I am constantly asked about the existence of any unique firm and market characteristics of a social enterprise like Spring Back Recycling. As a result, I have spent the last four years contemplating what “recipe” of variables have existed to enable this new venture, that couples waste diversion and earned income for formerly incarcerated men, to sustain profitability and even scale. Therefore, I’d like to commit this first blog to my motivation for sharing what I have personally learned through the conception, development, and implementation of a non-profit that is dedicated to sharing this distinctive business model.
When Bill Ruff, founder and manager of Isaiah 58 in Nashville, TN, and I first met about 5 years ago to discuss other employment options (outside of an existing social enterprise dedicated to tree and lawn service) for formerly incarcerated men served by his ministry, we started to visit local manufacturing facilities to inquire about their solid waste removal processes. Our general finding was that, absent a true commitment to funding internal recycling operations, many firms (with a concentration in manufacturing and/or distribution of finished goods) contend that solid waste generated in their facilities was too costly to break-down, compile, and freight to a buyer. Considering the diversity of textile, plastic, paper, and metal being discarded to landfills due to the economic burden of processing costs, we seemed to both realize that there might be an opportunity to develop a “triple bottom line” small business – with a social, environmental, and economic public good.