What started as a simple service to our community ended with a very real service to a member of our community.
Following is a diary of sorts for a short term entrepreneurial venture that me and my family engaged in this fall. The goal at first was to make a little extra change for Christmas and provide a needed service for the city of Roswell, GA. As with most entrepreneurial ventures, we learned far more than we intended to and ended up providing a service we never could have foreseen.
My wife, Angel, sees a post on nextdoor.com that everyone in Roswell is being given a new 96-gallon trash container for Roswell’s new semi-automatic trash collection service. Angel thinks of the idea of charging people a few bucks to take their old trashcan and dispose of it. Genius!
Kevin asked Angel if she is serious and she says yes. Kevin contacts for city of Roswell and asked if such a service would be valuable. A representative from City of Roswell responds, “great idea“ and gives Kevin the name of the guy who runs the solid waste collection program. His name is Nick. Nick asks his legal team if they can promote our idea, but they said no. Kevin buys take my trashcan.com domain and Kevin and Angel start working through a list of stuff that needs to be done. Kevin also learns that the total number of new trash cans that will be distributed is 27,000. We don’t no how many people will want to get rid of their old trashcan yet.
Kevin sets up a simple WordPress website using PayPal checkout for payments. Didn’t test a thing except basic links, and replied to half a dozen facebook comments on the original Roswell Gov post on FB and the same post on Nextdoor.com. Price is set at $10. We don’t even know if the recycling center or landfills will charge us to dump these things yet!
“A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” – General Patton
Got the first order from a college friend who also lives in Roswell, and who shared it to her local community awareness group on Facebook as well. That’s our first $10. w00t!
Started getting messages that people couldn’t place an order, or that when they did, they got lost and had no idea if it went through or not. Problem was bad setup of PayPal Checkout + Woocommerce pages. Struggled a bit, called PayPal (no help), and finally just re-setup woocommerce pages by going through their wizard and letting it automatically setup the pages. Bingo! Went back and emailed everyone who had inquired via email that our basic system was messed up, thanks for your patience, we’re sorry yada yada yada, and said now we’re ready to go. Got 23 orders in the next 4 days.
Did a facebook post, then boosted that post for $20 for 7 days to people 23 and older in zip codes 30075 and 30076.
After getting 25 orders, sent out an email to our 46 subscribers who requested to be notified when things got moving.
Got 39 total orders, so we decided to do a full day (if needed) pickup day on Saturday December 1. As of this writing, we have all the addresses, one security gate code, and a map of all the locations ready to go. Home Depot doesn’t accept reservations for trucks so we’ll be taking a big freaking chance there. I may have to go at 6am to get one! Also, as of this writing, no idea where we will be taking these trash cans once we pick them up. Doh! Here are the possibilities:
Roswell Transfer Station
- Eagle Point Landfill
Cherokee C & D Landfill6 Pine Bluff Landfill Greenleaf C & D Landfill770-888-3353
Looks like we have a winner. Ballground, GA, here we come! Minimum charge of $25.
Got 10 more orders today; learned that the recycling station in Ball Ground GA closes at 1pm, and I have to be there in time to unload, which means 12:30, which means we have to leave Roswell by 11:30, which means we have to be up and picking up first thing in the AM because I have no idea how long it’s gonna take.
Cut off Saturday’s pickup at orders received by 3PM Friday. Had to stop somewhere.
Meanwhile, we’re at 50 orders ($500) and counting. HA! Spent $20 on FB ad. Will spend probably $40 on HD truck and $25 for the landfill fee. We’ll see how much of an actual P.I.T.A. work this is, or if it’s relatively easy.
Facebook has been the way to get this word out. Haven’t really done Nextdoor yet. Will try that AFTER Saturday’s potential nightmare of a pickup day. Supposed to be cold and rain all day. Good times.
Well, wasn’t this a fun day! William (17-y/o son) and I arrived at Uhaul center at 8:55AM (they don’t open until 9am??) to pick up the 15’ truck I had reserved the night before only to find out that they had rented the truck to someone else. Not a good start. Seinfeld Episode anyone? They found a 20’ truck at the UHaul in Sandy Springs, so I rented that for more money because it was pouring down rain and I didn’t have time to fight them. We had to be at the landfill in Ball ground no later than 12:45PM. I had originally wanted to rent a truck to pick up at 6am, but that option wasn’t an option.
So we picked up the truck, and less than a mile away started hearing a clanking sound. No idea what it was or where it was coming from, but it sounded like we were dragging a cow bell on a chain. Then every now and then it would sound like a dragon’s nails on a giant chalkboard and I could feel it in the steering wheel. Obviously, it was something hung up in one of the wheels. We never figured it out and it didn’t impede our progress, just annoyed the heck out of us.
It rained the entire day and never got above 45 degrees. We had 4 no shows (didn’t put their trash cans out on the curb), and several customers ordered one pickup and put out two trash cans, or ordered 2 and put out 3. We took them all anyway. In fact, we accidentally took someone’s brand new trash can, but quickly realized it and put it back.
It took us more than 2 hours in the rain on a cold Saturday morning to pick up exactly HALF of the trash cans on our map. Then we had to RACE up to the landfill in Ballground. We made it by one minute. That was the easiest part, and cost $25. Unfortunately, we only had half a load, so we ruined our profits by now having to rent another truck and pay another $25 for the landfill. Yuck. My son was very excited, having worked his butt off and earned $70.
