There are two approaches to lawn care: let nature do what it wants, or kill rabbits, fish, and toddlers. Alright, so that’s not exactly true, but there don’t seem to be very many attractive alternatives to chemical fertilizers. In my family, we call it “The Mom Test.” If Mom won’t use it, it does something bad to something fuzzy or green. So when Mom came to me and said, “Scott, have you heard of Worm Poop?”, I knew that she had found something that passed the test and was working for her. And if you can get my mom to use a product with the word poop in it, you’ve got a winner, and, most likely, a Onething.
So we’ve talked about sticking to your brand, and we’ve talked about working social consciousness into your business model. Terracycle, the makers of the Worm Poop product, do both of these really well. The Worm Poop product is created by putting a bunch of worms in organic waste and letting them do their magic. The poop is brewed like tea and placed in plastic bottles (repurposed Coke and Pepsi bottles). The whole recycled, repurposed contraption hooks up to your hose (that, if you’re really dedicated, is hooked up to your rain catching system), and you spray your lawn and flowers with it. The founders set out to create an eco company from the start, and everything they do – from production, to packaging, to application – is as eco-friendly as possible.
Onethings abound in this company. Here’s one more: telling a fantastic story and creating your brand around that great story.
It reads like a cheap 80’s movie featuring Jason Bateman before he was funny and Andrew McCarthy before Weekend at Bernie’s: two guys go to Princeton, come up with an idea to convert waste that normally goes to a landfill into a fertilizer product, one drops out to do it full-time, they reject a huge investment because the investors’ plans for the company weren’t in line with the founders’ plans, they get their product in Home Depot, and they swim around in a pool filled with $100 bills. All on the backs of garbage eating, pooping worms.
Business owners often overlook the power that a great story has with their customers. For Terracycle, it wouldn’t have been as fun if the idea were cooked up in Miracle Grow’s corporate labs. You can imagine the two Princeton students (I like to imagine them in orange sweaters and orange and black striped ties) rolling up their sleeves and grabbing a handful of worm crap and saying, “I think we might have something here!”
People love stories, even if the story isn’t necessarily the whole story. The founders of Terracycle worked their butts off to get where they are, and the whimsical tale above is great, but we’d be crazy to think that their success was as easy as it was in the story. People don’t want to hear about the pricing meetings, the creation of the business plan, the market analysis. Great (business) stories have to be three things: short, humble, and authentic enough. Customers can sniff out a story that’s too convoluted, too arrogant, or too far from what actually happened, and if they smell any of these things, they won’t be interested. Terracycle understood this, wielded the power of their own story, and are enjoying the success that has come from it.