Saving Half-a-Million Trees with UsedCardboardBoxes.com’s Marty Metro

October 7, 2013

JOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome to Green is Good today, and we’re so excited and proud to have our good friend on with us back at Green is Good, Marty Metro, the founder of UsedCardboardBoxes.com. Welcome back to Green is Good, Marty Metro. MARTY METRO: Hey, John. Thanks for having me. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Hey. You know, Marty, you are one of these great ecopreneurs, entrepreneurially, the stories where you started something, you had a dream and you made this great company, UsedCardboardBoxes.com, a massive success but before we get into that, I want you to share your journey leading up to it because you’ve been so brutally frank and for our listeners who didn’t have the benefit of hearing you the last time you were on our show or hearing you do some of your great public speaking, I want you to share your journey because some entrepreneurs think they have to go into business and it’s going to be perfect and it’s gotta work out right the first time. Share your great journey of how you got to this place today. MARTY METRO: Well, I’d be happy to. I don’t know if I would call it a great journey. It was a miserable journey. Back in 2002, it’s funny. I mentioned to somebody, actually one of our teammates as UCB, I was talking the other day about the dot com crash and I realized him, being just a few years out of college, didn’t even know what the dot com crash was so I won’t go into that but after the big dot com explosion and then crash where just lots of companies were going out of business and filing for bankruptcy back in the late 1990s, I was the Senior Vice President of a big consulting firm and I was traveling around the world and implementing software at big companies and making lots of money and spending lots of money on fancy dinners and fancy events and companies started going out of business and our company filed for bankruptcy and I was left without a job and I looked back at what I had been doing, flying around first class around the world and building software systems, and I looked at what I had to show for it and the answer was I really had nothing to show for it. I was riding the wave but really not creating any value for myself and, probably more importantly, I wasn’t creating any value for anyone around me and I decided to do something a little more valuable and something that I guess I could put on my tombstone and came up with the concept of reusing cardboard boxes. What I thought we were going to do is just go around to residential houses and pick up the moving boxes that people just moved in with and provide a service to allow other people to buy the used boxes that people just unpacked and that was back in 2002. It was a good idea and it was a very, very difficult operation to run because, as my father said back in 2002, you’ve got to sell a lot of used cardboard boxes to ever pay your rent and he was absolutely right. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s good advice from your pops. MARTY METRO: Yeah. It was pretty tough when we started because I was running around with a delivery van and employees in a warehouse and we were making a few thousand dollars and spending tens and $20,000 in expense, so you don’t have to be a mathematician to know that doesn’t last very long. JOHN SHEGERIAN: And, Marty, we’re here today. It’s 2013. I’ve known you for years, and I’ve known your struggle and your climb up the hill, but now I’m on your website and listen. Our company has used your service. We love what you do. For our listeners out there to follow along, go to Marty’s great site. It’s UsedCardboardBoxes.com. I’m on the site now. It’s gorgeous. It’s interactive. It’s easy to access in terms of phone number and internet ordering and also, there’s a counter right on the top. It shows you how many trees. Today, for instance, it’s 496,624 trees have been saved because of Marty’s great company so talk a little bit about the journey, where you are today. From 2002 to 2013, and where your goals are in the future here like, where are you going to go? But let’s start with now where you are. MARTY METRO: Okay, well, so in 2005, we decided this system just wasn’t working. We can’t afford to drive a van around and pick up boxes and try to sell them to other people but at the same time, we were realizing if we wanted to do this, we had to go big and I forgot who coined the phrase, ‘Go big or go home,’ but that’s kind of what we realized in 2006 is go big or go home so we went out and raised a small amount of capital. It was about $300 to test what it would be like if we instead of buying a small van load of boxes, what if we started buying ad selling tractor trailer loads and we realized that yes, John, you or I. if we were to sell our house or move into another house, sure, we could absolutely utilize 100 or 150 used boxes but big, big companies like Walmart can utilize hundreds of thousands of used boxes so we started to set our goals a lot bigger. We started to build technology and branding to become the national marketplace of used boxes, not just for people, but for big companies, so today in 2013 — I just got the chills saying that — 2013, we are, I would say, the largest marketplace of used boxes in the country. We buy from Fortune 500 manufacturers all over the country, the big, big companies that make our food and our beverages and our toiletries. As they unpack their supplies, for example, a water bottle company, water bottle companies process a lot of water but they generally don’t make their bottles and they don’t make their caps so all those bottles and caps come in every single day in cardboard boxes and usually just get recycled. We buy those boxes and inspect them, palletize them, and sell them to other companies. If you think about it, a traditional recycling company will take cardboard boxes and crush them. We come in and don’t crush the boxes. We preserve the boxes as boxes and because we do that, we can buy them for more because we can sell them for less than the cost of a new box. