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Pile of Scrap Podcast

Ep. 32: Reuse & Recycle with Bulrushed Books

Posted by Sierra International Machinery on 7/15/20 9:50 AM

Pile of Scrap Ep. 32: Reuse & Recycle with Bulrushed Books

Back in Moscow, Idaho, John visits the Beauchamp’s to hear how a Pile of Scrap episode influenced their company, Bulrushed Books. For a business that began its start in repairing old, abused books, Mark and Kristen Beauchamp have since made quite the impact within the recycling industry… All thanks to the insight of Pile of Scrap guest Leonard Zeid, President of Paper Stock Industries. Figuring that books are incredibly tricky to recycle due to their binding, Mark and Kristen developed the idea to debind their books to help maintain a clean recycling stream, which ultimately assisted their company’s growing success.


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Watch this episode of Pile of Scrap here.


 Mark and Kristen Beauchamp with John Sacco


Introduction: The following is an original audio series from Sierra International Machinery: Pile of Scrap with your host, John Sacco.

John Sacco: Hello. Hello again, everyone. Here for a new episode of Pile of Scrap. And, I think this might be one of the most interesting episodes of Pile of Scrap because I'm not talking with my traditional recyclers. I'm talking to Mark and Kristen Beauchamp. Boy, but if you look at that card… Should be “Bo-champ,” but it's “Beechem.” Welcome. Now, your guys’ story… And, ‘cause, see… Pile of Scrap… I'm in the recycling industry, obviously, and you guys were in the used textbook – you're in the use textbook business, but got into recycling paper because…

Mark Beauchamp: We have a lot of books that weren't gonna make it.

John Sacco: No home.

Mark: Yeah. No home, no value.

Kristen Beauchamp: Wasn't it on his podcast? Wasn't that one of the ideas?

Mark: Well, yeah.

John: Well, that’s the point here.

Mark: Yeah.

John: That’s the coolest thing. Darren Doane, who does a lot of work for Sierra behind the scenes, has helped launch the Pile of Scrap podcast and then Sierra social media, my own individual social media, told me the story that he knows these great people who are doing recycled textbooks, you know, getting ‘em back out, and, we'll talk about that. But, they learned about recycling paper through one of your podcasts and went, “Wow.” That was so cool to me to say, “Well, somebody's not in the industry, actually, first of all, listened to the podcast and took something from it and is now doing something and we'll get to some of the stuff you're doing. So, that to me, that's – that's pretty cool. Okay. All right?

Kristen: It is!

John: Somebody outside the recycling industry, but now you're in it. So, Mark, Christian –Kristen. Sorry.

Kristen: It's okay.

John: Tell us a little bit about Bulrushed Books. I get the name. I can't put the name to this. Help me out. Give us your history here.

Mark: Okay. Bulrushed. You going? You want to then?

John: Ladies, first, go.

Kristen: Ladies, first. Okay, so the name or what we – how we started, which one do you want?

John: Go for it.

Kristen: Go… Any, all. Okay. Well, we were exiting one job, Mark was, and I was home with the kids. And, when we first got married though, Mark and I had a used bookstore called Ball and Cross Books. The name came from GK Chesterton. And, um, and we did that for a number of years with our kids, but this small little coffee shop bookstore was not going to – to cover as our family continued to grow. And, then there was the economic downturn of 2009.

John: Yeah, I remember that well in the recycling industry. It was brutal.

Kristen: It was brutal. And, all the bookstores that we had loved and would love to go and visit to, and we're like, “Oh, maybe one day we'll have a bookstore that,” and they were all shutting down and closing their doors and we're like, “Oh, man.”

John: Hey, is Barnes and Noble still open?

Kristen: They are.

John: Are they?

Mark: Their textbook division is. So, they split off their textbook division from their rig – I wonder if there's a few Barnes and Noble stores.

John: Well, I don't even know if you can go to a bookstore anymore. I thought everything… You go online and find it.

Kristen: There's still some bookstores floating.

John: Oh, okay.

Kristen: Yeah.

John: Anyway. Sorry, I got a little sidetracked. Continue on.

Kristen: So, anyway, we – as Mark was kind of making an exit from a job, you found a big, huge pallet full of damaged textbooks.

Mark: Yep.

