This is the fifth post in an ongoing series we’re calling “Entrepreneur Spotlight” where we get the chance to speak with entrepreneurs and listen to their stories. Here we feature Sam Tamiz and Lawrence Deneault of NeoCrumb. You can check out their EquityNet profile here.
What ignited the spark in you to start a new business venture?
Sam: It’s not as simple as sitting down one day and saying to yourself, ‘Today, I’m going to start a new business venture.’ For me, the entrepreneurial spirit is continuous: everything I do, everywhere I go, I’m examining my surroundings to see how something can be improved, how someone’s life can be better served. It’s a mindset of always being on the lookout for new opportunities, of confronting challenges whenever they arise, and finding ways to overcome them. With this mindset, I’m not waiting for a spark to be ignited: I’m already lit. I’m just waiting for that opportune moment.
How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
Lawrence: It all started from a conversation I was having around 18 months earlier with an associate of mine. He spoke of recent innovations he had seen from a variety of people who were experimenting with the use of recycled tires and various types of recycled plastic. He felt that more development work was needed to perfect a specific product concept, but that it could make sense if done properly and successfully. By coincidence, I had seen similar work done in the former Soviet Union and Israel.
What struck both of us was that if we were to be successful, the business would literally change the way that old tires are processed and recycled the world over. The United States alone has hundreds of millions of tons of old tires sitting in lined landfills waiting for some sort of practical and cost-effective use. Until then, they are a big strain on the environment.
We recognized that if we were to be successful, the company would not only be extremely profitable for shareholders, but would be doing something very good for communities across North America.
We both agreed to study the matter further and explore whether a proper product could be developed. With time, and a lot of work, the PolyCrumb product family was created and perfected.
What was your mission at the outset?
Lawrence: Our mission was to evaluate the entire business, and try to create something which consistently throws off healthy dividends year after year. The idea was to create a company where everyone felt safe to work for the rest of their lives.
What made you choose your current location?
Lawrence: We chose the Midwest of the USA because over 60% of the nation’s injection molding companies are located there. Our home office is in Florida, but almost all of our activity is the Midwest.
What made you choose this type of business?
Lawrence: We were looking for a large, mature industry with moderate to tight profit margins where we could shake things up with a change in technology.
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Sam: My advice would be to be fearless in your attitude. It’s important to recognize from the onset that, as an entrepreneur, you will inevitably come across situations where you’ll be pushed to your limits, where you’ll be required to step outside your comfort zone to overcome challenges and find solutions. It’s not always easy, but the best way to learn is to do. And the more you confront challenges, the more adept you’ll become at overcoming them. You’ll learn from your mistakes. You’ll begin formulating a methodical approach to confront challenges with a clear and positive attitude.
What would you have done differently?
Lawrence: I think we lost almost nine months believing certain representations of the inventor. Whilst he accurately portrayed the efficacy of the material, his explanations of the marketplace were pretty far off. Thankfully, we employed a crawl, walk, run plan of launching the company, which kept a lot of our early mistakes fairly small, and only cost us time.
What kind of culture exists in your organization?
Lawrence: A key element to who we are is based on the integrity of our behavior to everyone, both inside and outside the company. What this means in practice is that we don’t grind people down; we look for long-term relationships rather than early one-time advantages. When we speak with a potential partner or employee, it’s with the thought that he or she will be with us for many years to come. So we may move a little slower, but we can already see it paying dividends, as people realize that they are dealing with the kinds of people they could previously only dream of.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
Lawrence: After a lot of time, sacrifice, and, frankly, overcoming naysayers, the most satisfying moment is to see the project take life and start operating like a well-oiled machine.
How do you deal with increasing competition in your industry?
Lawrence: Our business comes down to function, price, and quality. We can give the client an equal or better product at a lower price, all while providing additional attributes, including the fact that the product can be made from 100% recycled materials. But the secret sauce to our value proposition is that we give function and price with a very high quality product. As such, clients can design in our materials without worrying too much about degradation over time due to external elements and so on. Competitors can compete perhaps a little on price, but we don’t think they can compete on function and quality.
How do you define success?
Sam: I believe that success is a very individual experience. For one person, it could mean becoming rich and famous. For another, it could mean moving to the country and living a quant and simple life. So the key is to understand what you, as an individual, really want. It’s not as simple as it sounds, either. Settling on an individual definition of success is a journey that takes time, one that’s shaped by your experiences and surroundings.
For me, success is knowing that what I’m doing has purpose, that it has a positive impact on others. Serving my employees and customers, delivering solutions that improve the lives of others – these are the things that keep me going. It’s an incredibly fulfilling and rewarding experience to see your hard work materialize into something deliverable, something that improves the lives of others and has an overall positive impact on your community and environment.
What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?
Lawrence: You have to be willing to put everything in your life on the line, at all times. This means going from very wealthy, to very debt ridden, all while you work through an idea. It means your family has to be willing to suffer alongside you, no matter what.
What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
Sam: There are inevitably many differences between being an entrepreneur and pursuing a more structured career path. Speaking from the perspective of an entrepreneur, what stands out for me the most is the unpredictability of entrepreneurialism. It’s certainly not a 9 – 5 job, nor can you become dependent on a monthly pay check. There are incredible ups and downs, and often you are at the whim of circumstances beyond your control. And while you can own your successes, you must also be ready to own your failures.
That’s why it’s all the more important to be mentally prepared for what’s ahead of you. You are your own boss: only you can determine whether or not you will succeed.
What made you decide to try crowdfunding?
Sam: With our company at a critical stage of its growth, we felt it was necessary to raise some equity and build a cash cushion to protect us from any unexpected developments. Having explored the more traditional channels for fundraising, we turned to crowdfunding, and in particular EquityNet, to try something new. Being entrepreneurs, embracing new opportunities is something we never turn down.
For me, crowdfunding eliminates a lot of the noise and barriers that you encounter when trying to connect to other entrepreneurs. It’s a manifestation of the ‘flattening’ of the world, so to speak, brought about by advances in technology and online communications. In essence, you are able to access a database of thousands of potential investors and entrepreneurs, and in turn present your company and philosophy in a clear, concise manner. And everyone is on the platform for the same reason: to find and build success. It’s a no-brainer really.
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