Tom Szaky is founder and CEO of TerraCycle, a global leader in the collection and repurposing of complex waste streams. TerraCycle operates in 20 countries, working with some of the world’s largest brands, retailers and manufacturers to create national platforms to recycle products and packaging that otherwise go to landfill or incineration. It also created a new circular reuse platform called Loop that enables consumers to purchase products in reusable packaging.
Tom and TerraCycle have received hundreds of awards and recognition from organizations including the United Nations, World Economic Forum, Fortune Magazine and U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Tom is the author of four books, Revolution in a Bottle, Outsmart Waste, Make Garbage Great and The Future of Packaging.
John Shegerian: This edition of the Impact podcast is brought to you by ERI. ERI has a mission to protect people, the planet, and your privacy and is the largest fully integrated IT and electronics asset disposition provider and cybersecurity-focused hardware destruction company in the United States and maybe even the world. For more information on how ERI can help your business properly dispose of outdated electronic hardware devices, please visit eridirect.com.
John: Welcome to another edition of the Impact podcast. This is a very special edition of the Impact podcast because we are so lucky and honored to have my good friend, longtime friend, Tom Szaky with us. He is the Founder and CEO of TerraCycle. Welcome to the Impact podcast, Tom.
Tom Szaky: John, thanks so much for having me.
John: Oh, it is just an honor. You are just truly one of the rock stars of the sustainability ESG and circular economy world. We have known each other now for almost fifteen years.
John: And you have been doing it since the day I met you. You were just one of those big huge vision, unbelievably committed, hyper-focus individuals, who just seem to never lose their way and you have been an inspiration to me and thousands of people around the world since that time I met you. And it just truly an honor to have you on now because I think as you and I were chatting a little bit off offline, we are about to enter some really interesting and hopefully exciting times.
Tom: Yes, I think you are absolutely right. Well, first, thank you for that really kind introduction. I think it is amazing where sustainability is going and I have been doing this for twenty years now and it is always been an issue, but it is moving from sort of let us find some efficiencies and bank some cash and call that sustainability to really people waking up to the environmental crisis we are in whether it is climate change, the mass extinction we are living through, you name it. I think it has even been heightened with the pandemic we are living through. COVID is the first time we have really seen our impact on the planet as we sort of lowered our production and emission levels down, animals retreating tour I have not been before. And now, of course, as well with the new administration that I think will be taking these issues a bit more seriously here in the US. It is absolutely the time to be thinking about how to deploy business in a way that drives impact in addition to profit and I think the world is very much ready for it as I think our investors and stakeholders like team members and customers and so on and so forth.
John: You know, Tom, it is always fascinating to me and to our viewers and listeners to understand what made you. Who made you? I believe you were raised in Canada?
Tom: That is right. Yes. Originally, I am from Hungary. I was born in Budapest in ’82 and that is only really relevant because it was communist then. And what would the story goes sort of an ’86, Chernobyl happened when I was four and that was really nearby and the effect on us was really that the borders destabilize, my parents were able to leave, sort of as political refugees if you will and we sort of hopped around Europe seeking asylum, finally landed in Canada. I got there when I was seven. So, I effectively grew up in Canada and it came down to the college in New Jersey and then have been living in New Jersey ever since. And so, for me, it took went from communism to capitalism and there are virtues in both. Here in America, we like to sort of shit on communism. Of course, I am communist, up to shit on capitalist. But I think there are virtues in both. Both are there are positives and negatives. To me, I fell in love with entrepreneurship really because of the contrast. Because entrepreneurship is all about you have a great idea, you work really hard and you can create anything you want, and that is really maybe the embodiment if you will of the American dream. But, and I say here is the but, I remember this so clearly. The first class of Princeton was Economics101 and the professor gets up on stage and says, “What is the purpose of a business?” And the answer she was — it is a really appropriate opening question but the answer she was looking for was profit to shareholders as the purpose of business, and that is how it is taught and I get it. I am not anti-profit but to me, I would say, profit is more an indicator of health. If you are profitable, you are going to flourish, grow and live for a long time, be healthy. And if you are not profitable, it is like being sick, you are going to shrivel and die at some point. You cannot be unprofitable forever. So, it is more to me like an indicator of health, but that is not the reason of being. The reason of being is like what do we could do? What are we create? How do we leave society or the world better? And I think that is really what impact business is about like how does it impact the world and then can it be called a business? Can it do so in a financially sustainable and ideally financially flourishing capacity?