Kristen: Um, at the recycling center. And…

Mark: That was a local textbook company that had gotten a good deal buying kind of the rejects from a company that were probably too damaged to rent, but there was kind of a – a good chance you could find one or two out of the pile that didn't really have a problem – or moderate problems. Enough so you can just take the whole pallet, pitch the ones that are really beat up, keep the ones that are kind of, sort of beat up, sell those online, you know, um, some is damaged, but you could sell them easily without having to do any work. The ones that were going to take a lot of work or just look too beat up to work with, they’re – they were trying to figure out how to recycle them whole cloth, just as books. And, I've got those books, trace them back to the company and said, I'll pick up the books that you are throwing away.

John: And, what were you going to do with that? You were picking out – for what? For what purpose?

Kristen:  That was my question.

John: If I’m gonna pick up your books. For what purpose? What was your idea?

Mark: When I saw them, I saw that they were damaged, but if they were fixed, they have value.

John: So, you knew you can recondition them and get them back out there?

Mark: I knew if I could do it. I didn’t know…

John: Alright. Okay. The big “I-F.” Alright.

Mark: If I could fix it, then it'd be worth something. So, the motivation is, figure out how to fix the thing.

John: Okay.

Mark: Right? Fix the book.

John: Now, did you figure out that first, before you started taking the books?

Mark: Kind of, yeah.

John: Yeah. So, it's like, well, if I put a piece of tape here and a piece of tape here, that seems to hold together pretty good. And, then books that’s damaged like this… I can't fix that. So, that has to get, you know, tossed back into recycling. Um, and that idea of, like, okay, I can fix 'em, I can identify the ones that I can fix pretty easily. I'll put those on the Amazon. When I sell them, I'll fix them and ship them.

Kristen: So, that was the point – to go back to the name. We had gotten some help on the inside… ‘cause we used to sell on Amazon and then we got off and we're trying to get back onto Amazon and a friend of ours, um, Stephan Haney, he told us… He said, “This is what you need to do, call this, do this.” And, so I applied for an Amazon account and we had to pick a name.

Mark: In fifteen minutes.

Kristen: Like a few minutes.

John: But, there’s only one ‘L’ in ‘Bulrushed.’

Kristen: I know because it’s actually based on a bullrush basket, and a bullrush basket is what Moses was placed on when his mom put him into the water in – in Egypt when, ‘cause…

John: Biblical.

Mark & Kristen: Yes.

John: We’re back to biblical times.

Kristen: We are.

John: Fantastic.

Kristen: And, so it was like… Really like…

John: See, I learned something.

Kristen: Yeah. But, Bullrush Books actually was taken. And, so we turned it into a verb and it became Bulrushed Books.

Mark: Yup.

John: Okay.

Kristen: But, also gives sort of a connotation of fast shipping and powerful and we were great with those connotations. And so, we, um, went for it and we haven't looked back and I'm really, really glad because just like the story, right?

John: Okay, how many years you've been doing this now?

Kristen: Four.

Mark: Four.

John: Four years. Not long.

Mark & Kristen: No.

John: So, you're the used car salesman of college textbooks.

Mark: Yeah, the chop shop.

John: Well, no… Chop shops are illegal. Used cars…

Mark: Oh. Really?

John: Yeah, I think they are. Yeah, those are stolen books, stolen cars though. But anyway…

Kristen: Please don't tell people that we’re illegal. Just kidding.

John: So, obviously there has to be a profit in doing this and there is in used automobiles and we're going to use that analogy just because…

Mark: Yeah.

John: You know, you can draw it. But, talking before we started this podcast… Kristi, you really have your heart on – you're bringing a service to students and tell us more about where your heart is on this, because there's really heartfelt – this isn't just money, money, money…

Kristen: Right.

John: But it's – there's a heartfelt purpose behind this.

Kristen: Right. Yeah, so of course we're going to make, you know, we're working hard and the money has to matter. But, I think for me, when I think of education, it's so outrageously expensive. Textbooks. Everybody knows. Like, if you have anybody about buying textbooks when they go to college… Their eyes. They all gasp like, “Oh, it’s so expensive.”

John: I have a daughter at the University of Southern California. She's going to start her senior year in August. And, you're telling me.

Kristen: Right.

