Meet Melissa Tashjian, Founder of Compost Crusader. She got her start organizing compost sites within individual communities. Six short years later, she is running a pro-table business that diverted 860,729 pounds of food scraps away from landfills in 2015. She has played an enormous role in developing an “eco-industry” here in Milwaukee.
Read Full Story of Featured Entrepreneur – Melissa Tashjian, Compost Crusader
We’ve all heard of the “common characteristics” of entrepreneurs: hard-working, passionate, unafraid of uncertainty, etc. Of course, these hold true, but what about another one: the desire to do good? For one Milwaukee entrepreneur, it sure seems like this trait makes all the ¬difference. Meet Melissa Tashjian, Founder of Compost Crusader. She got her start organizing compost sites within individual communities. Six short years later, she is running a pro table business that diverted 860,729 pounds of food scraps away from land fills in 2015.
Why composting? For a quick education on composting, here it is in a nutshell: rather than throwing out food scraps and disposing of them in landfills, food waste can instead be recycled and utilized for energy production and as a soil amendment. So rather than using up space in land fills, the material can be transformed to serve other productive uses. The Orchard Ridge Land ll, where Milwaukee County sends about 75% of its waste, only has a life expectancy until 2025. Once it is capped, it will cost us all more to send our waste elsewhere. Melissa is being pro-active and has begun to create an infrastructure that can keep food waste away from land fills. Maybe we’re all becoming numb to certain buzzwords like “greener” and “sustainability.” But seriously, look at the outcomes of this effort: precious space saved in land fills will have cost savings down the road; there is a beneficial, desired byproduct with proven uses; and methane emissions, to which food waste is the number one contributor in land fills, are avoided.
From non-profit to scalable business When Melissa began, she was a non-profit setting up small compost sites near community gardens. Suddenly, more and more businesses wanted to come on board and recycle their food scraps. Even as she was developing a great relationship with a compost farm, customers wanted to divert more material than she could handle. Here’s why Melissa has been so successful: she immediately recognized the need for infrastructure to support this effort. That is why Compost Crusader is centered on making composting a truly sustainable service, and part of sustainability is ensuring businesses can financially support the program. As this young company has grown, economies of scale have emerged; the more material they are able to divert, the more cost neutral composting becomes for all involved – Compost Crusader’s customers included. She has played an enormous role in developing an “eco-industry” here in Milwaukee. Compost Crusader’s consistent orders for new dumpsters have grown a local welder’s business. Its partnering compost farm has recently acquired an additional site for additional diverted material, an amount that keeps growing. Amazingly, all the businesses Compost Crusader collects food waste from originally reached out to Melissa.
The internal desire of these companies, which can be ignited by one single employee asking her boss how they can cut down on waste, has driven Compost Crusader’s growth and the awareness of composting in general. It takes more than passion. Melissa is incredibly passionate about her company and its ability to help the environment and economic growth. But she’ll be honest with you in saying the passion comes naturally, but to scale a business requires many skills that didn’t come so easy. When asked what she would have done differently, she replies, “I would have taken an accounting class.” There is so much value in understanding business principles, and the key for her is always staying profitable. Melissa knows “businesses don’t run on grants,” so by maintaining a vision and focusing on what she needs do to stay in the black, she can sustain growth. That way, Compost Crusader can continue to have a bigger and better impact on the community.
|Fox 6: Some call it black gold and a Milwaukee woman is making tons of it||TMJ 4 Milwaukee business save waste from landfill|