John: When you were growing up in Canada, was the environment top of mind in your household or in the society or community you were living in back then?
Tom: So, Canada is where I think my love of the environment really grew. My parents are both doctors. I would say very certain normal upbringing. There is a lot of camping in Canada. There is a huge connection to nature. Canada is mostly nature and a very few people relatively speaking. And so, there is a lot of time spent going out into the wilderness and really getting an appreciation for nature, which actually when I came down to the States, I felt that even more because how America was not as much like that. When we went camping in Canada, you take a tent in a canoe and you go out for a week. Then when we went camping in the US, you go to a parking lot and you plugged in. I am exaggerating but not really, you know what I mean?
Tom: And to me, that even heightened it more and I was like I missed it a bit. So, it is always been something that I have been very passionate about, but really coming out of Canada I think is where it really hit home.
John: You know, Tom, you are so unique in that twenty years you have been at it and you are only thirty-eight. The fascinating and fun part for guys like me is to see how you are going to continue to change the world in the future. We are going to talk a little bit about the future later, but going back to TerraCycle, the founding of TerraCycle at such a young age, where was your epiphany? Where is your aha moment? And how did you create TerraCycle out of that aha moment?
Tom: Yes, absolutely. At first, it was a series of things. So, in the beginning, I fell in love with entrepreneurship in high school. I started my first company when I was fourteen. It was a web design company. But really for the selfish reasons, fame and fortune, which comes with entrepreneurship but not benevolent reasons. Then as I sort of had this thinking around the role of profit in my first year of university, I started seeking an idea that would be profitable but also purposeful first actually and then could you do the purpose of a profit, and I was looking for this. The actual inspirational moment was my friends in Montreal who had gone to school. They started growing some pot plants in their basement. They could not make the plants work. They finally started taking organic waste from their kitchen like kitchen scraps and feeding it to worms and taking the worm poop and feeding it to the pot plants and miraculously the plants were doing incredibly well. And it lit this lightbulb off for me when I heard about this and then later saw it this exploration around garbage. Garbage really fascinated me academically because it is such a weird topic. Here is some sort of neat fact to it. Everything in your office sort of mine here, everything we possess in a world where we pride ourselves on possessions will one day with no exception belong legally to a garbage company. Is that wild? And I mean everything, not just like the paper on our desk but the carpet, the wall, everything. And if you really think about it, in a relatively short period of time. For how big that is as an idea. What industry can you point to that says legally will own everything one day. It is also the least innovative industry per dollar of revenue and enjoys.
Tom: Isn’t that wild? And a big part of it is it is an industry that literally it is shit, it is poop, it is smelly, it is crap. It is all this stuff. It is almost the butt of many jokes. If you do not study hard you will be a garbage man. And so, it is amazing. It has a high purpose to solve. It touches absolutely everything and there is no innovation. It is like the blue ocean, everywhere you go, you can create new things and challenge models. I have been able to do this for so long because I get the experience of a serial entrepreneur but staying in the same gig because it is an infinite playground, and that to me is incredibly stimulating and then you get this huge overlay that it is incredibly purposeful at the same time.
John: So, you now got the whole worm in the pot plants growing, where did TerraCycle fit in and where was the aha moment that you can both change the world on this infinite playground but make a profit at the same time?
Tom: Also very pragmatically, TerraCycle started quite literally as a worm poop company like the idea that “Oh, I am going to do that. That is great.” That is how we first met, right?
John: Right. That is right.