John: I can tell you tha. Not cheap. She always calls me… When she picks up, “Dad, I'm sorry. These books are so…” It’s part of the deal.

Kristen:            Right.

John:                I already got it covered. But, higher education is not cheap. Even if you're in the JC’s. Even if you're in the UC – Amer–Cal State schools or whatever, private university… That the cost is just exorbitant.

Kristen: Right.

John: But, it is what it is.

Kristen:  So, that's what I think we're trying to offer is that, um, a lot of these textbooks… They're also not necessarily built to last. We won't – we won't go after the publishing houses at all because they're our friends, but um, they do not build them to last. And so, you'll have like a textbook like this where it kind of breaks in the same spot every time.

John: Well, wait a minute. Hold on. Textbooks are – there's new publishing every four years, you said?

Mark & Kristen: Yes.

John: Okay. So, if you build the book to last four years, have you not done what you're supposed to do?

Mark: Exactly.

John: But, they're not lasting a year, two years, what? What will you find?

Kristen: They’re not lasting four years.

John: Well, here. Wait a minute. Hold on. I was a college student once.

Kristen: Okay.

John: Okay? I went to USC as well. I didn't really maintain my books because when…

Kristen: For sure.

John: When class was – finals were over, I had more fun tossing books, burning them and doing whatever, okay? Now, you're expecting 18 to 22-year-old kids to treat this like it's fine jewelry?

Kristen: No, not at all. I'd be glad to buy it back from them. But, what I would do, and going back to your point, is that there are – not everybody can afford that. You know, there's, there's a lot of students in – that go to colleges and university and community colleges that can't and do without, or try to – what – what are their options? And, so for me, and for Mark and for our company, one of the things that really is important to us is that a book that would be $150, $200 new, we can take one that, you know, someone threw off on a campus or wasn't careful with, and we can fix it and we can tape it and repair it in such a way where we can sell it back to those kinds of people. And, it offers an alternative market for used textbooks.

John: Okay. You've been doing it for four years. Now, if you look at your growth curve, are you starting to see this now? Are you starting as your growth now? Really? Because you're –you're getting out there more or do you feel like you're just now beginning to understand how to do this? What's the next step for you guys?

Mark: Good question.

Kristen: Well, our first year, we grew 490%.

John: If I could grow 490%, I wouldn't be sitting here doing Pile of Scrap.

Kristen: Last year, we grew a hundred and – Last year, we grew 190%.

John: Fantastic.

Kristen: Um, one of the interesting things that's happened in us is ‘cause we have had so much growth in such a short period of time, um, people have wondered that. But, the thing is we do have a history of being booksellers way back when, so we didn't come to online sales just as newbies who've never had an experience. And so…

Mark: Yeah.

Kristen: We were able to build upon that and, um, and we have had a great team. We had a general manager who'd been in the textbook business 14 years and she was a great asset to us. And, and then just getting to know people. One thing that I think helped us along the way was that we would go to our suppliers, go meet them face to face. You do that as well. It's, like, go meet your clients, go meet your people. And I think that that has helped serve, serve the company a lot.

John: But, as your ultimate client – Okay, your ultimate client is the student, but aren't they also the person that you can get the book back from?

Mark: Yeah.

Kristen: That's what we're working on. That's what we’re – a buy-back program.

John: You know, your growth you've yet to hit your growth. Somebody's going to have to be out there, not going to be on college campuses throughout the United States. But, I gotta imagine you guys have a, probably, a pretty good social media. I mean, kids today… You know, look. I learned a lot about social media. My kids: 21, 17 – almost 18… “Dad, you're on it more than we are.” Well, okay, but there's a business to it.

Mark: Yep.

John: And, how are the – how are the – how are they finding out about you? Tell us how people know about you. How do we get the word out?

Mark: This is super funny ‘cause this is – this is going back to Darren, right?

Kristen: This is good. Definitely goes back to Darren.

Mark: Darren laughs. He's like, “Alright. So, tell me, like…” We're talking about marketing and stuff. And, I was like, “Well, I don't do any marketing. Like, all I have to be is on Amazon.”

Kristen: That’s it.

