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Small Business Grant Interview Series: Used Cardboard Boxes

February 15, 2013
Small Business
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Marty Metro, CEO of UsedCardboardBoxes.com, shares with us how he obtained the competitive Chase & Living Social Mission: Small Business Grant for his environmentally-conscious cardboard box reuse and recycling company.  Read on for his story as well as his tips for other small business owners looking to obtain funding.

NerdWallet (NW): What does your business provide to consumers?

Marty Metro (MM): “UsedCardboardBoxes.com is a national logistics firm focusing exclusively on reuse. We take an innovative approach to providing low-cost, earth-friendly moving boxes to consumers, nationwide. UCB “rescues” truckloads of quality used boxes from large US manufacturers that might otherwise recycle them, or just throw them away. Historically, manufacturers recycle the boxes in which they receive from their suppliers, and potentially get a “scrap rate” from their local recycler. UCB offers a nationwide service to buy these quality used boxes, for reuse! UCB pays companies more than traditional recycling rates, because we don’t recycle the boxes; we resell them as boxes, for less than the price of new ones!

After rescuing quality used boxes, UCB inspects the boxes, sorts them, and resells them to other companies (and consumers) as a low-cost, eco-friendly alternative to buying new boxes. For consumers, UCB makes eco-friendly moving kits that include a variety of sizes of quality used boxes, along with tape, paper, markers and box cutters. All orders are delivered for free to any address in the continental US in 1-2 business days. For companies, UCB sells truckload quantities of palletized used boxes to all kinds of large organizations, including national retailers, distributors, thrift organizations and food banks. It’s a win/win/win/win: for our suppliers, our customers, UCB and the environment!”

NW: How did you learn about this grant?

MM: “I receive daily “Idea of the Day” emails from Barbara Weltman , who provides “Big Ideas for Small Businesses.”  Information about the Mission: Small Business Grant was included in her May 31, 2012 email.”

NW: What did you have to do to apply for this grant?  On what criteria did they judge you?

MM: “The grant program, developed to provide small businesses with resources needed to make a positive impact on their businesses, awarded a total of $3 million to small business owners, nationwide. Small businesses that have been in business for at least two years and have less than 100 employees were eligible to apply. After receiving at least 250 qualifying votes online, each applicant was required to explain why its business was unique, outline a plan for utilizing the grant, and describe how its business was involved with its community.

A panel of experts selected winners who were able to demonstrate a solid business and management team/owner; a well thought-out and feasible growth plan; a likelihood to succeed within a two-year time frame; a positive impact on the local community and demonstrated local support; and energy, enthusiasm, creativity and passion for the business.”

NW: Why do you think you won?  What made did your business stand out?

MM: “That’s a difficult question!  We hope it was a combination of our enthusiasm, environmental values, talented team, vision, and story.  We balance financial returns with environmental responsibility.

Started with one employee in 2006, UCB has expanded from a simple-but-passionate “go green” idea to a company with over 25 full-time employees and a technology infrastructure that enables it to resell millions of boxes every year.  We now work with some of the largest companies in the country and has been covered by most major news outlets, and we have helped save hundreds of thousands of trees by promoting the reuse and recycling of cardboard boxes.”

NW: How did receiving this grant change your business?

MM: “This grant has allowed us to greatly expand our business and open up additional distribution centers across the country.  It has also allowed us to hire many talented new employees and will allow us to begin offering health insurance to all of our employees.  Much of the grant money remains, and we hope to continue expanding, continue to build lasting relationships with the country’s largest manufacturers and distributors, and continue saving trees!”

NW: What advice do you have for other small business owners who are seeking funding?

MM: “Small business grants are incredible hard to come by, especially in this economy.  The best advice we have is to keep your ears and eyes open, talk to your peers, and do lots of research!  More important than anything is to have a real business model that creates value.  Getting a grant won’t mean your business will be successful.  Having a solid business plan that makes money will help ensure your success and may help you get a grant. Then, if and when you do get the grant, it will help you achieve your goals faster.  However, don’t expect the grant to be your key to success.  It’s your plan that gets you to success.  The grant money might help you get there sooner!”