Tom: TerraCycle was actually EarthCycle and the logo of TerraCycle when I originally drew it was supposed to be a worm. It is really was a worm poop company and that is how we began. We said, “Let us make consumer products out of waste, taking worm poop, liquefying it, packaging it in used soda bottles, that whole thing, and then started getting it into major retail. Home Depot, Target, Walmart, and all the big suspects. That is what we were for the first three or four years in our history and took it to about from literally college dorm room to about six million in revenue. We had this big sort of moment, a huge structural shift at that time where we asked ourselves, “Are we accomplishing our mission which we had set at eliminating the idea of waste by making products out of waste?” and we realized the answer is unfortunately no. No, because if you are going to be a product company, your business hero is the product and then you are going to try to make the very best product, which means even if it is technically waste, you are going to choose the very best waste and we even had like scientist choosing this organic waste but not those organic ways to feed the worms. Yes, we were packaging in used soda bottles but we were choosing bottles that still looked really good, not crushed. That was definitely never going to touch dirty diapers or cigarette butts or really difficult things. So, we said, “Look, we have to fundamentally shift our business materially to make the business hero not the finished product but the garbage.” And that took about a one-year transformation but we effectively shut down the whole worm poop business, which was at the time, not bad like a six million dollar business and nothing [inaudible].
John: [inaudible] the vision to shut down.
Tom: Yes, and do this transformation into what we are today which is a company that helps make things that are not recyclable recyclable, made from recycled materials, and in the end reusable. And that was actually a very challenging but important shift, but it allowed the company to grow significantly in scale. We are now national in twenty countries around the world with the teams all over the planet working with just about every major brand in the world and doing these sort of big transformations, helping recycle like take everything, dirty diapers with Pampers and Holland to cigarette butts in Canada to you name it, hundreds of waste streams and then even help them reinvent their products to be entirely reusable and so on. But that transformation was very important and linked centrally to “Are we going to be able to fulfill our purpose with the tactics?” and we realized that the tactic of worm poop would not do it.
John: And what today if you were, to sum up, I know you have iterated TerraCycle brilliantly over the years. As you stand today, what is your core mission if you and I run on an elevator together and I would say, “Hey, what are you doing?” You say, “I got TerraCycle.” and I said, “What is TerraCycle do?” for our listeners and viewers who have not been exposed to it yet?
Tom: Yes. Absolutely. So, TerraCycle is an innovative mission-driven waste management company with a purpose still, the same purpose to eliminate the idea of waste. And we have three divisions that allow this to happen effectively moving products from being linear, the take-make-waste to fundamentally circular. And so, the first division asked the question, “Is that object recyclable today?” and if it is not, then we set up national platforms to make it recyclable typically funded by the manufacturers, the retailers or a community or something along those lines, and we do that at scale for hundreds and hundreds of ways. Then the second division asked the question, “Can that object be made from waste?” and then we help companies from P&G to make their shampoo bottles from ocean plastic all the way to Unilever to make their deodorant from rock and roll festival waste and so on and so forth. Then our third division which operates under the Loop brand says, “Can we go one step further?” Instead of a recycling base circular economy where the best thing to do is make it from recycled materials product and make sure it is recyclable, we try to shift to reuse spaced circular economy and that is what Loop is, it is like a global reuse platform that we are working with clients from McDonald’s and Burger King, all the way to almost every major CPG company in the world who are making now their products or their packages in fully reusable packaging forms. Think your Haagen-Dazs ice cream now in reusable stainless steel to your McDonald’s coffee cup in reusable high-end plastic, and then when you are done with the product, we Loop, are the waste management function of reuse. So, we take your dirt, sort them out, return deposits, but then clean them instead of say shred them and melt them so that they can be used again. And that is effectively what TerraCycle is all about.
