What It Took to Win: Interview With Small Biz Challenge Winners

Travel through 26 states. 15,089 Twitter followers. 9,726 Facebook fans. Dozens of major business goals knocked off. That’s what the 10 finalists in the Fairfield Small Business Road to Success Challenge accomplished during the three months of the contest.

But only one small business could take the $20,000 cake, and that was ecycler, the recycling business run by Tim Laurent and Craig Robertson. Ecycler registered more than 100 new collectors to their website, won two social media contests (and two iPads), blogged every day, and came up with new concepts to grow their business further.

I caught up with founders Tim Laurent and Craig Robertson to talk more about how winning has affected their business, and what they’re going to do with that sweet $20,000 prize.

What was the hardest part of winning the challenge?

Tim: Our whole challenge from the beginning was consistent blogging as well as focusing on social media, Twitter and Facebook. Because we made that commitment to do one blog post a day, following up with that post via Facebook and Twitter, then onto writing a new blog post for the next day…this was the hardest part.

The second hardest part had to do with our goals. We set a number of them, like bringing on a number of new collectors and discarders. Keeping up with those goals was difficult, but blogging was the most difficult part, along with posting to Facebook, uploading YouTube videos, and updates to other social media channels. By putting up a posting each day, we felt that was one way to keep people interested and entice them to keep coming back.

Craig: It was very open-ended. We had a stretch goal from the beginning. We talked about that, how are we going to reach the goal, and then we had to keep up with blog posts. Like Tim said, our goal was to put one out every day if we could.

What was the biggest step forward that ecycler took during the challenge?

Tim: We learned quite a bit about ecycler and about the approach to business. What that means is that we now have a packagable toolbox. When we go to businesses now, we know exactly what questions they will ask, what we need to convey as a message about ecycler and deliver any supporting documentation. Our biggest win was understanding how businesses work in the recycling world even more so than we did at the beginning of the challenge.

Craig: Prior to the challenge, we were focused around residential-anyway the site was focused around that idea, giving curbside services to those who don’t have it. Then we started expanding that out to businesses. We found a lot of businesses either don’t recycle or they have to pay to recycle. The way we’re set up right now, we can actually give them a free option for some of their recycling, even cans and bottles.

What are you going to do with the $20,000 that you won?

Tim: A couple of things. One, we are building mobile apps for the iPad and iPhone platforms. We have a couple of different applications we’re working on, and that’s pretty much where the bulk of the money goes. Secondarily, we are going to host our own contest. Lastly, as Craig mentioned, we are building out some of the additional material types that we are offering to be recycled via ecycler.com, starting in Canada. Once it’s successful in Canada, then we’ll bring it down stateside.

Craig: We already gave away an iPad. We won two iPads during the challenge, and we turned around and gave away one of them as part of our own contest.

In our new contest, we want people from various communities to enter and give us the best recycling bin design using materials from the Home Depot or Lowe’s or their local building supply store. A high-quality recycling bin typically costs a couple of hundred dollars. It’s heavy to ship. We want to see if people can come up with a creative way to build recycling bins locally, and then send them off to business, or their homes or offices.

What are people going to win?

We haven’t come to the amount of money yet, but it’s going to be a nice chunk of change.

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