Groundit

Groundit: You see trash, we see potential!

Montreal, CanadaMontreal, Canada
Year Founded:
2015
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
Start-Up
Budget: 
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Groundit's mission is to reduce the carbon footprint of cafés within Montreal and to transform their waste into high-quality compost. By combining the right amount of coffee grounds with green-waste of coffee shops, we produce a fertilizer that is safer and more efficient than traditional options.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if Groundit could make your daily cup of coffee carbon neutral?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

65% of Canadians between the ages of 18-79 drink coffee everyday. Unfortunately, the brewing process produces enormous amounts of waste in the form of coffee grounds, which is very often thrown away in landfills. Meanwhile gardeners and farmers purchase synthetic fertilizers for their gardens, to bloom their flowers and grow food. These fertilizers are toxic and require lots of resources and fossil fuels which contributes to global warming.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Groundit's mission is to reduce the carbon footprint of cafés within Montreal and to transform their waste into high-quality compost. By combining the right amount of coffee grounds with green-waste of coffee shops, we produce a premium compost that is safer and more efficient for gardeners and farmers to use. We are equally committed to make our compost affordable for everyone, to ensure that families, farmers and nurseries can enjoy their backyard or grow produce without inhaling or touching harmful chemicals. By creating the first worldwide company dedicated to recycling organic waste from coffee shops, Groundit will decrease contamination of arable lands and significantly lower the CO2 emission of the cities where it operates.

Awards

4th place - McGill Dobson Cup Competition ($5,000 award prize) + Featured in the MacDonald Campus printed magazine + On McGill's website
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

For Nadine and Yusuf, who own Le Cafe Des Chats in Montreal, Groundit is a long awaited solution to expand their CSR practices. They have desperately looked for a company that offers better, affordable waste management services for a while and were thrilled to finally talk to us. They signed our letter of intent without hesitation and are actively helping us gain more publicity so that one day they can partner with us to reduce their carbon footprint and provide their customers with fairtrade/organic coffee as well as a rich, eco-friendly compost made from waste generated in their own cafe! In their eyes, Groundit will create localized high impact, positive change within each city which will undoubtedly benefit both people and the planet.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

There are many stories we encountered similar to Nadine and Yusuf's. We formed a close relationship with 40+ cafe owner who signed our letter of intent to partner with us. We blog actively to promote independent cafés and a lot of individuals from all over the world started following us and reaching out to us on social media! Although, Groundit emerged at the start of this year it has already created a lot of buzz in Montreal. Many folks in the city expressed their excitement for our compost and willingness to invest because they would like to use something more eco-friendly in their gardens. The demand is there. Our imprint is not only within cities, but also globally. Our future project, Groundit Gives Back, will positively impact and empower coffee farmers in developing countries to become the cornerstone in community biodiversity management in areas that we need to protect the most!

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Groundit's stellar business model can be scalable to different cities in Canada and internationally. After we set up in Montreal, we plan on building independent regional supply chains in Toronto as well as in the most polluting USA metropoles. Most importantly, during our third year of operating, we want to start the Groundit Gives Back project, using a portion of our profits to preserve biodiversity in major coffee growing countries of the world. Finally, part of our long-term strategy (5+ years) is to open independent supply-chains in the least resilient metropoles of Europe.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Because of our double-revenue stream model, Groundit has a low break-even point of only 30 cafes. Since 40 cafés already requested our services, we will be profitable as soon as year 1. Because we are paid to haul the waste of cafés, we can ensure a constant stream of input and reduce the price of our finished compost at the same time. Groundit will reinvest its profit in the company to expand and thus, will not require external funding!

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

There are currently no companies or large-scale initiatives in the world aimed at transforming organic waste of cafés' into fertilizer. In Canada, companies usually subcontract landfilling companies to dispose of their waste since composting services are expensive. Because of our lean revenue-model, we offer waste hauling prices comparable to those of leading landfilling companies. There is also no coffee-based compost sold in retail either. Groundit provides a safer, more efficient and affordable alternative to polluting/dangerous synthetic fertilizers which satisfies eco-conscious citizens.
Team

Founding Story

Groundit was brought to life when I sipped my latte and realized just how many coffee grounds are used to make my favorite cup of java. With my notorious curiosity and business mind, I thought about ways in which I could to divert this enormous amount of waste. After endless nights of meticulous research, I found out that coffee grounds are high in plant nutrients and can be used in composting to produce an efficient soil fertilizer for healthy plants. I then crossed paths with Mitalie, a PhD student from McGill to further refine the logistics of composting with coffee grounds. Our new waste management service for cafes across Montreal was born and has gained enormous momentum since then!

Team

Mitalie and I have been passionate about environmental sustainability since we were young. Thus, we tailored our academic studies toward the Environment and Sustainability field with the hope of creating a positive impact and addressing an urgent problem. I, Audrey Bolduc, leader of the team, am an undergrad student at the McGill University Desautels Faculty of Management. I am majoring in Sustainability and Entrepreneurship. Even though I am only 21-years-old, I am a certified green belt in 6-sigma and Project Leader in lean management supply-chain methodologies. I am also a strong speaker, a ‘’shark’’ when it comes to sales and a people person due to my outgoing personality and my various experiences in direct sales and customer service. However, Mitalie Makhani, 25 years old, is truly the scientific mind behind the project which earned her the title of Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Groundit. She is responsible for research & development and quality control of the Groundit composting process. She is a PhD student in Renewable Resources at McGill University with international research experience in environmental sciences. Hence, she has a wide array of tools, knowledge and contacts which allowed the creation of a lean and green composting system. Our combined skill sets and personalities are the perfect mix for this venture. With our eagerness to change the waste management industry and academic background, we have a strong competitive advantage against potential competitors. As we grow and expand our operations to more North-American cities, we want to hire a sales director and a Chief Financial Officer (CFO). We will help our universities by recruiting students and interns to help us with R&D initiatives. We also want to make social reinsertion one of Groundit's priority by providing as much employment as possible in our transportation operations and in our facilities.
Background
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

In a Social Entrepreneurship class :)

Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:

Founder and CEO of Groundit

Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

Responsible Consumption and Production, Climate Action.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

My leadership tendencies started early, more precisely in primary school where I was elected President of the student body. In University, my entrepreneurship classes really enlightened me and made me discover that I would have a greater impact by creating a social venture than by going into politics. Since then, Groundit won 4th place overall in the Small and Medium Enterprise track of the McGill Dobson Cup 2015, an entrepreneurship competition based in Montreal. My team and I have been featured on various promotional material for McGill University as well as being invited speakers to several entrepreneurship events at the Macdonald Campus of McGill University.

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

Our mentor is Dr. Joann Whalen, a Professor at McGill University. She is a world renowned soil ecologist and leading expert in her field. Dr. Whalen provides us with advice and mentorship for designing our composting facility and packaging of the finished coffee-ground compost. Overall, our team's diverse skills sets, work experience and business contacts make Groundit prone to succeed and give us a strong competitive advantage!