John: Three divisions. For our listeners and viewers who just joined us, we are so honored to have with us today Tom Szaky. He is the Founder and CEO of TerraCycle. To find Tom and his colleagues and the great work that they do, please go to www.terracycle.com or www.loopstore.com, which is what we are just talking about. And we are going to talk about more of that later. Also, if you want to learn more about Tom, he has three books out but here are two of them. These are great books. Outsmarting Waste which I have read, and the Future of Packaging. These are two great books. If you are interested in getting involved in the sustainability or circular economy revolution and being the next Tom Szaky, read these books because I will tell you what? So much of the information you need to know is here right now. You know, Tom, you talked about twenty countries and I know you travel a lot. I travel a lot for the business that we are both in. You know what is fascinating is both of you and I got in the industry before Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize for Inconvenient Truth, sustainability was not a big thing here in the United States. In Europe, it was big because those countries are geographically challenged in terms of size and they just could not be a throwaway society in terms of Germany and the UK and Italy and France, the same thing when we go to South Korea and Japan. Beautiful countries that really had this generationally built into their DNA. Now, I feel like you and I have hung in there long enough and that we have reached the tipping point in the United States. Am I looking through the world through rose-colored glasses or do you feel the same way? Are we at that tipping point and is circular economy behavior sustainability here to stay and grow in the United States generationally speaking?
Tom: I definitely feel exactly what you are describing. And so, yes, the answer I would believe is absolutely yes now. With that said, Europe is leading the way especially Western Europe with an epicenter of being probably France, Germany, UK, really leading the way. And then absolutely right, rich dense countries have intrinsically a bigger issue to contend with like Japan or other countries like that, but North America is really waking up. I would pinpoint it probably the late 2017 or early 2018, at least for garbage, for different topics like energy, it came a bit earlier, but in the world of waste, it was right around late 2017 or early 2018 when the world really moved from being garbage is a problem to garbage is a crisis. Maybe earmarked by or in a landmarks sort of being the turtle had straw up its nose trending on social media, all the way to David Attenborough’s blue planet too, there has different sort of straws that could have broke the proverbial camel’s back. And then from there, we had Beretta emerge, a lot of young activists who are really brilliantly speaking up, and it has not gone away. And I think COVID is actually even created an opportunity to accentuate it and we are seeing that now manifest in the more traditional areas. Companies in our world, consumer product good companies, or retailers that were sort of flirting with sustainability are getting much deeper into it. Investors are putting way more resource that looks like against impact investing and upping their commitment into impact categories. It is probably driven by investors asking them to or looking for funds that are more impact-focused than traditionally focused. And this is also a big part of it is look at what is happening out there in California, burned down multiple times. Australia, Brazil, if you look at global fires, all the way to the visibility we have on the amount of plastics that are in our drinking water and polluting our oceans. It is very a clear effect of climate change. So, I think this is also because the world is struggling and we are now seeing that more clearly than we ever did before.
John: You know, I know recently you deservedly raise another twenty-five million dollars. Talk a little bit about where that money is going to go and what you envision of growth for the months and years to come?
Tom: Yes, absolutely. So, in 2020, we actually raised two times twenty-five, we raised a total of fifty. So, twenty-five million was raised for TerraCycle US and then another twenty-five was raised for Loop. And, yes, so we did effectively, I think technically just under fifty million in the capital last year. And we are now actually in the middle of raising another big round of about a hundred and fifty million that were in the middle of for this year for the whole enterprise. So, we are in a pretty bullish growth mode. Now, the good news is we have been profitable for a while now. We are not a start-up. This might you call as a growth company and we are about just under five hundred team members and so on and so forth. But it is because we know that we can grow significantly faster than just what our profits would allow us to reinvest and there is a lot of appetites to do this. So, for example, the capital we raised under TerraCycle, we actually did it under what is called the Regulation A offering for TerraCycle US. So, with the file with the SCC but we are allowed to then raised in a crowdfunding type model. So, while we had some bigger checks, six thousand investors came in to make up that round which is great because we engage about a quarter-billion people in our programs. So, a lot of the folks who interact with us became investors in a little small. The minimum investment was like seven hundred bucks and that allows us to really grow our US operations. So, we are doing that in really three key ways. One is boosting our existing business units, getting more salespeople out there faster, strengthening them by bringing in more capabilities and optimization then thinking about brand new innovations around the topics that we already focus on. How do we think about collecting and recycling the waste in very different ways? Whether it is R&D innovations, we are doing a big project on chemical recycling or solvent-based recycling, all the way to going after sort of new verticals and new areas we have not gone after before. And then the other is also looking at acquiring companies. We acquired a company two years ago out of Chicago that does light bulb recycling formerly called AirCycle and now called TerraCycle Regulated Waste. We are now in diligence on a couple of other acquisitions we are looking at. So, we are in this mode where we have an appetite as well to bring companies into our ecosystem and show them how we think and help them accelerate their overall growth. And on Loop, Loop is a big investment. Loop is going to be one of these things that requires a good amount of capital before it becomes profitable because it sets up a whole new way of consumption, a lot of infrastructures we have to build. So, the investment that came in on Loop from Aptar, Nestle, or Procter & Gamble made investments and so on is really to help set up the reuse infrastructure that the Loop project requires to be successful around the world.
