A Mission: Small Business grant would allow us to accelerate our efforts to make Urban Composting Made Easy a reality in cities around the country.
Our model directly connects food waste and food production in communities. There was never a question on the food production side of the equation: we knew that building soil fertility was a challenge for urban agriculture projects everywhere, and that there was a need for a clean stream of nitrogenous material for composting. We also knew that these urban farms were usually resource-strapped not-for-profits, underfinanced and understaffed. Compost Cab exists largely to help these farms thrive, and we decided early on that Compost Cab, and the new, fertile soil that comes with it, would be free to our farm partners.
Financing the business, then, meant testing the hypothesis that people who wanted to compost, but didn’t, would be willing to pay to make it happen. The minimum viable product we built to test this idea was very inexpensive to build, and essentially consisted of a used truck, a website with basic functionality, and one man’s sweat. We’ve been learning and iterating and growing – and profitable – ever since.
More than a year before the book came out, we were (largely) practicing the principles that Eric Ries would make popular in The Lean Startup. We’ve learned that there is a market for a clean, convenient compostables pickup service. And perhaps more importantly, we’ve learned that subscribers to this service stick around – our retention rate for subscribers at the one-year mark is above 70 percent. Knowing this, we better understand the potential lifetime value of a subscriber, and thus the value of acquiring them. And that’s where the grant comes in.
Our growth to date has been achieved with practically zero active marketing, and in a single geography. Our next minimum viable product, currently in development, will give us two things: (1) the scalable tools we need on the back end to efficiently manage an expanding subscriber base, and (2) the ability to enable people to self-organize community composting through Compost Cab. The grant will be used to take some of the risk out of these existing investments, and to finance a business plan that includes white-labeling the Compost Cab “toolkit” for use by people in cities everywhere!
Today we are a stand-alone compost pickup company in and around Washington, DC. Our vision is to be a platform that enables community-driven composting connected to productive urban agriculture in cities and towns everywhere. The grant money would help us get there faster. And so would LivingSocial as a marketing partner. The opportunity to leverage LivingSocial’s expertise in local marketing would be invaluable to us in our mutual home-market of DC, and in the geographic expansion of the Compost Cab network.
Finally, we’re confident that winning this grant will be extraordinarily helpful beyond the award itself. As a validation point, winning the grant could help us recruit top talent, and potentially open doors to financing and partnership opportunities.