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Friday January 22nd

Making going green easier: Raleigh startup Compost Now makes sustainability at home simple

Matt Rostetter had worked for a company’s in-house creative studio for a couple of years and started getting jaded by the corporate atmosphere when he realized he wanted to further challenge his creativity and live sustainably.

He wanted to start composting but didn’t have a backyard in his townhouse. He realized that many people, restaurants and businesses were in the same position as he was, and decided to do something about it.

That’s when he started testing the idea behind Compost Now — a company Rostetter founded in 2010 that allows anyone to compost at home without the hassle of a compost bin. He initially provided the service to close friends and families by collecting and composting their food scraps.

Rostetter knew there was a customer base that would pay extra money for a service that would reap large benefits for the environment, so he decided to eventually quit his job and make it a full-fledged business.

“I looked around searching and nobody was doing this, and (Raleigh) was years away from initiating any kind of program,” Rostetter said. “So I just thought screw it, I’ll see if I can figure this out.”

However, after a year and a half or two into providing the service, Rostetter said he knew he couldn’t continue to grow an efficient business without a solid business plan, so he hired co-founders Justin Senkbeil and Dominique Bischof to help him develop and grow his goals financially and technologically.

Senkbeil is a social entrepreneur and helps Compost Now with its day-to-day management decisions. He also helps set the strategic vision, allocates their limited resources and continues to build their team.

Bischof helps run technological innovations and operations, he previously worked for TransLoc as a leader in public transit software.

The service

Compost Now offers their services to residents' living spaces, business offices, restaurants, cafes and even for large events. Restaurants such as Relish Cafe & Bar are a regular customer of the organization. No contracts are required and the launching the composting program only takes a week.

“We hope to see every household and small business composting and diverting their food scraps,” Rostetter said in a press release.

The company provides each customer their own step-can and each week the organization picks up the compostables — which includes food, coffee grounds, tea bags, pizza boxes, etc. Compost Now employees clean the bins with natural antibacterial deodorizing cleaners, which also makes the trash smell better.

Composting prevents waste from going to landfills which in turn means less methane is emitted into the atmosphere. Approximately 30 percent of household waste is compostable and for every 100 pounds of compost that is collected, it prevents enough methane from entering the atmosphere to offset 568 miles of driving, according to Compost Now.

Composting also helps plants to have healthier and nutrient-rich soil, which protects plants from disease. The soil in compost also needs less watering, fertilizer and pesticides — which is why Compost Now shares with their garden partners to help local food systems build healthier soils.

The company’s garden partners include Carolina Campus Community Garden, Carrboro Community Garden Coalition, Carrboro Family Garden and the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle.

Compost Now has also recently teamed up with Compostwheels in Atlanta, “because we learned that teaming up just make us both even more powerful and more effective,” Rostetter said.

Rostetter said the organization is currently trying to figure out how to move into more markets, currently being based in the RTP-area, Asheville and recently Atlanta, while continuing to educate local residents about composting and living more sustainable lifestyles. One of the biggest challenges is building more awareness for their company about environmentally friendly waste routines.

Future Innovations and Funding  

Senkbeil said in an email that late last year Compost Now was able to raise capital from various strategic angel investors to help continue growing their company. The investors were also able to help continue to build its operational capacity and support the rapidly increasing growth the company experienced last year.

Before receiving funding from angel investors, Compost Now “was able to bootstrap our efforts for nearly seven years,” Senkbeil said. When Rostetter initially started Compost Now he had been breaking even financially, and eventually got Senkbeil to help with a business plan.

Compost Now currently uses a system that automates the business for their customers. The customers are able to a dashboard to see how much soil they’ve created, to switch payment methods and to help to route for the company’s drivers, which “has made this whole composting service way more efficient for us,” Rostetter said.

In the future, Rostetter said Compost Now would like to eventually sell the software they currently use for businesses similar to theirs.

city@dailytarheel.com 

@rebeccaayers234

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