When you head out your front door, at any given time of day, it’s almost a guarantee you will come across at least one of these pesky things.
It’s not a mosquito. Instead, it is the butt of a cigarette.
And the more popular the area is, the more cigarette butts you are likely to encounter.
“The outside of our store is never cleaned by our landlord so we are left to constantly pick up all types of trash, especially cigarette butts.” said Tony Daicar, co-owner of Leading Edge Hobbies in Kingston, Ontario. “This can be harmful to us, as first impressions are extremely important for a business, so we always make an effort to keep our frontage clean.”
In addition, cigarettes can hurt the environment.
These two reasons were the driving force leading to Kathleen Kemp, 21, a fourth-year commerce student in the Telfer School of Management at the University of Ottawa, and her partners starting up their own company, CigBins.
“We saw an article stating that cigarette butts were the No. 1 most littered item in the world, accounting for 37 per cent of all visible waste,” said Kemp.
CigBins defines itself as a cigarette butt collection and recycling service.
“We sell mainly business-to-business, which includes property owners, businesses and BIAs (business improvement areas),” said Kemp. “We are currently working with Morguard, Vanier BIA, Bank BIA and other small establishments.”
They install their custom bins on commercial properties, and then they are serviced by employees they hire from the Causeway Work Centre, which provides work opportunities to individuals with mental illnesses. The butts are then taken to CigBins’s storage facility, where they are packaged and shipped for recycling.
According to Kemp, CigBins works with their customers to develop a service schedule that suits their needs. And this is how they accrue revenue, not from the installation of the bins, but through servicing them.
This puts them in a monopolistic resembling market because the majority of cigarette disposal units are controlled by the businesses themselves, and generally receive lackluster service, if any at all.
Although they are currently enjoying success, it wasn’t just handed to the CigBins crew.
“There have been several challenges we’ve had to overcome,” says Kemp. “Being students it’s always difficult to manage your time, especially for us, since my partners and I are heavily involved within our school. But we were passionate and dedicated to the cause, which made it easier to continue to work on the business.”
Another challenge they encountered was getting start-up capital.
“While we are a revenue generating enterprise, we still needed an initial buy-in,” said Kemp. “It was a challenge at first, as we had to keep talking to people and show our extensive research to potential customers. But now that we’ve received it, we’re doing amazing things.”
This buy-in consisted of a $1,000 grant from JustChange, a group of individuals who provide grants to ideas that benefit the community in a social, environmental or economic aspect. This grant served as the funding for CigBins’s prototype, which was tested over a six-month period.
Their intensive research has also been recognized in competition, such as a first-place finish in a business plan competition at the University of Ottawa, and also a place in the top 18 business plans from around the world for the Queen’s Entrepreneurship Competition.
“Right now we are focused on growth,” said Kemp. “At our launch, Mayor (Jim) Watson said that we were going to be a national success story, so that has become our goal.”