David Paull – Founder of Compostwheels

[quote style=”boxed”]The reason for this is that any mistake or hardship this startup has faced has been a growing experience and brought us to a new place each time, often unrecognizable and better than before.[/quote]

David Paull has extensive experience in sustainable design and community development around agriculture, with over six years of social enterprise development experience. Growing up in a small progressive agrarian community in south central Wisconsin, David learned the importance of sustainability from the ground up. His design in urban agriculture has stretched from projects for the city of Atlanta to rooftops of hotels. He has worked extensively in developing countries on the issues of food, water and energy, founding the non-profit Globalized Unity, which worked to develop agriculture infrastructure and revenue-generating opportunities for communities in developing countries. His most recent work with Compostwheels was recently recognized by CNN’s Headline News. He is currently working on a new fair trade tea start-up in the central Asian country of Nepal.

What are you working on right now?

I always have my hand in a few different projects, but most of my time is spent working on Compostwheels. And with that, we are working on developing a platform for all of our customers to interact on and participate in this green movement from the foundation up.

Where did the idea for Compostwheels come from?

The idea came from a five-month-long commercial, urban agriculture training course held at Growing Power in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Growing Power is a leader in urban agriculture education and social enterprise development surrounding agriculture. An earlier graduate of the class introduced the concept to my cohort. I was inspired and invigorated to give it my own twist in Atlanta.

How do you make money?

Compostwheels is a compost pick-up service that makes it easy to compost in the city. Our business model operates on scalability and efficiency. We come by our customers’ homes or businesses each week and pick up the collected food scraps before taking them to our nearby urban farm, school, or community garden where the material is composted and turned into nitrogen rich soil. Each residential customer is charged a monthly fee for the service ranging from as little as $20 a month to as much as $32 a month depending on which service they choose.

What does your typical day look like?

My typical day starts with answering several e-mails. After that, I generally have a meeting or two, followed by turning some compost and planning the next pick-up route.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I bring ideas to life by starting. You just have to start. Oftentimes people come up with good ideas but just can’t get started.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

A trend that excites me is the “local” trend. It is imperative that our local economies thrive in order for our nation’s economy to experience any level of stability.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

The worst job I ever had was shoveling snow. That was my first business as a young boy. I had to get up early before the crack of dawn to get the driveways shoveled before I went to school. It taught me a great deal of discipline.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

If I were to start again I don’t think I would do anything differently. The reason for this is that any mistake or hardship this startup has faced has been a growing experience and brought us to a new place each time, often unrecognizable and better than before.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

As an entrepreneur, one thing I do over and over is consider each and every idea from a social stand point. If the idea is not going to benefit people and our environment, I know it is not an idea worth pursuing in my book. I would recommend everyone pursue ideas for their environmental and social benefit, and in turn you will see the profit.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

One failure I experienced as an entrepreneur was during the start up of an education-based non-profit where a partner on the project and I parted ways do to conflicting ideas. Communication is essential to the success of any relationship, especially a business partnership.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Create an urban mushroom remediation company. While growing the mycelium to remediate a site, harvest the mycelium and create sustainable packaging using the mycelium from mushrooms.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

I would change our agricultural system from a mono-crop annual system to a diverse perennial, sustainable system. This change would be systemic and holistic in our approach to big pressing societal issues.

Tell us a secret.

My childhood dream was to be a professional tennis player.

What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?

• Google docs: Keeps everything in one spot and allows workflow to be maximized on collaborative efforts.
• Drop Box: Storage is essential, and with Drop Box you can file share easily.
• Google maps: Enables us to find our way.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I recommend “Ecopreneuring: Putting Purpose and the Planet Before Profits” by John Ivanko and Lisa Kivirist. It is a simple read that would give anyone a good idea of how commerce can be the catalyst for social and environmental change.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

• @Patagonia – Solid company all around
• @GrowingPower – Incredible vision for education in the industry of urban agriculture
• @GoatFarmArtsCtr – As incredible as Atlanta gets

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

On my way home, NPR’s “Car Talk” came on. Those two brothers are great.

Who is your hero, and why?

My mother, for always wanting to instill in my brother and me an appreciation and love for the land.

What is the most important aspect of leadership within business to you?

I think the most important aspect of leadership within business is integrity.

How do you maintain a balanced life?

I maintain a balanced life by ensuring that I do three things religiously: eat quality food, exercise often, and get plenty of rest. If all three of these are done, then my productivity stays high and my stress level stays low.

How has the Savannah College of Art and Design, where you’re currently studying for your undergraduate degree, helped you in your pursuits as a social entrepreneur?

SCAD is a unique place in the way that it fosters your creativity and the holistic development of your intellect. I think SCAD has influenced the development of my social philosophy – that our built environments and our urban centers shape much of our world such as the economy, culture, and environment. This has allowed me to creatively problem solve and design solutions for the ever-pressing issues of our time and communicate them in a visually comprehendible fashion.


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