Mark: So, if my marketing spend is just being on Amazon, I'll give them a cut of my spend. But, I'm one of those third party sellers on Amazon. So, I'm not Amazon itself, but I'm on Amazon. And, there I am at the – at the price that they want me to be at. And so, in one sense, yeah. I'd love to be talking directly with students. I'd love to have that brand recognition: “Hey, I want a good used textbook. I'm going to go directly to Bulrushed Book site.” But, until that point, Amazon's getting my marketing spend because they're getting commission every time that I sell a book on Amazon.

John: Right. So, as I walked through your warehouse, you have 15,000 books?

Kristen: At the moment, yeah.

John: Okay. There's more than 15,000 college students in the United States. So, you're going to have to – you're going to have to have a warehouse 10 times this size.

Mark: Yep.

Kristen: Yes.

John: Where are you going to get the books? How are you going to get the books?

Mark: Yeah.

John: Tell me how you're going to get them. Let's get this story out.

Mark: Alright. So…

Kristen: So, we buy from companies that manage college bookstores. Okay. So, uh, one example is Nebraska Book Company. They're one of our partners and they're really great people down in Lincoln, Nebraska, and they run, let's say 1,200 stores. So, they'll run this store at this college campus, this… So, they run all the buybacks.

John: Okay.

Kristen: And, then the students will all process things through these different college university bookstores. And, then eventually, they make it back to that – to that warehouse. And then, they send us the books directly that way. So, there is – we get it almost third. Right? And so, you're absolutely correct that the place to be too would be right there next to them. But, at the same time, that's an expense. So, we have to decide if our partner is able to do that and we're able to serve them… The thing that we are unique in is that we’re damaged. People don't do this. This is – this is a thing… What would you always say? The thing that nobody wants to do is… That's what keeps us in business is that these big companies…

John: You're doing the job nobody else wants to do.

Kristen: Absolutely. And so, they don't have time for damage. They don't have it. So, that's why we are a compelling partner for them because they just say, “Oh, Bulrushed Books. Send it to them. They'll take care of it.”

John: Well, that's – that's… You haven't grown yet. I mean, you've told me some great numbers, but…

Kristen: We're just starting.

John: You're just starting. Who's the most excited about this? You or you? Who wakes up in the morning and nudges the other one out of bed… “We're going to work.” Huh? Who is it?

Mark: The funny thing is that we're both excited, but for different reasons. I'm trying to think of the next way to fix a book or I'm trying…

John: You’re more like the engineer of this group.

Mark: I’m the… Whatever. Innovation officer?

Kristen: You’re innovation. What can we do next and how we can diversify? And, I'm like, let's get some more books in the building.

Mark: And, she figures out how to – how to get it done. I think I've tried what the thing is we're getting done.

Kristen: So.

Mark: So that – so, basically, what wakes us up – what wakes me up in the morning is, “Oh, goodie. I get to figure some clever new thing out.” She wakes up going, “Oh my gosh, we've got so much to do. And, here's all the things that have to get done.”

Kristen: And then there's Mark saying, “And, we could also do this, that and the other thing,” and I’m like, “Okay!”

Mark: We should – we should go into the scrap industry and bale up aluminum cans, honey, that'd be a really great idea.

Kristen: Stop.

Mark: And, she’s like…

John: Trust me, you got outta that one. We have a full-service scrap – but that's another story. Because, I love this story. I – this is, um, this is really unique. Um, and it's part of the recycle chain and, you know, Pile of Scrap is the recycler’s podcast and there's so many elements now in recycling that aren’t really have covered. And because, see, when you get a book that's done to its life end… Tell us what you're doing. What, what are you doing with…

Mark: Right.

John: Paper and all and everything.

Mark: Alright.

Kristen: Well, that was one of the ideas that Mark threw on the plate is we had a trash issue and I was like, “Babe, you've got to get this…” ‘Cause the local recycling center stopped accepting our – we're trying to recycle our textbooks that we couldn't use. And...

Mark: Recycling them whole cloth. So, the whole book gets tossed to a gaylord, gaylord heads over to the recycling center, recycling center calls us up one day and says, “You know, all those pallets of books you got outside your warehouse waiting for us to pick them up? We're not picking them up because there…”

John: The paper values have cracked – have cratered too.

Mark: Right.

Kristen: Yeah. Absolutely.

Mark: And, it's because of that. It's not – we can't ­­­– we can't justify the expense of picking them up…

John: Right.