But, and I almost forgot this until I looked at my notes from the day, the funniest part of the day was listening to the lady’s voice on Google Maps as she told us where to go to get to the next address. One address led us through a road called something or other “Trace”, but it appears on Google Maps as “TRCE” instead of “Trace.” So, since the Google voice is phonetic, we got “Tee Arse”. “Turn left on Tee Arse. Continue on Tee Arse for a quarter mile.”
Over the weekend, we’ve received nearly 30 more orders. So we’ve rented a truck for Tuesday – Sunny and 50!! – to do another pickup run. We’ll start early in the morning and get to the landfill LONG before 430 closing time. We will also be taking the remaining 25+ trash cans that we picked up after lunch on Saturday, which are currently sitting in our driveway. Our neighbors are thrilled.
Added a new post on Nextdoor.com, same exact post as the Facebook post/ad.
Angel and I went to pick up the UHaul truck at 830, only to find, again, that they did not show it was available for self checkout. ARGH! Went home, called UHaul, talked to a nice lady who said the owner of the UHaul at Midgard lives on site and was walking down the stairs (Ron Howard’s voice: “she did not, and she was not”), and that she’d call me back in 5 minutes. She did not. None of that was true. Midgard discounted the truck to $10/day and 50 cents/mile. Nice of them, but I was still ticked.
Angel and I spent 3 hours picking up 34 trash cans, then went back home to pack up the other 25 or so cans, had lunch, then drove to the landfill in Ballground to drop everything off. This time the dump charged $40 because it was 1080 lbs. or something.
Got 7 new orders since yesterday, and one guy who replies to my email reply to say “we’re still waiting on a reply!” in addition to one guy who placed a real order, but twice has not put out his trash cans.
There were also two folks who ordered one, put out two, and then when I emailed them and invoiced them, they paid nicely. Yay.
In the last 6 days, we’ve received over 50 orders, after I fixed the website so folks could add more than 1 quantity to the order. More than $700 is sitting in PayPal, but Thursday is going to be a very long day. Arranged to pickup the truck at 7am with the UHaul app. We’ll see if that actually works. I’ll be flying solo all day. Should be lots of fun.
Our final pickup day, #3, I finally got UHaul to be able to let me pick up the rental truck before they open at 9. I picked it up at 7am. Angel and I drove around until 1:30 and picked up 61 old trash cans. We had a lovely lunch at Culver’s, and took all the trash cans to the landfill. I just forwarded the takemytrashcan.com domain to http://trashcanrecycling.com/ (competitor) and put an autoresponder on the email. That’s it, we’re done.
A few notes from this final pickup day:
- Several people expected me to take their trash, in addition to their trash can. That made this venture officially a “dirty job”. I dressed the part, so no big deal, but still not fun.
- Lots of folks just don’t read their email, and were surprised when I called them from in front of their home today, after sending them an email yesterday that we would be picking up today. However, some of those folks got the email, replied to it obviously without reading it, and demanded to know what was going on since it was the 13th and they didn’t have the print out to put on their trash can. That’s the same printout that was attached to the email they replied to, which they opened but obviously didn’t read. Very strange.
- For the second time, someone put out their trash cans today, before they left for work, and by the time we got there, someone other than us had taken the trash cans! Very strange. We refunded their money, since we didn’t actually do the work.
The Final Adventure
To close it all out, on the way home from Ballground, driving through Milton, I just happened to see out of the corner of my eye an old man who had obviously fallen in his very long, very steep driveway. I immediately pulled over into the next driveway, telling Angel, “Something’s wrong with him and we have to help him!”, and then Angel and I ran back to see if he needed help. He did! Turns out, the house he was in front of is actually a hospice house / nursing home, and he is a patient there. He had just walked out and made his way down the driveway, but then fallen down about 20 feet from the very busy road.
I don’t want to think about what would have happened if he had made it to the road. There was no sidewalk along this busy road. When we got to him, he was on his knees. Blood was dripping from his head, just above his eye. He could barely get up, even with Angel and me helping him. We got him up and wiped his eye to stop the bleeding. Then we started slowly walking him back up the very long driveway to the house.
It was about that time that someone from the house started towards us from the front door, and the next door neighbor came over as well. Then another person from the house came out and started swearing, “Oh Jesus Christ Oh My God what have you done?!?” Once we got him back inside and safe, I went over and talked to the neighbor who had come over. She explained that it’s actually a business, a nursing home for hospice patients, and that it was “under new management.”
I’m just glad this old man got back into his home safely.
The Income Statement
Finally, the numbers for this short term entrepreneurial venture are in the figure to the right. Going in, we really had no idea how many Roswell residents would choose to pay someone $10 to pickup and dispose of their old trash can. In the Facebook Ad above, I offered other alternatives to paying us. I imagine most people did one or more of those suggestions.
What I did not know, and could not have planned for, was the expense on the truck rentals. That destroyed our profits. But, the only way to learn is to do. I could have spent hours trying to crunch the numbers based on exact mileage between each stop and the MPG of a 15′ UHaul truck in the rain full of half a ton of trash cans. It was easier to just do it, and make a few hundred bucks.
The biggest gift in this whole adventure was, of course, the adventure itself. Similar to our adventure renting goats to clear (or not) the ivy from our back yard, my motto is “always choose the adventure.” We made some money. My kids got to experience entrepreneurship in a very pure form. We got to perform a service for our community. We saved an elderly man from God only knows what. And, one of the best parts, I got to spend 3 full days outside not staring at this screen. Incredibly refreshing.