Austin’s Reverse Pitch Competition Encourages Zero Waste Economy

Local entrepreneurs turn one company’s trash into another’s cash

Earlier this month, five businesses and nonprofits presented their unused supplies to entrepreneurs at Austin Resource Recovery’s Fifth Annual Reverse Pitch Competition. In April, entrepreneurs share their business models for reusing the surplus material in the hopes of winning one of two innovation prizes totaling $20,000.

Some of the cast-offs looking for a second chance (Courtesy of Austin Resource Recovery)

Reverse Pitch is a program to help turn raw materials slated to become waste into the foundation of business ventures. Local institutions pitched their never-used raw materials to entrepreneurs on Feb. 10. Each entrepreneur who competes will create a business idea to repurpose one or more of the materials and the best ideas will receive prizes to fund their venture.

At this year’s pitch held at the UT McCombs School of Business, five local businesses brought samples of unused materials that usually end up in the trash bin. The prospective toss-offs ranged from vinyl record trimmings to die-cut skeletons to fabric samples. Entrepreneurs in the audience had the opportunity to view samples of the materials and ask questions of representatives of the participating local businesses.

“These entrepreneurs are invited here because they can see these [materials] as resources,” says Bailey Grimmett, Austin Resource Recovery public information specialist.

The Reverse Pitch Competition is a collaboration between the city of Austin, Austin Young Chamber, U.S. Business Council for Sustainable Development, the Social Entrepreneurship Learning Lab, and the UT McCombs School of Business.

Madelyn Morgan, a conservation program coordinator for Austin Resource Recovery, says the Reverse Pitch is one of many programs the city of Austin holds as part of its Circular Economy Program. “Our program looks to make Central Texas into the most vibrant circular economy in the U.S.,” Morgan says.

Once the entrepreneurs have a plan, they will work with mentors and advisors to create and refine their ideas. Sara Stewart Stevens, a textiles and apparel assistant professor of practice at the University of Texas, chose to become a mentor so she could educate her students on how to work with waste products and residue products. “The fashion industry is one of the worst with not optimizing the design experience,” Stevens says. “Like effluent from dye going into rivers, for example.”

Emcees Jack Flagler (l) and Deeda Lovett of Community Impact Newspaper's Central Austin edition (Courtesy of Austin Resource Recovery)

The competitors will soon submit their concept statements and request a mentor. Workshops will be held in February and March, before winners are chosen for the Seed Stage prize and the Growth Stage prize. The Seed Stage prize is awarded to a brand new idea and and the Growth Stage prize is awarded to an already established business.

Lindsay Platt, who attended the event to hear about the products being pitched, says she made it fairly far in the process last year, but is hoping to do better her second time around. “Nothing's coming straight off my head right now,” Platt says. “It's like you've got to go home and absorb it all and sleep on it.”

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Reverse Pitch Competition

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