Blue Earth Compost was one of the top three winners of the reSET’s 2016 Impact Challenge. The competition awards funding and brings regional attention to innovative, impactful, and viable startup social ventures.
Samuel King, Guru of Marketing and Business Development at Blue Earth Compost told Innovation Destination Hartford about the startup’s launch, challenges, and future plans.
IDH: When and how did the startup launch?
KING: Blue Earth Compost was started in October 2013 by a former West Hartford resident, Susannah Castle. She started it as an extension of a graduate thesis. Within a few months of the establishment, Alex Williams, our current Owner and Operator, who had returned to West Hartford after completing his own degree at Fordham, began volunteering with Susannah. In April 2014, Susannah sold the company to Alex and moved to Los Angeles with her family. Alex and his family have owned the business since.
IDH: Tell us about the business concept.
KING: Blue Earth Compost is modeled after other successful compost services companies across the United States to address the important issues of soil degradation, overuse of landfills and incinerators, and climate change. We provide collection service of organic materials to homes, businesses, and events. We turn those materials into soil and deliver them back to our customers as part of the service.
Normally in Connecticut, these valuable resources would be burned in an incinerator, creating greenhouse gases and removing nutrients like potassium and nitrogen from the soil cycle.
Our concept has been that people generally want to do the right thing. If we can provide a clean, easy way for people to compost we can expand access throughout the state and solve some of these very important problems
IDH: Describe your company and the ways in which you are making a social impact.
KING: We believe that business can be an engine for social and environmental benefit as well as profit. When we help people to compost, we are changing the way our community thinks about waste. Every time we make that connection, we move closer to a Connecticut that is resilient and sustainable. It’s a slow process, but we think it will speed up in the coming years.
We also see ourselves as part of an emerging entrepreneur community in Hartford that is working really hard toward an economic renaissance in the city. We are really inspired by businesses like Hartford Prints!, The Brothers Crisp, Hartford Denim Company, FRESH Farm Aquaponics, Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, Dewy Neo, and Hog River Brewing Company. These businesses provide a dynamic economy and they must be fostered.
As far as our impact, we keep good track of the amount of food scraps we collect. Since our inception, we have diverted nearly 200 tons of waste from the incinerator. That’s the equivalent of not burning about 11,000 gallons of gasoline or keeping about 220,000 tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere.
By the end of the year, we will begin hiring more employees. We really want to spread our opportunities to marginalized communities, such as veterans, previously incarcerated individuals, and centers of poverty in our city.
IDH: Why did you get involved in the reSET Impact Challenge?
KING: Alex and I don’t have business degrees, and before we got involved with Blue Earth Compost, neither of us had ever run a business. reSET’s resources and guidance have been immensely valuable to our success and that of other startups.
When I heard about the Impact Challenge, I knew it was a perfect opportunity to help build the credibility of our business and garner some capital for our development.
We are currently trying to raise $125K for an expansion of our business to hire employees, purchase vehicles, do marketing, and hire some consultants to make a business plan for us to own and operate our own composting facility in the Hartford area.
IDH: What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a startup?
KING: I think Alex and I would have different answers to this question, because he has been with Blue Earth Compost longer and we have different skill sets. But I would say that our biggest challenge right now is preparing for the next stage of the company. We have proven that this business is viable, but in order to continue our success we will have to make investments in people, spaces, and equipment that we will have to depend on. Making the right decisions will make all the difference.
IDH: Where do you see your company in the next two to five years?
KING: We think our future looks very bright. We will more than double our revenue this year and expect to continue growing at a high rate for years to come. This means an even greater social and environmental impact.
Our hope is that composting will take off and that in the coming years cities and towns will move toward municipal composting a la San Francisco, CA and Portland, OR. If that is the case, we feel that we will be well positioned to offer that service.
We are also very encouraged by the statewide food waste ban for large businesses and institutions and feel that we can offer the best service to them as well.
We also hope that in the coming years we will be able to own and operate our own commercial composting facility. Currently we haul our food scraps to others for processing. Owning our own facility would give us control over our entire process and allow us to lower costs, offer more products, and advance the mission of our business.