PORTLAND, Ore.-Deja Inc., an environmentally-conscious firm that recycled a variety of scrap materials into a line of shoes, is closing its doors due to a lack of operating cash. Deja was unable to line up the venture capital funds it needed for a fourth round of financing. That funding would have brought the 4-year-old operation close to profitability, said CEO Bruce McGregor. Deja's 60 different leatherless shoe styles-from ladies' sandals and sport shoes to men's hiking boots bearing names like ``Ecosneaks'' and ``Envirolites''-were made from a wide range of recycled materials, including tires, magazines, trim waste from diapers, polystyrene cups, coffee filters, plastic bottles and canvas.
Despite the enthusiasm of retailers for Deja shoes, sales were sluggish until recent months. The company had revenues of about $1.5 million in 1994.
Since its founding, the company had attracted considerable media attention and praise for its environmental sensitivity.
Deja received the American Marketing Association's Edison Award for Environmental Achievement and the United Nations Fashion Industry and the Environment Award.
Recycling advocates cautioned against drawing larger messages about the viability of enterprises that rely on recycled content from Deja's failure.
``You look at any business, there's going to be a turnover,'' said Philip Bailey, director of market development for the National Recycling Coalition. ``If you're in the restaurant business, eight out of 10 fail within the first three years. And I think Deja's going out of business has less to do with the product and the recycled content or the environmental aspects than with other factors.''
Mr. McGregor's advice to other eco-sensitive businesses: ``Make the product competitive and then, secondarily, put as much environmentalism-i.e., recycled content and sustainably harvested materials-as you can. You may start out with a product that is not as environmental as you'd like it to be, but it's competitive. And, in the end, part of sustainable development is a sustainable bottom line. Don't shoot for the moon first, and then fail.''