BRATTLEBORO >> Hidden away in what was once warehouse space in the Emerson Building on Elliot Street is a multi-million dollar business.
In 2009, Michael Alexander launched Recycle Away from his attic office in his home in Guilford. With the help of Good Bear Productions in the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation's Cotton Mill, he set up a website and it was off to the races.
"This was basically a dot com e-commerce company," said Alexander. "Our business model is a great model for Vermont startups. It didn't require a lot of up-front inventory or risk. We only had to develop a state-of-the-art online store."
Recycle Away outgrew Alexander's attic, and is now located on Elliot Street.
According to its website, Recycle Away is a company dedicated to providing superior customer service to meet the demands of organizations, municipalities, and corporations seeking recycling and waste solutions. It specializes in Custom recycling containers for corporations, color-coded recycle bins for colleges and universities, outdoor recycling stations for parks and downtowns, office recycling bins for businesses, fun and effective recycling containers for schools and recycled-content containers for LEED certified facilities.
Recycle Away's corporate clients include 3M, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Burton Snowboards, Circle K, Dunkin'Donuts, Facebook, Kelloggs and Verizon. Clients also include municipalities, state agencies and nonprofits across the country.
Prior to launching Recycle Away, Alexander served for seven years as Director of Policy and Research for the National Recycling Coalition and for nine years served as Program Manager for the Northeast Recycling Council. He began his environmental career in 1989 as an analyst with the New York State Office of Recycling Market Development, the first agency in the U.S. dedicated to creating markets for recyclables.
After 25 years helping to write policy related to recycling, Alexander had a light-bulb moment.
"Corporations were trying to positing themselves as green. The highest profile, least expensive way to showcase you commitment to the environment is a corporate recycling program. I saw a market opportunity to start a business."
Recycle Away is a clearing house of sorts. It publishes an online catalogue, customers make purchases through them and Recycle Away ships directly from its manufacturing partners, most of them in the United States.
"I read 'Ad Words for Dummies,' and I had this 'ah-ha' moment. The first day we opened we had guaranteed visitors because we paid for clicks. We got traction right out of the stating gate."
Six years later, Recycle Away, with a staff of less than 15, is generating $7.5 million in revenue.
With the help of Burlington Bytes, a website design company, Alexander also developed trashcanswarehouse.com, an adjunct website where they sell more recycling containers.
Alexander said he was lucky in that he was at the end of the line for broadband service in Guilford.
"It was clutch for a startup. I was lucky enough to have it when I started the company. And the talent of the people locally has been very strong. His first employee was a Marlboro College graduate who now lives in Seattle.
"Since then, we have really lucked out. We have really talented customer service and sales people and we get a really strong response when we advertise positions."
He also thanked Peter Johnson, his landlord, for all his support over the years.
"Being able to stay in Brattleboro but have that nationwide reach is really important to our growth."