Ciclo Organico: integrating business and climate activism through waste recycling

Starting a waste recycling initiative requires passion, perseverance, and planning. Lucas, a social entrepreneur from Brazil, shares his journey of transforming a simple idea into a successful waste recycling business. Here are the key takeaways for young people looking to embark on a similar path. You as a young entrepreneur can create a socially and environmentally responsible business that contributes positively to the planet while driving financial success.

Lucas’ journey began with a personal commitment to composting at home. Inspired by a community initiative in Brazil, he took the initiative to collect and compost his family’s food waste, sparking a passion for waste management and environmental sustainability. In the initial stages of his business, Lucas worked with a group of about five friends from university who contributed significantly to the start-up phase. The first official employee was hired in the second year, following a referral from a friend. Lucas emphasizes the value of understanding and nurturing relationships with employees, citing the positive impact of his first employee who provided valuable insights into managing team dynamics. 

Lucas advises aspiring entrepreneurs to thoroughly study labor laws and regulations before hiring employees, particularly in complex environments such as Brazil where mistakes are common. He highlights the importance of documenting agreements and cautions against excessive trust in employees without proper safeguards. Another crucial piece of advice is to prioritize operational readiness over client acquisition. Lucas stresses the significance of ensuring the operational side of the business is adequately staffed and equipped before scaling up clientele, as failing to do so can lead to chronic stress and operational inefficiencies.

An exciting moment in Lucas’ journey resulted from feedback from one of his first employees, Bruno, who says he learned at the company that there are good people in the world! “I felt happy to meet people who care about others to the point of paying for the disposal of their waste”, a fact that is not mandatory in Brazil, illustrating the transformative power of the initiative. Such anecdotes serve as powerful reminders of the positive impact and ripple effects generated by the team’s efforts, infusing them with renewed energy and purpose to continue their mission.

By embodying the principles and learning from Lucas’s journey below, you can find your own path to waste recycling entrepreneurship, contributing to a more sustainable future.

Building a plan

Before launching his venture, Lucas emphasized the importance of creating a plan. While it doesn’t need to be complex, having a clear outline of goals, strategies, and financial projections is crucial for success. Through workshops and mentorship, he refined his business model and gained valuable insights.

Overcoming challenges

Convincing others to adopt waste recycling practices proved challenging initially. Despite facing skepticism and rejection from friends, Lucas remained resilient, seeking feedback, and adapting his approach. He leveraged farmers’ markets and community events to educate and attract early adopters, gradually expanding his client base.

In the early stages of his business, Lucas faced regulatory hurdles and public misconceptions about composting. He emphasizes the importance of perseverance, resilience, and staying true to the business’s core values amidst challenges.

Resourcefulness and partnerships

With limited funding, Lucas adopted a resourceful approach, repurposing materials and leveraging partnerships to minimize costs. He used bicycles for transport, collaborated with local parks for composting sites, and incentivized friends to help with collections.

Seed funding and bootstrap entrepreneurship

While seed funding from grant programs provided initial support, Lucas emphasized the importance of bootstrapping and minimizing expenses. He creatively made use of resources at hand, such as repurposed buckets and volunteer labor, to kickstart his venture without relying heavily on external financing.

Learning from experience

Lucas continuously sought feedback, refined his business model, and embraced lessons from setbacks, demonstrating the resilience and determination necessary for entrepreneurial success. Reflecting on his journey, Lucas highlights the importance of maintaining the essence and values of the business, fostering a strong team culture, and embracing collaboration and knowledge sharing within the industry. You can contact Lucas any time to learn from him directly. He is more than happy to share advice with anyone who wants to get started!

Activist approach in business

While Lucas identifies more as an activist, he acknowledges the need to balance activism with running a business. He integrates activism into his work by prioritizing environmental and social impact alongside profit. Lucas’s activism influences his business decisions, such as offering free waste collection services to charitable organizations and prioritizing fair treatment and benefits for employees. He emphasizes the importance of values-driven leadership in creating a resilient and impactful business.

Lucas challenges the conventional focus on profit as the sole bottom line, advocating for businesses to prioritize environmental and social considerations alongside financial success. He believes in creating a business that not only generates profit, but also contributes positively to society and the environment.

Deep Dive: Stopping a coal mine from opening.

1. Start with passion: begin with a genuine passion for waste recycling and environmental sustainability.

2. Plan strategically: develop a clear plan outlining goals, strategies, and financial projections. 

3. Embrace challenges: expect skepticism and rejection, but remain resilient and open to feedback.

4. Leverage resources: utilize existing resources creatively and forge partnerships to minimize costs.

5. Seek support: explore opportunities for seed funding and mentorship programs to accelerate growth.

6. Learn and adapt: continuously refine your approach based on experience, feedback, and market dynamics

Takeaways for young activists becoming entrepreneurs
1. Integrate activism: infuse environmental and social activism into business practices to create meaningful impact.

2. Prioritize values: uphold core values such as humility, commitment, and quality in business operations.

3. Challenge conventional metrics: embrace a multi-dimensional approach to success, considering environmental and social outcomes alongside financial profit.

4. Navigate challenges: overcome regulatory hurdles and public misconceptions with perseverance, resilience, and strategic alignment with core values

5. Foster collaboration: seek collaborators who share the business’s values and are committed to collective impact and knowledge sharing.