Daniel Brown and Michael Robinson spent many years working in the restaurant industry, seeing exactly how much food ends up in the trash. Aware of the stark reality that nearly 40% of food is wasted*, they were inspired to find a productive use for that waste.
They started by collecting compostable food scraps from a handful of restaurants and used them to develop soil for community gardens and urban farms. The company got its name, because Michael and Daniel literally were riding bikes around town to collect the scraps. They soon realized they needed to think bigger, because there was a bigger opportunity.
Rust Belt Riders was able to participate in JumpStart’s Core City: Cleveland Impact Program. Through mentorship and a 16-week business development workshop, Daniel and Michael got up to speed on what it takes to run a successful business. They competed in a pitch competition through JumpStart, and received the funding needed to get their business formally launched.
While working with JumpStart, Daniel and Michael gained a better understanding of the market potential and realized how to scale the business. They went from seeing themselves as a composting business to a waste management logistics operation. The bikes were replaced by vans, and they secured a location to act as the base of their operation.
“We’re taking food waste out of landfills and using it as a way to responsibly cultivate food for our community. JumpStart helped us launch a business that truly has the potential to make a difference in the world. That’s a great place to be as an entrepreneur.”
– Daniel Brown, Co-Founder, Rust Belt Riders
Three years later, Rust Belt Riders currently have 50 clients in Northeast Ohio, including hospitals, universities, grocery stores, corporate offices, restaurants and juice bars. Daniel and Michael estimate they are taking 25,000 pounds of waste per week out of Northeast Ohio landfills to produce high quality, biodiverse compost. They also breakdown food scraps by feeding the material to insect larvae that becomes a protein source for local chicken farmers and fisheries.
Eliminating food waste and providing the community with the foundation for healthy food is at the heart of Daniel and Michael’s business. Rust Belt Riders is also providing the business community with an opportunity to demonstrate stewardship and proactively adopt responsible practices. Other areas of the country are increasingly regulated into composting food waste, whereas Northeast Ohio now has a means for getting ahead of the trend.
Rust Belt Riders sees what they’re doing in Northeast Ohio as a proving ground. They plan to continue targeting businesses with high-volume food waste, so they can keep creating products that enhance the food supply chain. They hope to expand their model and help businesses across the state to achieve an even greater impact both environmentally and socially.