V.I.P. Waste Services helping apartment communities recycle

Jesse Lear and Travis Smith have been friends since their days at Cedarville University. Both aspired to become full-time entrepreneurs, and with the launch of V.I.P. Waste Services almost a year-and-a-half ago their dreams have come true− but not without a little sacrifice.

Lear and Smith graduated college in 2009 and moved to Columbus soon after. They took jobs selling cable door to door and moved in together to save money. One chilly winter day, as bags of trash and recyclables began to pile up near their apartment door and on their balcony, they had an epiphany.

“It was so cold outside and such a long walk to the on-site trash compactor that neither of us wanted to take the trash out,” says Lear. “One of us said, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just pay a company to pick up our trash and recyclables at our door?’ That’s when we stopped what we were doing and looked at each other. We were both thinking the same thing.”

And the concept for V.I.P. Waste Services was born.

The young men registered their business in December 2010, and after working many 18-hour days and investing a considerable amount of of money over a period of about six months, they landed their first contract. The client was Albany Commons, an apartment community in Northeast Columbus that is overseen by Oakwood Management Co.

Lear and Smith met Oakwood’s president, John Wymer, at an annual trade show organized by the Columbus Apartment Association, which led to several meetings with the company. Oakwoood concluded that V.I.P.’s services would add a valuable spark to its communities and gave the new business a chance.

When V.I.P. was getting off the ground, working as cable guys came in handy, as Lear and Smith’s schedules gave them the freedom to work when they wanted.

“But as our business grew, our performance at our jobs began to suffer and we began to realize that we couldn’t succeed at both,” Lear says. “We needed to choose one. Our business was making enough money to support us by then −barely!− so we resigned and became full-time entrepreneurs.”

While V.I.P. still offers valet trash services at select communities, the core of its business is recycling programs, which are available at 30 properties in the Greater Columbus area.

So far, the biggest challenge for Lear and Smith is budgeting their time.

“We have more freedom now than we’ve ever had before,” he says. “We can sleep in until noon and nobody cares. It sounds nice, but it’s dangerous. You can’t sleep in every day and expect to have a successful business. We’re constantly striving to be more disciplined with managing our time to be as effective as possible.”

Entrepreneur and motivational speaker Jim Rohn once said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” V.I.P.’s founders have taken his words to heart and, as a result, strive to surround themselves with people wiser and more successful than they are, Lear says.

“That’s why we put together an advisory board,” he explains. “Our advisory board is an interesting mix of local business leaders, mentors who have taken us under their wings, and other young entrepreneurs from around the country. We also hired a business coach in the beginning to advise us on our strategies and operations. He’s still a valuable part of our team.”

Ultimately, V.I.P.’s mission is to create recycling programs that make it easier for apartment dwellers to recycle, while giving their communities a powerful marketing tool.

“We want to help as many people as possible, and so expansion is likely in the near future,” he says. “We also plan to get more involved in offering our recycling programs to restaurants and office buildings.”

To learn more about V.I.P. Waste Services, visit VIPWaste.com.