Garbage to Garden, Maine's Small Business Person of the Year 2022
Sustainability has become a much stronger focus for not only consumers, but businesses and institutions in the past decade or so. As people at all levels try to find ways to build sustainable practices into their lives, businesses like Garbage to Garden step in to make it a little easier. As most people are used to regular trash and recycling pick up, Tyler saw a need for another option: regular pick up of compostable material. Starting out of his apartment, he sought out clients at local farmer’s markets, and delivered the compostable waste to his mother’s backyard in North Yarmouth. However, the number of people interested in the service quickly outpaced this practice. Through this process, Tyler worked with the Portland chapter of SCORE to plan for growth and ensure that his business was prepared.
From the initial space, Garbage to Garden moved into a 1,000 square foot facility as the number of clients increased. But within two years, the business had experienced so much growth that they had to relocate again to an even larger building. Now serving not only residential customers, but schools, businesses, and municipalities, Garbage to Garden sought to branch out, but do so in a way that made sense. Again, Portland SCORE and the SBA’s Scale Up program were able to provide the guidance that Tyler needed to plan sustainable growth.
A little over nine years since its inception, Garbage to Garden has expanded far beyond the original niche market it filled. With customers across Southern Maine and the Boston metro area, ranging from people living in apartments with no personal access to composting, to large festivals and fairs, the adaptability of the business has allowed Tyler to seek opportunities wherever they arise. To accommodate all of this growth and expansion, Garbage to Garden has also grown its employee pool to 31. This is impressive in itself, but Tyler is committed to best practices and ensures that each of the employees is provided a $16.50 minimum hourly wage, full health, vision, and dental insurance, 401(k), and paid time off. Because of these efforts, Tyler was awarded the SBA Maine Young Entrepreneur of the Year award for 2019. Since then, Garbage to Garden has continued to increase wages and expand their benefits offerings, most recently increasing the contribution to pay for 100% of health insurance for all full-time employees and a unique wellness incentive program.
In the time since receiving that award, the nature of the business drastically changed. Commercial clients were using the service less, but because people were staying home, more residential accounts were added. This pivot allowed Garbage to Garden to continue its growth, and as a result, new communities joined the coverage area. With supply shortages and the pandemic keeping so many at home, there has been a dramatic increase in gardening and growing food at home. This additional change has allowed Garbage to Garden a new revenue stream, as they add finished garden supplies to their product line and added further emphasis to the core concept behind the business: a closed loop system where composted waste nurtures the soil that grows our food.
The best attributes of a successful entrepreneur are being adaptable, caring about the mission, and caring about customers and employees. Tyler Frank has shown all of these, with an innovative service, a willingness to change as the business grew and the pandemic hit, support of community programs, and providing good jobs with benefits. With all these strengths, and the strong relationship he developed with SCORE, there is no doubt that Garbage to Garden will continue to grow and thrive.