„How to grow a business from worm poop – Tom Szaky“

This is the fa­s‍test, densest interview I did so far, both in terms of information and topics we covered! Talking to Tom is like surfing through Wikipedia: for every topic, he has the facts and figures and a nice intere­s‍ting story. Terra Cycle, Tom’s company, is a world leader for recycling of “non-recyclable products”, operating in 20 countries today, and what I found most fascinating about Tom and Terra Cycle is how imaginative they are with the purpose of reducing wa­s‍te.

In our conversation we cover Terra Cycle’s purpose, its business model (getting everybody to the table and figuring out a way how everybody can benefit – simply great!), his personal path to being a social entrepreneur and why the ultimate answer to wa­s‍te is not Terra Cycle, but something else… 😉

If you have only two minutes, li­s‍ten to Tom’s example how they recycle baby diapers in Holland… 😉

In this episode:

  • How Terra cycle started from making compost from worm poop and developed into multinational company today that recycles the un-recyclable
  • Terra cycles business model: I would call it a “multi-stakeholder benefit approach” – very intere­s‍ting!
  • The story about DM Drogeriemarkt and Terra Cycle’s Aerosol collection (including Germany’s last company building metal bicycles!)
  • Their first packaging using recycled ocean pla­s‍tic – including Procter & Gamble as well as a bunch of NGOs…!
  • The key to innovation: Go back one step first and under­s‍tand where the problem is coming from!
  • “… and then don’t make the steps to big!”
  • The key to success with business partners: take their perspective.
  • Tom’s personal path to Terra cycle: his early idea of a business built completely around purpose
  • Why he loves entrepreneurship
  • The importance of focusing on your core: e.g. as a garbage company, recycling soda bottles as packaging material because you have no money to pay the package for your worm poop…;-)
  • The three things you should be willing to face if you want to be an entrepreneur

Advice to people figuring out their own path:

  • Finding a job you love: by finding something you’re passionate about first.
  • The importance of purpose in what you do – for you personally, not for anybody else!

Worklife and personal development:

  • Efficient emails and meetings
  • The importance of free time for personal development
  • The greatness of building with your hands
  • Family and work life


Tom and Terra Cycle:

Tom’s early day role models:


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