Mark: Through recycling. So, there we are. And…

Kristen: So, Mark says, “I think we should get into binder,” and I said, “Oh.” I mean, and you’re in machinery.

John: Right. That's why we do. Sierra: We sell a lot of machinery.

Kristen: So, “Please tell me why we should spend $25,000 on a deep binder.” And…

John: Well, was he right?

Mark: Yeah. Well…

Kristen: Yes. Of course he was.

Mark: Eventually – eventually it pays itself off.

John: So, okay. So, now you've got the paper, you deep-binded it, you know, you take this part of the book out and you got all the different coated book paper and the… What's the other…

Mark: Bright white.

John: White and bright, okay. So, now you've done something very unique with this because you have your own paper – the pole – tell us about that.

Mark: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, the idea was: Okay, yeah, we can do the thing where we say, “Oh, we recycle our paper,” but that…

Kristen: Recycle our books.

Mark: Yeah. Yeah, no. We – we recycle our books, we recycle our paper. But, the problem that I was running into was just like, it could be so much cooler if we could say, “Hey, we recycle our paper, turn it into new paper. And, we bring it back in here. We've got all these people who can fix a book… Why can't we use that same skill to make a book, right?”

John: Right.

Mark: Why can't we use that same skill that if we're good at fixing something that seems skill could cross over, we can make something out of it. So, where does our paper go? So, it's kind of like getting to go inside the guts of the recycling industry. So, okay. “Where, where, where does our kind of paper go to?” is what I started asking.

John: Right.

Mark: And, we found the pulping plant that de-inks the paper, right? And, turns it into big rolls of newsprint. So, I went up and visited them. I went and saw the big old shed with the big old stacks of baled paper flopping everywhere ‘cause you can't build bale paper really well.

John: You can bale paper beautifully.

Mark: But…

John: Books.

Mark: Books.

John: Books are not… I sell paper balers. So, we can – you can bale beautiful, uh, you know, old newsprint, cardboard, office pack, you know, white paper, computer paper…

Mark: But, it's books.

John: Books are just… Yes, they're not easy.

Kristen: They’re tricky, yeah.

John: Yeah. Okay, continue on.

Mark: Okay, so there I am, looking at – and this particular one is working with a lot of MRFs They've got huge stacks of paper and getting to see, “Okay, this is how it's going to work.” And, I'm like, “What's the end product? What does this look like?” And, they point me at this two-ton roll of paper. I'm like, “I can't bring a two ton roll of paper back into my warehouse. How am I going to…” but I want to make something out of that paper.

John: Okay.

Mark: Can we get that paper up here? Then I want to find someone who can turn that roll of paper into something else.

John: Okay.

Kristen: And, so we found a partner down in Lewiston, um, that we're working alongside that was ha–was able – we were able to send our paper down there and then they're able to allow – and willing to allow us to be creative with different products that we can make from our paper. So, Saddle Stitch Notebooks – perfect bound notebooks.

John: Here, here. This is a cute little, you know, little notebook. That's cute artistry, but, uh, that's what I've used to do – for my notes. So, you make these little…

Kristen: Little notebooks… Yep. Yep. We did a custom project. It was something we went to a conference in February of this year, down in New Orleans and talked about how we're thinking about going into paper. And, I think we were in Darren's office about three weeks before that talking about social media and about how we're trying to get the word out about who we were. And, so we go down, talking about paper and they're like, “When? When can you do paper? This year? This… And, by fall?” I was like, “Give it – give us a year.”

Mark: Yeah.

Kristen: Well, like a few weeks later, I get a call from one of our bigger suppliers, um, Chegg. They are, um, textbook rental company.

John: Okay.

Kristen: And, so books will get damaged in that rental cycle and then we get an opportunity to buy those. And, they said, “I have some money budgeted, if you can make me some notebooks.” And we said, “Okay, let's do it.” And so…

John: So, who figured out how to make these?

Mark: Okay, so…

Kristen: It was collaboration.

Mark: Yes.

John: Okay.

Mark: Yeah, yeah.

John: So, you got your books.

Mark: Yeah, yeah.

John: You found them.

Kristen: Yeah, yeah. We had two weeks to come up and make 150,000 notebooks for them and, um, we were able to do that and they're really happy. And, they're putting another order in for 450,000 this week.

