Feria has found a way to make money all year long solely by asking our
great volunteers and friends for their help.
We've had volunteers say, "I don't eat this kind of food." Well neither do a lot of us, but when walkers take a plastic bag with them when out for their daily exercise, they are amazed at what they find on the streets. Our maids and gardeners are also helping us collect.
So what do we collect? It's so simple:
SNACK BAGS –
Chips, pretzels, crackers, peanuts.
If you live at Lakeside and want to help the Feria earn money through Terracycling, please contact Lynda Deriger (376) 765-6455, firstname.lastname@example.org
Below is the incredible story of TerraCycle's founder. There are some parallels to the success the Feria has had over the years - hard work, dedication, a vision to do something nobody else was doing. If we can't find money through donations or grants, because we believe in what the Feria is trying to achieve, we will pick up garbage on our streets!
The Incredible Story Of How TerraCycle CEO Tom Szaky Became A Garbage Mogul
At first, it sounds like another startup fairytale. A 19-year-old Princeton freshman starts a company with the hopes of making a tangible difference in the world, and it grows into a global, multi-million dollar venture. But stories like TerraCycle founder and CEO Tom Szaky's are never as they seem.
It takes more than just a genius idea to succeed. Businesses that are looking to make a transformational global impact require hard work, incredible business savvy and the courage to press on when everyone calls you crazy.
TerraCycle began as a sustainable fertilizer company, making the product out of worm refuse and putting it in used bottles. It even got a license to use Coca-Cola bottles (which have a patented contour shape).
Now, TerraCycle's business model has totally changed, and it's making a bigger impact than ever. It's based around 'upcycling,' or the repurposing of waste materials as something else. For example, chip bags can be remade into a tote bag.
And it's working. So how did Szaky do it?
TerraCycle was inspired by one of Tom's friends in Canada who discovered that using worm poop helped a particular plant grow fast and healthy. In order to enter business plan competitions at his university he created the model for TerraCycle. He realized that using organic waste -- which potentially has zero or even negative costs -- as a raw material to create products could be a profitable and responsible business model. He saved, borrowed and begged to raise $20,000 to create a Worm Gin to house his worms and convince his school’s cafeteria service to give him their waste. Four months later he had dropped out to dedicate himself full time to TerraCycle.
The earliest struggle was getting investors on board with this unheard of, kind of wacky business plan. People aren’t generally willing to put their money into something for which there isn't’t any proven history. Here’s a 19-year old kid trying to get you to invest in a product that is liquefied worm poop in a used soda bottle. He had people laugh at him when he went to pitch them.
Later on, the challenge was getting major retailers to take a chance on an unknown, outlandish product -- the worm poop fertilizer. He had no retail history, no client base, no one had ever heard of TerraCycle. He knew that trying to build slowly, garden center at a time would never work. After all, he had to eat. So he went right to the top, to The Home Depot and Walmart, the world’s largest retailers. Of course everyone told him he was crazy and they would never buy it.
The drastic change to his business model was prompted in large part by opportunity. The environmental and fiscal implications for expanding trash collections and products were massive. He realized that fertilizer was only a tiny fraction of where he could have the impact, and he had to go for something bigger.
He started running [collection] programs for brands like Honest Tea, CLIF BAR and Stonyfield Farm. Within a year he was working with Kraft Foods brands like Capri Sun and Nabisco, with Frito-Lay and with Mars. It was clear his new model was ripe with opportunity.
TerraCycle has developed a vast network of people through its Brigade collection programs like the Feria is part of. How did he gain all of those loyal followers, and how does he plan to keep them?
TerraCycle has never paid for an advertisement. They do not advertise or sponsor and spend almost nothing on marketing. They rely entirely on PR, social media, grassroots and guerrilla marketing and, of course,e word-of-mouth to grow their network of collectors. Also they've gained many of those followers by default -- they want to recycle as much as they can, and TerraCycle gives them that opportunity. They also make it as easy as possible -- the Feria can ship everything for free, in whatever box we want -- and TerraCycle donates money to the Feria.
TerraCycle’s corporate culture is fairly relaxed, they try to keep it fun in order to make it easier to work long hours and deal with many challenges. Of course, they expect employees to be professional, show up on time, and so on and so forth, but they also recognize that people do their best work when they are comfortable and relaxed, so TerraCycle fosters a social atmosphere where everyone can enjoy themselves.
You’ll see Nerf guns lying around the office, a mini-golf course, a “fun calendar,” and graffiti on the walls. Taking a twenty-minute break for a round of mini-golf helps employees connect, and working around graffiti, upcycled tables, artwork, and all kinds of neat decorations helps foster the creative thinking. They also don’t have a required dress code beyond, “appropriate."
Keeping culture the same when growing from a two-man operation in a dorm room to a global company is a massive challenge. TerraCycle accomplishes this in several ways: a colorful, bright, creative office space made from garbage, by hiring young, passionate, energetic employees, by encouraging social interaction between employees with monthly parties and weekly rock climbing (as well as other activities), and arming employees with Nerf guns. Creativity is demanded by the industry and the challenges they’re taking on, and in order to deal with unknown obstacles and questions, they need the creativity this office culture encourages.
The TerraCycle business model is very unique in that collecting and repurposing material like theirs had never been addressed before. However, they’ve always remained flexible with their business model, goals, mission, and how they create products. They’ve moved from a manufacturing model to a licensing model, which has helped make TerraCycle profitable. Flexibility is key for any young business to succeed. They aren't afraid to change and adjust.
TerraCycle has been expanding internationally through Europe and the Americas. In addition to expanding their outreach, they’re always working on expanding the scope of what they can collect, challenging themselves with new waste streams that no one else would ever consider working with, such as cigarette butts and dirty diapers.
TerraCycle is looking forward to introducing their 360-degree waste reduction systems for households for which the three options are TerraCycle: Unsponsored Brigades, TerraCycle: Home, and TerraCycle: On the Go. These models are programs that consumers have to pay for, but are a way that people can bring household waste to zero.