Most of you reading this book have had at least a couple years moving through a career. No doubt you’ve developed an intimate understanding of how to be successful in the industry or industries that you’ve been exposed to. I would bet that if you sat back and thought about what materials your past companies have needed in order to keep rolling, you would quickly be able to come up with a list. Conversely, you would even be able to think of some byproducts of those companies which ultimately ended up in the dumpster.
By now maybe you can see where I’m going with this. There are a lot of companies out there that require items which other companies are accustomed to throwing away. Rarely do they link their supply chains together because C-level managers don’t have to think peripherally. They’re just trained to focus on the traditional methods of increasing their company’s production and bottom line. With your years of experience, you are more qualified than others to help link industrial supply chains and profit big in the process.
In my earlier days I have had my share of working on assembly lines making wood products. It was mind-numbing work but I came out of that period with the knowledge that some companies routinely throw away sawdust. What’s not commonly known is that in some parts of the US and Canada, particle-board makers, dairy farmers and wood-pellet manufacturers are paying around $50 a ton for sawdust. Also, there’s a company called PlanToys which uses sawdust to make their entire line of toys. It’s part of their marketing pitch of being an eco-friendly company. You may be surprised at opportunities that await in the UK and Australia. Fast food restaurants will actually pay you to remove their used cooking oil. After putting it through a simple refinement process you can then sell it to biodiesel companies.
Let’s look at another case study which you can learn about in-depth through this interview inside the podcast section. About 8 years ago there were two college kids, Nikhil Arora and Alex Velez, who learned that it was possible to grow gourmet mushrooms from used coffee grounds. That day they got together and decided to seed some test buckets in Alex’s fraternity.
Within a few days, one of the buckets actually grew mushrooms so they decided to dive into the mushroom business with an unusual bent. Instead of growing gourmet mushrooms to sell to grocery stores, they ventured to make mushroom growing kits to reach a larger audience. Since they lived in the bay area of San Francisco they didn’t have to look very far to get their used coffee grounds. There are cafes all over the place that were actually willing to pay Nikhil and Alex to take away their “useless” byproduct. With a sure and steady supply of used coffee grounds, the two began a 6 month journey in studying how to effectively grow mushrooms. When they had their methodology solidified, they began to distribute to some of their local stores under the company name “Back to the Roots”. Fortunately, vendor friendly Whole Foods was one of their early clients. With such a significant brand name under their belts, Nikhil and Alex were able branch out to other large grocery chains.
Nowadays, Back to the Roots Mushroom Growing Kits litter the shelves of countless stores including Costco and Petco. How amazing it is that Nikhil and Alex’s success began with their ability to bring waste back into a supply chain. What’s even more amazing is that if you quickly wanted to be part of a supply chain there would be no need to do any manufacturing. You could just run a simple business of picking up and dropping off. The array of markets that you can tap into would depend on your career experience, research and imagination. With this in mind we should all be taking a few moments out of our schedules to dream and understand what this unusual business model could mean for our future.