Alumni launch sustainable idea: reusable takeout container biz
September 16, 2013
Local entrepreneurs Phel Meyer and Rich Grousset (both M.S./M.B.A. '13 graduates) want to bring their new reusable takeout container service to life by raising $30,000 through the crowdfunding site indiegogo.com.
BizeeBox, the startup launched by the two recent University of Michigan graduates, will provide Ann Arbor restaurant customers with an environmentally friendly alternative to the wasteful, disposable containers used for takeout or leftover food. Meyer and Grousset intend to begin offering the service in early 2014.
BizeeBox’s service is simple for restaurants and customers. The company delivers clean, durable plastic containers of various shapes and sizes to restaurants, which serve to-go food or leftovers to customers in those containers. Customers may then use the containers how they like, but must return them to conveniently located BizeeBox return receptacles within 30 days to avoid being charged a replacement fee. BizeeBox then collects the used containers from the receptacles, cleans and sanitizes them at a commercial dishwashing facility, and redistributes them to restaurants.
“Based on our market research and the success of a similar service we launched at a University of Michigan café last fall, we are confident there is demand for this type of service,” says Grousset. “We are ready to take this idea to the next level and make reusable takeout containers available to all restaurants in the Ann Arbor community and beyond.”
Crowdfunding services like Indiegogo and Kickstarter provide a platform for entrepreneurs like Meyer and Grousset to get their ideas in front of millions of potential supporters. Rather than paying back the investments, entrepreneurs offer perks to participants in exchange for their support. For example, for a $50 contribution, BizeeBox offers backers a branded reusable shopping bag. For a $50,000 contribution, BizeeBox promises to bring its service to the contributor’s town next. The company plans to use the funds raised to purchase equipment and develop the technology they need to make the service easy to use and operationally efficient.
“We need to prove our concept before we can attract traditional investors and that’s where crowd funding comes in,” Meyer adds. “The initial capital we raise will allow us to not only launch our business, but also generate buzz and prove that consumers are ready to embrace reuse."
The reusable takeout containers, which are made to last for more than 350 uses, are environmentally and economically preferable to other alternatives on the market, as long as they are actually reused.
“This is simply better than composting, recycling or landfilling single-use containers, even biodegradable ones. Decreasing the number of takeout containers going to landfills and cluttering up the environment also reduces the amount of taxpayer dollars used to manage waste and clean up litter,” says Meyer. “We will also create local jobs by employing workers to collect, clean and deliver the containers.”
Meyer says the business venture is not only about solving environmental and economic issues, though.
“Our goal is to set up a service that makes as much business sense to restaurants as it does environmental sense,” says Meyer. “By scaling up and increasing efficiency, we will be able to compete on price with the best eco-friendly takeout containers available on the market today.”
Grousset adds, “We are trying to demonstrate to people that businesses can create positive and lasting change, but we’re also very excited by the prospect of making a living doing something we love. ”