Compost Crusader: Local Composting Made Easy

Open Road — Week 2 by Team THIS

In our second week, we partnered with Compost Crusader, a compost logistics company based in Milwaukee, WI. We were amazed by founder Melissa Tashjian’s passion for the environment, and the grit and work ethic that enabled her to turn that passion into a sustainable business (no pun intended!).

Prior to Compost Crusader, Melissa founded a nonprofit that sought to educate children in the Milwaukee area on the benefits of composting while fostering community engagement in the process. Since Compost Crusader’s inception, Melissa has received multiple awards, grants, and media coverage for her efforts, and has transformed the way Milwaukee views landfill diversion.

Melissa saw an opportunity to turn her love of environmental sustainability into a profitable business. She is currently working with the City of Milwaukee and Village of Shorewood to pilot city government-funded residential composting, and her commercial client base includes local breweries, coffee shops, grocers, and restaurants, as well as corporations like Kohl’s and GE Healthcare.

Dropping compost off at Blue Ribbon Organics

Because Compost Crusader is undergoing such rapid growth, Melissa sought support in business development, marketing, and human resources. In terms of business development, Melissa wanted to be strategic about which commercial clients she pursued. We completed profitability analyses for each customer segment she currently serves, and located similar businesses along her existing routes, as costs associated with additional service stops would be minimal.

On the marketing front, we analyzed the benefits and disadvantages associated with mass marketing and targeted marketing and found that the former made most sense given that Compost Crusader was the sole compost collection company in the area. We also provided feedback on Melissa’s website design, including an FAQ section to both provide a consolidated resource for all clients and to cut down on the number of prospective customer emails Melissa answers daily.

Through our conversations with Melissa, we also found that she was understaffed and needed more support. While our marketing efforts were meant to stimulate demand, we wanted to help her hire additional staff to support that demand. Therefore, we worked with Melissa to write a job description that would help her hire an employee to handle administrative issues and day-to-day logistics, freeing up time for Melissa to handle more pressing and strategic issues. We also provided a resource on how to best manage employees, including a template for collaborative performance reviews that empowers the employee and creates a positive focus on what is normally viewed as a stressful event.

We were incredibly impressed by Melissa’s drive, as well as her depth of understanding of both her business and the composting process. We can’t wait to follow Compost Crusader’s journey from seed to soil.

Melissa hauling some MBAs!
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