John: Got it. What new verticals are you most excited about? Where do you see the greatest need right now in terms of driving future growth opportunities?
Tom: So, for us, the very big one is how do we help? We have done a lot on how do we help companies recycle, but how do we help them make products out of waste. Because if you think about recycling, recycling usually moves the material into lower and lower and lower applications. So, you start from a high-end thing then when it gets recycled into slightly lower. I think a paper is a good example. Paper can be recycled technically seven times and why it can is the fiber length gets shorter as you recycle. So, a bright white paper turns into newspaper and newspaper turns into toilet paper and then that ends up in our gray water. How do we make sure that we can get the really undesirable waste into high-end applications? We have done quite a lot of work but we see a lot more opportunity in that and a lot of companies are also interested in helping make their products from unique waste streams whether it is an ocean and river plastic, all the way to the waste on the top of Mt. Everest. There is a lot of waste out there that is not being collected because it creates may be different materials that have different capabilities or different prices, and this is a big area that we are really excited about. So, there are lots of these sort of areas that we are now doing big investments in and so far, it is really paying out. The companies out there are really, as you said earlier, materially shifting and embracing sustainability in much more of a core way than more of historically sustained. It is always actually very interesting. Where is the sustainability department in the company? Sometimes it is held by legal which means the company does use it as a risk to be managed. Maybe it is held by marketing where they view it as an opportunity for publicity. Sometimes it is held at its own budget and function where they view it more I believe as a business principle where they can win but it is actually very telling where a company puts their sustainability function for example.
John: You are so right. Once I was with Jim Gowen close to where you are sitting today, and Jim was the head of the supply chain and then they made him Chief Sustainability Officer as well at Verizon. And I ask him why and he explained to me why and I am like, “Aha, that was when the light bulb went off.” as you said. Instead of seeing it as risk, they saw it as an opportunity and use that as an opportunity at Verizon. So, you are so right on that. Talk about plastic. It seems though, Tom, the media has done a wonderful but in one way in almost an overweight job and just focusing on plastic as the world’s biggest crisis. Is that warranted and are we going to figure this out along the way here or what are your thoughts on the plastic crisis that does exist? But I am just wondering your thoughts on it.
Tom: Yes, absolutely. I think that it is a bit misdirected, not wrong but misdirected in the sense that I think it is not that of material is benevolent or evil, whether it is an alloy or a glass or a fiber or a ceramic or a polymer like plastic. I think the issue is the idea of single-use that we extract these materials from the earth, creating great harm on the planet, and then what? We use them for like ten minutes and throw them out? That is the problem. It is the throwaway nature, the single-use nature which tends to dominate plastics more than it does with some other materials. I think that is what we need to really contemplate and think about because plastic itself is a magical material that allows us to do so many things we could not do and we do need to honor it. It helps us be healthier. It helps us access things that we could not afford before. It helps lower carbon impact. It does a lot of great things but it also is synonymous with single-use and it is the single-use thing that we got to really solve. Now, single-use is an idea as only seventy years old. If we think back before the 50s, we cobbled our shoes, we mended our clothes, we bought milk from a milkman or motor oil was in reusable containers. We also bought way less and we lived much more humble lives. And that I think is the key thing we got to think about because, in the past seventy years, we have created this gouging on consumption and throwaway culture which is also almost identically created the environmental crisis we are in right now. Those all came hand-in-hand. Now, luckily it is only seventy years old as philosophy, this idea of throwaway, hyper-consumption, and I wonder if we can correct that.
