Daniel Blake and Craig Martineau are hardly the first entrepreneurs to experience personal discomfort for the sake of their startup, but they might have a difficult time finding company with other founders who have spilled 11 gallons of rotten banana juice in their cars or dry-heaved while soaked in the blood of discarded red meat.
Their company is EcoScraps. Their business is taking leftover food from retail stores and turning it into compost that they sell. Not everyone is cut out to work in garbage, but they’re no doubt plenty of businesses that can appreciate the $1.5 million in seed funding the duo received recently from DBL Investors, Kickstart Seed Fund, and Peterson Ventures, to continue transforming trash into cash.
Blake found inspiration for the venture while sharing an all-you-can-eat breakfast with his brother in Provo, Utah. He couldn’t believe how much food they left unfinished, and he began to wonder if there was a way to start a business making use of waste.
Since then, he’s learned how to dumpster dive without destroying his shoes, and how to drive down the highway in a U-Haul overloaded with compost without blowing out a tire.
Unsavory Raw Materials
Garbage isn’t the only obstacle the young entrepreneurs have had to learn how to overcome. They’ve dealt with naysayers as well. Martineau says, “People told us over and over again you that we were inexperienced, that we couldn’t succeed because we were right out of high school or just starting college. And while it is true that we were inexperienced when we started, I’ve learned that the ability to adapt and learn on the fly and pivot can be just as if not more valuable than the rigid thinking that sometimes accompanies working at a place for 20 years.”
The startup founders shared their business concept with a lot of people, including attendees at a BYU Business Plan Competition. When experienced entrepreneurs showed enthusiasm and audiences responded well to their story, they felt encouraged to tackle the bootstrapping challenges (and then some!) they faced.
It’s probably for the best that Blake and Martineau can make light of their malodorous labor–they might have a lot of work ahead of them. According to the USDA, Americans throw away nearly 30 million tons of uneaten food annually. And just in case that figure hasn’t triggered a gag reflex, between 8 to 9 percent of the country’s pollution is generated by rotting edibles, just behind car pollution at 12%. That’s a lot of stinky food.
Everything Turns Up Roses
Keeping garbage cans in the parking lot near their BYU dorm might not have won Blake and Martineau any girlfriends, but maybe they’re business success and positive impact on the environment will compensate. Their nutrient rich compost offers an alternative to chemical fertilizers that degrade soil quality, which they’ve managed to place in 400 plus stores such as Costco and Home Depot. EcoScraps collects garbage from 96 locations and plans to expand outside of its home turf (Arizona, California, Colorado, and Utah). Its compost facilities already process over 100 tons of food waste daily.
In addition to branching out nationally, the founders plan to use new investments to attempt growing their product line into dry fertilizers, liquid composts and potted soil. I’m sure backers would understand if they spent a few dollars on some well-deserved spa days and expensive soaps.