say it can’t be above the level 50. Ours comes in at a level below five.”

Clayton says there are other benefits to the paint stripper when compared to petroleum-based competitors. “We can ship it…because it’s non-toxic and non-flammable,” Clayton says. “You don’t have to turn pilot lights off. You don’t have to open all the windows so people can do those projects in the wintertime when it’s not nice outside.” Clayton says.

Soy Clean product sales have more than doubled in each of the past three years. The Soy Clean company, which is part of the West Central Co-op in Ralston — fits the profile of many new businesses in the so-called “bio-economy.” It’s small, fairly new and located in a rural community.

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