Entrepreneur: Darwyn Williams
COMPANY: Environmental Waste Solutions
WHAT THEY DO: Reduce the cost of waste disposal and recycling
REVENUE: $18 million
NEXT GOAL: “World domination. We’re barely scratching the surface to expand our affiliate base across the country.”
His company may have caught the green wave of ecological awareness, but founder Darwyn Williams was just looking for a way to feed his family when he started Environmental Waste Solutions in 1994 in Baton Rouge out of “the ashes from my failed real estate company,” he says.
He got into property sales in the 1980s but found himself, like so many others, a financial victim of the oil-and-gas market crash that hit Louisiana hard. “I was literally overnight left penniless,” he says. Amid the consequent cost cutting, he decided to consult with companies to show them how to reduce property taxes and utility bills.
While delving into corporate-savings strategies, he happened on the budding concept of responsible waste management, which he determined could take him through to retirement. “We realized early on that we had something that really, really piqued companies’ interest,” he says, noting that his risk-free solution meant a firm couldn’t go wrong hiring him: Whatever amount he pledged to save a company over five years, he contracted for half.
To most business owners he approached, he says, the savings idea was an unknown at first. “They don’t understand that a sales rep from a hauling company made their recommendation, and they’re really motivated by their own profit goals.” Last year, he says, more than $50 billion was spent on U.S. commercial waste disposal, while EWS helped its clients save $40 million. “You see how we’re barely scratching the surface.”
The recent trend of environmental concern has helped his business, as has the countercyclical advantage of a contracting economy that has forced companies to find new ways to trim. “The worse the economy is, the better my business is,” Williams says.
Yet even before the recession, he says, a key part of his success was promoting EWS as a turnkey business for others to buy into and roll out in markets across the country. Affiliates pay about $26,000 to learn the basics and take it from there.
That expansion ultimately took a $200,000-earning firm to $18 million in revenue last year, with clients including American Airlines, Coca-Cola Bottling Co. and Winn-Dixie supermarkets, Williams says. “Every company in America is desperate to reduce costs right now,” he says. “We help them reach their green goals.”