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"I find the column inspiring and helpful to me in running my own small business."
"'Ask the Small Business Professor' is a must read for small business owners looking for free expert business advice. Using a Q&A format, Bruce Freeman covers important small business topics weekly by bringing in recognized experts on subjects including accounting, legal issues, trademarks marketing and sales. Don't miss it!"
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Flexibility and Reinvention: Keys to Long Term Success
Melanie Haga, founder and president of Back Thru The Future Computer Recycling of Ogdensburg, NJ recycles data sensitive computers for corporations around the tri- state area. Some of the equipment is wiped of data, repaired if necessary, and exported to third world countries. Other machines are broken down and sold for parts. Anything left over is sorted into categories for recycling or refining, thereby protecting the environment instead of continuing to overburden landfills. Proceeds from these various processes are then returned to the original companies less a reasonable fee for services provided.
As a concept alone, Back Thru The Future is interesting because recycling as a business opportunity is largely untapped in this country. But more than that, Back Thru The Future is a story of evolution. 14 years ago, Melanie was in computer sales servicing the PC rental industry. She started her own business out of her home, selling used computer parts. The second generation of her entrepreneurship began when she morphed the business by opening up a warehouse and serving 3rd party venders. Her next move was to open up four warehouse locations around the country to reduce shipping costs. Suddenly she was running a nation-wide company.
Her experience with component computer parts led her to thinking about what corporations do with outmoded equipment. New requirements in environmental law forced corporations to find responsible ways to get rid of unwanted equipment. Starting from scratch, with only her reputation in the computer business, the 3rd generation of her business began when she started contacting corporations, contracting to remove obsolete equipment, breaking computers down for component parts, and reporting back what was done with the old technology. Now she is an EPA approved computer recycling company.
Morphing her business once again, Melanie is currently moving into another sector, the absolute destruction of sensitive data hard drives. For companies’ data safety, this must be done off-site, by a disinterested third party, so that the destruction of data is guaranteed. For the first time as an entrepreneur, Melanie is making a large capital investment in a massive German-made machine which grinds hard drives to aluminum dust, which can then be recycled. Corporations can have a representative on site to oversee the process or receive a certificate of guaranteed destruction along with a CD-ROM of the process for later review.
The Small Business Professors' Words of Wisdom
Melanie’s journey as an entrepreneur is a great example of successfully changing business models as the market changes or new opportunities arise. In 14 years, she has changed the nature of her business four times. That may not be necessary or even possible in every business situation, but diversification is a time honored method of managing risk. Change brings anxiety, but it also brings opportunity. Knowledge about your industry provides an inside track to what is needed within your marketplace. Focus on the possibility of expansion or diversification to create new profit pathways.
- Case History: Back Thru The Future Computer Recycling, Inc. www.backthruthefuture.com
- Entrepreneur’s Strategy: Changes business model to fit with market, economy, and new opportunities.
- Could This Work For Me? Keeping up with market changes is essential for long term business success. Diversification into new markets is almost always worth it in the long run.
New requirements in environmental law forced corporations to find responsible ways to get rid of unwanted equipment.