And we've got the startups to prove it.
President of Garbage to Garden
How did Garbage to Garden come to be? What was the spark that ignited your company?
Before Garbage to Garden, I was living in a small apartment on the East End in Portland with no space to compost. One day a roommate commented to me that she wished composting could be as easy as placing a bin at the curb, like recycling. It was almost a passing comment, but moments after she planted the seed I realized that a large percentage of people would really value such an eco-friendly convenience, and began to plan how the service could work. Six weeks later, I launched Garbage to Garden.
How important have good employees been to your success? How do you find people to bring into your organization that truly care about the organization the way you do?
Garbage to Garden is a fairly labor intensive business, and like any new venture, rife with challenges to be overcome. To succeed one needs a positive culture and a strong sense of purpose. I feel that we have been lucky to attract people into the organization who want to work doing something they believe in and who can truly stand behind our mission. It has translated into consistent pride in our work and track record. I think everyone at Garbage to Garden knows that they are in control of the organizations destiny and feel an ownership of that, and that has been the single most crucial factor to our success.
What popular entrepreneurial advice do you disagree with? If you could offer a first-time entrepreneur only one piece of advice, what would it be?
Entrepreneurs are often told to seek advice from experts, and while it is definitely required to consult business mentors and others with experience, entrepreneurs should not make the mistake of doubting their instincts either. I believe that a good entrepreneur must have the humility to recognize weaknesses and ask for help, and equally possess the confidence to go it alone in the face of over-caution or pessimism from others. Most people won’t believe in your idea until you have already made it reality — if you know in your heart what you need to do, do it.
You now service 6 Cities and have requests from 14 others in Maine. How are you managing your growth?
The greatest challenge for me has been morphing from a start-up “do-everything” entrepreneur to the manager of an organization with 12 staff, and growing! The set of skills required to be good at the latter is entirely different, and it can be hard to let go of the reigns enough to give others a chance to take over. Also, if you are used to working closely with a small team for long hours, its easy to get comfortable with those people and be friendly enough to forget that you are the manager. For Garbage to Garden to grow as much as it has, and continue to grow, I have had to get comfortable with being direct with everyone in all situations, especially when its unpleasant or something needs improvement.
Congratulations on your recent Successful Green Business Award and your pick as one of the 12 businesses recognized in August at a national SCORE event in Washington, D.C.. What do you see next for Garbage to Garden?
The future is bright for Garbage to Garden. I believe we will open a branch in another geographical area within the next year, work more directly with towns and cities, and partner with more organic waste processors as we increase our diversion rate from 2000 tons/yr to 5000 tons/yr over the next 12 months. There is a huge need for organic waste diversion, as it comprises 40% of what we throw away. Garbage to Garden has pioneered some very good strategies to educate communities and divert organic waste, and we are excited to continue to grow and fill that need. I am grateful to SCORE for the generous support we have received, and I am thrilled to get away for a few days in August!