Tom Szaky is a passionate man of high morality with dedication to recycling and giving back to many communities and charities. He is a constant inspiration to everyone who knows him for several years.
In 2006, Inc. Magazine named TerraCycle, “The Coolest Little Start-Up in America.” That same year Tom was named the “#1 CEO in America Under 30.”
Tom dropped out of Princeton University to sell liquefied worm poop in a reuse soda bottle. Tom began to nurture his striking entrepreneurial sense at the age of 14 when he started his first venture, a web design company, Flyte Design. The company grossed five-figures and won several Canadian design awards. He went on to accomplish three small ‘dot.com’ companies. Finally, his pride and joy, TerraCycle, has been recognized as one of the fastest growing eco-friendly manufacturers in the world. Tom focuses on eliminating the idea of waste while raising money for charities. Since 2008, TerraCycle has diverted over 2.5 billion pieces of non-recyclable packaging from landfill and donated over $4 million to schools and non-profits.
Born in Budapest, Hungary in 1982, Tom emigrated with his family as political refugees from Hungary to Holland and eventually to Toronto. At age 14 he started his first business, a Web design company called Flyte Design, which employed three associates and earned its young proprietor a five-figure income, while landing clients as big as Roots clothing company. Flyte Design also earned a number of Canadian national design awards. That earlier entrepreneurial success motivated Tom to engage in the start-up of three small, but successful ‘dot.com’ companies.
Tom came to the United States in 2001 when he matriculated as a Princeton University freshman. In 2002, he took a leave of absence to dedicate himself full-time to starting TerraCycle, which began as a two-man outfit in a dorm room in Princeton. Despite being on the verge of bankruptcy only one year into starting the business, Tom turned down a million dollar grand prize from the Carrot Capital Business Plan because the investors wanted TerraCycle to become less focused on being environmentally responsible.
Even without the investor’s money, TerraCycle had its breakthrough in 2004, selling its little-known fertilizer to The Home Depot and Walmart – two of the world’s biggest retailers. Today, TerraCycle’s Global Headquarters occupies a 25,000 sq. ft. factory in an Urban Enterprise Zone in Trenton, NJ, where it employs over 20 workers in its labor force and is a second chance employer as part of its pledge to being socially beneficial to the local community.
In 2007, TerraCycle began works with major companies such as Kraft Foods, Nestle, Kimberly-Clark, Frito-Lay, Mars, Kashi, L’Oreal and many more to sponsor the collection of post-consumer packaging. With the help of these sponsors, TerraCycle pays schools and non-profits two TerraCycle points, (one point is equal to one cent) for every piece of packaging collected. These points can be redeemed for a variety of charitable gifts or for cash donation to the collector’s charity of choice. TerraCycle recycles or upcycles the collected ‘waste’ material into affordable, innovative products sold online and at major retailers. Today over 90,000 organizations have helped collect over 2 billion pre- and post-consumer wrappers, while earning over 3.5 million dollars in donations.
In April 2009 Tom released his first book, Revolution in a Bottle, published by Portfolio to critical acclaim. The National Geographic Channel also broadcast a 4-part documentary about Tom and TerraCycle called, Garbage Moguls, which followed TerraCycle’s revolutionary products from the landfill all the way to the store shelf.
Between 2009 and 2012, TerraCycle expanded run its recycling and upcycling fundraisers into 20 countries around the globe including Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Brasil, UK, Ireland, most EU countries, Israel and Turkey. In 2010 TerraCycle was named the #288 fastest growing privately held company in America by Inc. Magazine’s Annual listing, the Inc. 500.
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