John: Interesting. So, you raised now the fifty and the fifty and now you are raising a whole another round of capital?
John: You are in twenty countries now. I know you are going to be opening up three new countries in the near future?
Tom: Well, India is coming up. They were opening with our foundations. We have a non-profit. And then there are a couple of more countries were looking at in Europe like Portugal, Italy as well as countries like Indonesia and so on.
John: Talk about India. India taking a great brand like yours and a visionary like yours and converging that with India, one of the greatest populations in the world, talk about that opportunity. Is that get you out of bed in the morning? Is that really where you get to take all of your twenty years of experience and the vision for the future and really get to see change happen faster than ever before?
Tom: Yes, absolutely. So, to me, any new market is incredibly exciting personally because I get to discover in great depth what the culture in the country is all about. But the waste crisis is really pronounced in emerging regions especially Southeast Asia. Because now you have big populations that are moving into the consumerist culture and there is not the infrastructure to do proper waste management. Like for example in India, the first thing we are starting with is a project to clean up rivers because people just informally disposed of waste, not because they want to but because there is no other alternative into canals that go into rivers in the rainy season and then right out into the oceans. And it is something like eight rivers around the world are the source of about 80% of the ocean plastic in the ocean. So, that is where we are starting. It is really exciting every time we are deploying a new country to see how is what we do localized, how does it change and how does it stay the same, because garbage is very much a global truth. It is more similar country by country than it is different.
John: India is so big and vast. I have been there. I assume you have already been there as well.
John: Where do you start? It is so daunting in terms of size. How did you decide where to start?
Tom: We really try to focus on what do our partners want. And so here, we are going to start on the Ganges River because that is where our partners want us to focus. And then once we have established a base, then that is when we start thinking about how do we deploy other programs. When we opened in China, which is just the sort of large, we set up our office in Shanghai but then we started doing programs focused on major cities, but really driven by the partners that are funding our program. So, we really let that be partner-driven and that makes it much easier than us having to do big evaluations and take a gamble on where we should be located.
John: It is because the partners have the highest touch and best feel for the political, geopolitical, and social economic and cultural issues?
Tom: It could be or it could just be that they have a priority for a certain thing to happen somewhere. It could be much less sophisticated but generally, they are the actors on the ground who understand and we are there to serve them and so, that really is the driver of where we look at deploying and why.
John: You know, Tom, twenty countries is just tremendous. India, China, amazing. You are so, so young for having done so much and I say that only in an endearing way. It is just incredible what you have done at this age. Where do you go? How much further can you take these so many countries out there and how far in advance do you map this out?
Tom: We take it day by day. We are so crazy busy that it is more directionally we know where we are going, but then we are also really there to react and learn and pivot as needed. One of the things I do not believe in as much, I do not know if I am right or wrong on this is to do sort of big three to five-year planning. We set our direction very firmly in where we want to go and then we work as hard as possible to get bigger every year. Now, luckily for seventeen years, we have only grown, but we look out really the calendar year and make sure things are protected, we do things in a very conservative, budget processes, those sort of things but we do not really believe in the big long-term visioning only because things change so fast as well and we are more focused on how do we be agile, shift, adapt, and learn than to fix a course and stick with it. Now, what we will not compromise is our core beliefs which were all about how do we solve waste, but around that, we are incredibly flexible.
John: For our listeners out there who just joined us. We got Tom Szaky, he is the CEO and Founder of TerraCycle. You can find them at www.terracycle.com or www.loopstore.com. He has three books out. They are on Amazon. These are the two of them. I have read these two. They are amazing. Tom, I am on the Loop store site right now. I love it, but I want you to explain it to our viewers or listeners now. How does it operate and why did you set that up as a separate entity from the great TerraCycle website?