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Perfect. So, let’s talk about that now. Let’s give our listeners business and also just the mom or dad at their house now that want to move. Let’s give them how this really works or the business owner that wants to use your great boxes and not go buy new boxes and again, preserve the precious resources we have on this planet and that’s what you’re doing. I love this tree save thing because this is really where the rubber hits the road where your company is doing the great good. Not only have you created job, Marty, in this wonderful company and again, for our listeners who just joined us, we’re on with Marty Metro, the founder and CEO of UsedCardboardBoxes.com. He’s a longtime friend of mine. He’s also an associate that our companies work with so we can attest to the greatness of his service and of his products but go on his website right no because it is just truly amazing but 496,000 trees. Come on! You go to bed every night and you feel great about what you’re doing. MARTY METRO: Yeah, I really do, and I apologize. I’m in Baltimore and it looks like a plane is flying over my head from BWI airport, but yeah, you know, we put a counter on there because we did some research because we realized that it takes about 17 trees to produce a ton of cardboard boxes and you realize that these big companies — and I don’t blame them. The business they’re in is the business they’ve been in for years. Nobody told these businesses that 100 years ago that you shouldn’t be cutting down trees. They thought it was a natural resources. However, times have changed and we realize that we don’t need to be cutting down trees just to make more boxes. Why don’t we just use the boxes that we already have? So, what we’ve done is created a system to not only reuse the boxes that we already have on this earth but to count them and track them and allow big companies as large as Walmart to be able to count their reuse because a lot of these big companies are tracking their waste, their recycling, and their reuse. I was able to provide a report to companies that used to be, I have one thing. It’s waste and I’ve thrown X amount of stuff into this bin and it’s my waste and the only way they got to track it is however much the waste company told them they were throwing out. Now you want to track your waste and of course, minimize that because it’s going to the landfill. You want to track your recycling because that’s what can be broken down and create into a new product. You want to track your reuse because that’s avoiding both of those things. JOHN SHEGERIAN: And, reuse is a very legitimate form of recycling. MARTY METRO: Absolutely. I don’t even call it a form of recycling. I call it before they even get to recycling, just like in your business, John. You guys do an amazing job at taking apart components that most people would put in the garbage. You company takes it apart and puts it in the right place. However, if I’ve got a 17-inch monitor and I want to buy a 19-inch monitor, I shouldn’t take the 17-inch and just give it to a recycler. I should take the 17-inch and give it to my student or someone else who could use it and then once it’s not working and doesn’t provide value, then it can be broken apart and given to someone. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Now I’m on your site and I want to talk about the practicality and the amazing and simple solution because the other essence of being a great entrepreneur and ecopreneur is creating something that’s easy for people to use and that’s what you’ve done, Marty, and let’s walk our listeners through this a little bit so first of all, if a listener out there, business or homeowner or someone who’s going to move or something of that nature, wants to use your service, explain how easy it is online, either through your phone number or through your online service to get your boxes and then to move with your boxes. MARTY METRO: Great, great. It’s really simple. If you’re a consumer and you’re moving or you’re a small business and you just need the moving boxes, it’s really simple. You go to the website, UsedCardboardBoxes.com. You click on how many bedrooms or how many offices you need. It gives you some examples of moving kits that would fit that size. You click on the kit that works for you. You can add other things if you need extra boxes because you’re a packrat, we like to call them, order them. You put your credit card right in and because we’ve got seven distribution centers across the country, all moving kits are delivered free shipping within two business days. If you’re in a major city like Los Angeles or even New York, your moving kit’s going to be delivered next day for free. That’s a really simple system or you can always call our number, 888-BOXES-88, and someone can help you place your order but we process hundreds of thousands of orders with just people going on the website, clicking what they need, seeing the picture, putting their credit card in, and getting their boxes the next day, free shipping. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So, this is sort of just like the ease of using your service is like an Amazon.com transaction. People can sit in the comfort of their home or in the comfort of their business, click, call if they want, and then it shows up in a day or two to their office or their home. MARTY METRO: Right. We get customer satisfaction surveys and we post a lot of them on our website and it’s amazing being a used box company, we get a lot of clients that say, ‘Oh my God, I had no idea these were used. They’re so great,’ but the real bulk of the comments are, ‘ I don’t know how you did it but I ordered them yesterday and they’re here today,’ and you never hear that anywhere else and that’s because we have this national footprint with seven distribution centers across the country. