TerraCycle's CEO Tom Szaky is a person who garners lots of interest from those in green business because he's taken a company and grown it beyond people's expectations and through a number of significant challenges. Today, TerraCycle is doing very well and continues to diversify its product offerings beyond the plant food and fertilizers that put it on the map.
Szaky's new book Revolution in a Bottle, is of particular interest to anyone looking to go into business for themselves. He candidly recounts the last few years of challenges and triumphs and how he handled them.
Unless you regularly read Inc. or know something about VCs or marketing - Revolution in a Bottle is a fascinating account of how to actually go into business and some of the issues you will inevitably encounter. Szaky shares how he and some friends created a business idea out of a Princeton dorm room and developed into the TerraCycle we know today.
Starting at the beginning while a freshman at Princeton, Szaky co-founded a company that recycles garbage into worm poop, liquefies it, then packages it in used soda bottles, creating TerraCycle Plant Food. Less than five years later, this all-natural, highly effective fertilizer was available in every Home Depot, Target, Wal-Mart, and more than 3000 other locations. It’s a thrilling entrepreneurial success story - and it’s just the beginning of what makes Revolution in a Bottle fascinating.
In the book Szaky argues for a new approach to business, an “eco-capitalism” based on a “triple bottom line.” Every business, he says, should aspire to be good for people, good for the environment, and (last but definitely not least) good for profits. He shows how the first two goals can (surprisingly) help the third.
Eco-capitalism isn’t a new idea, and many companies brag about being environmentally-friendly. But no one does it as effectively as TerraCycle he says. Szaky and his colleagues figured out how to sell a useful, organic, safe product without charging a premium for it. Their big insight was finding value in things that others throw away, from the triggers on spray-bottles to misprinted cardboard boxes.
Now they’re also reusing garbage to create new products, from bird feeders to tote bags, and even engaging major companies like Kraft and General Mills to sponsor their waste streams. Szaky shows how any business can look at garbage with a fresh eye, and reap the benefits. We've covered a number of TerraCycle's products and developments on Sustainable is Good.
Revolution in a Bottle is published by Penguin USA and is available at Amazon.com. Given the subject matter, Penguin printed Revolution in a Bottle on 100% recycled materials (about time they start doing that with more of their titles the book looks great to me). Anyway - Revolution in a Bottle will appeal to a wide range of readers from those interested in green business, business in general, entrepreneurship, marketing and the environment.
I'd recommend checking it out and then share your copy with someone else its a great read.