The Right Move

Eco-entrepreneur Spencer Brown is saving consumers a lot of time and money and changing the way they move with his company, Rent-a-Green Box.

Spencer Brown is on a mission to green the world, one box at a time. As a product designer, he created a durable, rentable, and reusable moving box, called the Recopack (recycled ecological packing solution). He plans to eliminate the cardboard box all together. His company, Rent-a-Green Box is America’s first, comprehensive, zero-waste pack and move solution made entirely from post-consumer recycled trash mined from local landfills. The company currently services every city in Orange County, Los Angeles County and select areas of Inland Empire and San Diego County. They will be expanding nationwide over the next few years.

Five years ago, the guy selling him the trash told him he was either the biggest idiot he had ever met or a genius. Spencer proves to us why he is the latter.

Was being an entrepreneur something that’s always interested you? I have never really thought of myself as an entrepreneur. I’m more of a product designer and inventor. The more I build this company, the more I’m realizing that I’m very entrepreneurial in how I approach problems and turn them into solutions. I tend to approach everything with a “can do” attitude and listen to all of the amazing people around and our current, past and initial customers. I also think of the long-term growth in everything I do. How will this affect us in three, five, and 10 years? What I have learned is that no matter what you call yourself or what others call you—you have to have a brilliant idea that people can understand in less than three seconds. It must fulfill a void or a need in the marketplace—add a lot of hard work, daily effort, and inner belief in what you are doing … if that’s being an entrepreneur—than I am one.

How long did it take you to come up with the idea for Rent-a-Green Box? I had to dump my old cardboard boxes in a landfill and saw a bunch of hard-to-recycle plastic bleach bottles and picked one up and thought—why don’t we just take this trash and make a better box. It was that simple. Simplest ideas are the best. I went to lunch and was eating some pho noodles and thought—why are we cutting down a tree to make a cardboard box that’s used once, maybe twice, that ends up in a landfill when we can use our trash to reinvent the way we pack and move without trashing the planet. I sketched a few boxes on a doily and my idea was official. I would rent a green box and eliminate the cardboard box. Nine months later, I was renting the Beta Test Recopacks and then six months later I was able to make them electric lime green and in three sizes. From concept to market took nine months and another six months to make our world-famous green box. The next 18 months was spent on making it simple for people to understand our product and service and we’ve been growing exponentially ever since!

How did you get so passionate about the environment? Up until I went to the landfill, I had never really been there, and was so disturbed and so shocked. I didn’t realize that the problem was so pervasive. And didn’t realize that no one was doing anything about it. I surf on the beach side. I’ve always gone to Farmer’s Markets. I’ve always been aware of the environment, but didn’t know how I could make a change. I just said I’m going to make a better product. I’m like a chef; I want you to try my food and enjoy it. I’m like a musician; I make music and want you to enjoy listening to it. If that means that I’m environmentalist, than so be it. I’ve also become very passionate about making sure that if you give consumers the right choice, they’ll make it.

Besides the obvious, what are some of the other benefits of using your products as opposed to traditional moving supplies? What we hear from our clients is that they like that my Recopack has handles, is crush proof, speedy to pack, load and offload and unpack. So, there’s no messing with that fussy tape and that’s a huge benefit and differentiation. The other benefit is that they are rented for two weeks and they are 50 percent cheaper than buying a cardboard box. Most people who use our service are not green and they see that they can save time and money. When they find out how green we are and the immediate environmental impact they have by detoxifying the landfills and moving green without trashing the planet, they really get into the feel good of the product and service. They also love the electric lime green color—it’s amazing to see them take pictures with their green boxes. It’s almost like an event and they always do cool poses and stack them in unique ways to make it an event. It’s very cool.

What motivates you? I think being the best at my craft and challenging myself to master the project or idea that I’m working on is a huge motivator for me. I like the feeling of improving myself with the goal of a personal best and I know the feeling when I look at what I have done or created and I can say: Hey I’m proud of the work, effort and results. My twins, a boy and a girl, are also a huge motivator for me. There were times when I was delivering boxes at 5 a.m. and I would get done at 11 p.m.—my whole body was sore and my hands were cracked and swollen. Thinking of them and their futures really makes me think of the importance of this company and I want them to see that we all have to work hard and smart and that we can do GOOD at the same time. My last motivation comes from my clients who blog about us, Yelp us and tell their friends. It makes me challenge myself to do even better for them and that’s a very powerful motivator—not letting people down when they need your help.

Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur? I was wondering about that myself and thought of the Steve Jobs quote from an old Apple commercial. All of the entrepreneurs that I have met share this same philosophy:

Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes … the ones who see things differently—they’re not fond of rules … You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify them or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things … they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as they crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.

What’s the most hopeful sign that you’ve seen recently from the green economy? Actually the green economy is doing great. The Internet is connecting everyone together. When you connect everyone together, customers have a choice. Everyone is trying to be eco-friendly and green. Companies don’t change. The companies that do are leaders and leaders make all of the money. But now, the consumer is going “I don’t want to buy that stuff.” Corporations are saying, “Hey, we’re green too.” They don’t want to miss the opportunity to capitalize on what people want. They want to go green. They go green; everyone wins. America is built on winners. —Lynn Celmer

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Reader Comments

Thursday, June 25, 2009 at 2:56 AM
Dan and Deanna says:
That is so interesting to know how he has come up with his business.Come up with the idea and run with it.Keep up the good work. That is one way to make a better box. May your business keep growing.
Dan and Deanna "Marketing Unscrambled"

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