Tom: Yes, absolutely. So, Loop is a global platform for reuse where brands can enter and create reusable versions of their products, and most major brands, all the CPG companies have done so. So, I think Tide laundry detergent and reusable stainless steel or your Ferrero, Nutella, now in a reusable glass all over the world, and then retailers can embed that and make that available to their consumers. So, you can go into a store in the US Kroger Walgreens where you will be able to buy all your favorite brands in reusable packaging, then when you are done, you throw it into a loop ecosystem at the store sort of like a waste management function of reuse if you will. And we set that up as a distinct entity only because there were investors interested in investing in Loop distinctly. As mentioned, we did two rounds in 2021 of just under twenty-five million and other for twenty-five million, and Loop was one of those, and their investors like Procter & Gamble, Nestle, Aptar, or Firmenich were once who want it to strategically deploy capital directly into Loop.
John: Is the next round of capital you raised is going to be institutional or is it going to give an opportunity to our listeners and viewers to invest also as you did in the last one where you picked up six thousand of your users who invested in you as well?
Tom: Yes, absolutely. We may do more crowdfunding in the future or potentially even go public, but the next major round we are working on which is for a hundred and fifty million is something where the minimum check size will be about twenty-five million, so more institutional investors and folks that are focused on impact investing, and that is going to be an enterprise-wide capital raise or is an enterprise-wide capital raise.
John: Got it. You know, Tom, we have so many viewers and listeners around the world now and those are seventeen, sixteen, fifteen that want to be the next Tom Szaky, and I always say that with love and care. So, what are some advice now looking back, instead of looking forward, look back, for the next generation of entrepreneurs that want to change the world that just does not want to make a dollar but wants to make an impact and want to make a change? What words of wisdom and pearls of wisdom can you share backward with them?
Tom: A couple of things. I would say the idea of purpose is tremendously valuable. If you are a purposeful business, you can actually grow faster, open doors you cannot open before. The purpose is tremendously valuable. So, definitely be purposeful. As an entrepreneur, just start, stop thinking and just start. People overthink and you are going to learn everything on the way. But apart from that is to really honor failure in critique and honor it by learning from it and not being upset by it. Those are some of the sorts of golden principles that have been very important especially in a world that is getting faster and more dynamic by the minute.
John: Got it. If you were to pick one or two words or a sentence that best embodies Tom Szaky, tell me what that would be?
Tom: Oh, geez. Well, I think the things I pride and the cultures we create on is fierce innovation, really hard work and doing also with only in the spirit of how do we make the world or society better like how can capitalism be just oozing purpose in everything it does.
John: What I also love about you Tom is your obsession with clients. You have figured out a way to integrate your brands with more brands than anybody I have ever met and that is fascinating because they are not a cookiecutter. As you and I know, all these brands have their own culture and DNA. They figured out how to work with all of them. So, you have an obsession with pleasing and meeting your clients where they are that I have not seen with anybody else, and that is a talent. That is [inaudible].
Tom: Thank you. I appreciate that. I think a big part for us is it is not about us getting people to love our purpose, it is about understanding theirs and how they can win in whatever their goals are by leveraging the way we think about the world. I think that is very important. If you run a purpose-based or impact business, it is empathizing with the person you are working with whether it is a customer or a client or whoever, and helping them see how they can further their own goals with your purpose versus getting them just to believe in your purpose.
John: I love it. For our listeners and viewers out there. This has been Tom Szaky on the impact podcast. He is the Founder and CEO of TerraCycle. Something tells me he is only at the top of the first inning[?] of what he started to do because I will tell you why. He is so young and he has got such a big vision. You can find him and his colleagues at www.terracycle.com or www.loopstore.com or read his books. These three of them on amazon.com and in other great book stores. I have read the two of them. It is really worth a read. Tom, you are truly the embodiment of why I created this mission of this podcast called Impact. No one person has made an impact like you that I have met along the way, and I just wish you good health and more success so you continue to change the world for the better. Thank you for your time, the generosity of your time of joining us today, and I cannot wait to have you back on again and again, my friend.
Tom: My pleasure. Have a wonderful afternoon. Great to connect today.
John: Thanks so much, Tom. You are the best. Thank you so much.
Tom: Thanks, John. Great to chat. Look forward to doing it again soon.
John: All right.
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