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That is so great. Now here’s what I love about what you do and how you’ve closed the loop and I want our listeners to hear this part. I’m Joe Consumer or I’m Joe Business Owner. I used your great boxes to move and now I’m sitting there and I’m looking at a room full of boxes, which happens to everybody in this great country who goes through the moving process and we all move more than ever before. We found that out. Statistically, that’ been proven but now you’re sitting there looking at a room full of boxes. Tell our listeners, Marty, why now you’re the solution again. MARTY METRO: That is one of the hardest parts of our business and really, of any business. I wish we had a better solution but if you’re a business, what we will do is actually come out and pick up those boxes by the truckload. If you’re a consumer, it’s very difficult and very expensive to send a truck out to pick up used boxes so what we do is we created a self service website called FreeCardboardBoxes.com and you can take your boxes that you’ve purchased from us and you can go back online and you can post and there’s no guarantee because there’s people all over the country but we will use our system of free cardboard boxes that will hook you up with somebody in your area who could also use boxes and because they’ve already been used and because they haven’t been quality controlled by UCB, they’ve been used by another person, we don’t recommend there’s any charge. We recommend you pay it forward, pass it on to somebody else. Usually, there’s an entire kit that can be reused so we put them on FreeCardboardBoxes.com and you put forward to somebody else. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Oh my gosh, so you have created the perfect eco closed loop solution, the mouse trap, and that’s just amazing so not only can you buy used cardboard boxes form Marty Metro and his great company and again, for our listeners who just tuned in, UsedCardboardBoxes.com but then when you’re done using them, if it’s a business, Marty’s company will come pick it up and recycle those boxes and if not, you go to his other website, FreeCardboardBoxes.com, and it will give you a solution, how to pay it forward and get rid of them in an eco-friendly way and let someone else reuse the boxes. Amazing. Marty, because we have about four minutes left and you are so inspiring to so many people — I’ve heard you publicly speak before — and for our listeners out there that are interested in having Marty come to their school, their business or some other forum and have him speak, you can go to www.martymetro.com. Let’s do the last four minutes, and share to our young listeners because now that we’re on Sirius XM across the United States and once uploaded to the iTunes network, across the world, Marty, we have so many young students who want to be the next Marty Metro, who want to be the next ecopreneur and they want to learn from your wisdom. Share your advice and your wisdom a little bit to someone who wants to follow in your footsteps, who wants to create a business model that can make money but also change the world. MARTY METRO: Well, I don’t want to be too cliché, but I’ll say the two things that I look back in my 10 years of struggling to finally build a company that works and the one is don’t underestimate the value of a plan. You have to have a plan. There are so many stories out there, like Facebook and all these other companies that skyrocketed. Everyone says, ‘Well, I’m going to build the next Facebook.’ You have to remember nine out of ten companies fail and you don’t hear the stories of failure. You hear the one or two successes just like celebrities in Hollywood. Millions of people go out to Hollywood to become a celebrity and only a handful become one so you have to have a plan. You have to track what you’re doing and where you’re going. You have to track how much money you’re spending and you really have to modify. Every single month, you have to realize how far away or how close you are to your original plan. You have to change to stay alive. That would be, I would say, number one. The chances are you will fail so don’t just take an idea and throw all of your money at it. Take an idea knowing that the odds are against you so you really have to think it through and plan and execute strategic ways. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Good advice. That is great advice. What changes do you think this sustainability or green revolution is going to go through and what business models or what business enterprises? If you weren’t doing this, Marty, which I know is a full-time job, you’re always on the road, you and I are always crossing cities and stuff like that and catching up via text, email or cell phone. Not where the hockey puck is today, but where is it going for the young folks out there that want to get involved with a green business and do something that really makes a difference. MARTY METRO: Well, I think where we’re going with our business is not just selling a used item. There’s a lot of companies that sell used items but the great big part of our growth in the future is closed loop tracking of reuse so what we do with big, big companies, we will set up systems to track the reuse between big companies and their vendors so when a vendors sends products to their customer, we can then buy those boxes and return them to the vendor and track and count how many times they are being reused so that’s not just reuse. Its building products that are designed to be reused multiple times and tracking how many times it can be reused and building some private programs so if you reused it once this year, we want to reuse it tice next year and if you used it 20 times this year, we’ll use it 30 times next year so you can’t just use product that can be reused. You have to make sure it’s being reused and track it and improve it and improve the product. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Perfect. You know, Marty, we’re going to have you back on again. Today has been great as usual. We thank you for coming back on Green is Good. For our listeners out there that want to use Marty’s boxes, and I really hope you all do, please go to www.usedcardboardboxes.com or www.martymetro.com. Marty Metro, you are a sustainability rock star, a good friend of mine, and truly living proof that green is good.