John: That's – that’s fantastic. You know, I want to see more uses for paper because I'm in paper recycling industry and more uses creates more need for machinery. Okay, that's the selfish part about all of this, but the fact of the matter is, is you got creative. Okay, this is something that I absolutely love. Something here about like a mini newspaper, but it's not a newspaper. What am I looking at? Tell – tell the people who will listen, now. Of course, if people watching, they could see, but this is like an old, um, it's a mini newspaper.

Kristen: It’s called a tabloid.

John: Tabloid. There you go. Tabloid.

Kristen: Tabloid size.

John: Okay, tabloid size. And, what am I looking at here?

Mark: So, it's chapter one of a book. So, it's a book that's coming out in chapters in a serial form on newspaper. And, then it gets mailed like a newspaper. So, it's – it's showing up in your mailbox the way like a tabloid newspaper used to, but it's the first chapter of a book. And then, in the next week or two weeks or three weeks out, the next chapter is going to show up.

John: And, the author of this is N.D. Wilson, right?

Kristen: Yes.

John: Well, now I know N.D, Nate, because he wrote the script for Mercy Rule, a movie I did, uh, that Darren filmed, uh, with Kirk Cameron.

Mark: Yup.

John: Um, had to do with baseball and the little league and where my son has kind of taken off a little bit off of, uh, a summer experience I have with my son. But, um, this is a fantastic. So, you – instead of going and buying the book now, he's publishing his own book through this. But, a chapter at a time.

Mark: Yes.

John: So, he's probably creating a higher demand: “Oh, that chapter one was great. When’s chapter two? When’s chapter two?”

Mark & Kristen: Yes.

John: Creating quite a buzz. So, how is that going for him?

Kristen: Well, and kids – and kids love to get things in the mail. Right?

John: I used to love getting things in the mail. Today, everything that comes in the mail cost me money. A bill.

Kristen: We need to get you signed up.

John: Nothing anymore.

Kristen: I need to get you a subscription to N.D. Wilson's book, then.

John: Okay. So how many other authors have seen this and going to come up with it?

Mark: Yeah.

Kristen: I think it's – I think it's the new thing. I think that there's limitless…

John: So, you're going to be out going to the publishing house?

Kristen: Anybody. I think that that's where we – there's an opportunity to reimagine uses for paper specifically in the newspaper industry where we all have news on our phones now.

John: Sure.

Kristen: But, there are all of these beautiful, gorgeous machines that make beautiful things out of paper right – right down the road. And, newspapers have such a rich history and culture and piece – piece of our culture. And, I think that, you know, a friend of mine – his name is Vivec and he's doing a newspaper just for his law firm and Sierra should do one too.

John: Well, you know, we used to have – hold on, we used to have a little newsletter, uh, we call it Pressing News. We still have that, but we haven't done anything with it because social media. But you know, this is a really cool format. And I think, uh, I just hope though, when you mail it to somebody, it doesn't get tossed in the company…

Mark: These – will – these – yeah. And, that's the thing is, the thing is it survived the post – the Post Office delivered it beautifully. These came out of our mailbox.

John: It survived the post office.

Mark: Yes.

Kristen: Interesting.

John: I don't know if that's a good thing or bad thing that you said that, but this is really a fantastic, you know, it's – you guys are like the antique store furniture store for books. You've created all new, you know, how people take things and create something out of it?

Mark: Yes.

John: And, you're doing that with books through old paper, newspaper. “Let's try it.” That's fantastic. This is – should be something that could be big because you're marketing, really, to the younger generation, like you said, who'd love getting something in the mail because they feel, “Wow, I'm important.” I'm getting something in the mail.

Mark: Right.

Kristen: Right. And, I – I wouldn't limit it just to that. You know, I think that there's some really beautiful things artists could do that are relevant now. Um, people who are into branding marketing, I think that marketing teams could be really realizing that the use and the cost effectiveness of – of newsprint again, and it doesn't have to just be limited to just what it used to be. And I, and that's what I like about…

John: Like you said, re-imagining how to use things. And, this is a really fascinating, I mean, what a concept from textbooks to notebooks now, to many newspapers of a real life book instead of buying the whole book, you're creating that anticipation. “When's the new chapter gonna arrive?”

Mark & Kristen: Right.

John: And, for kids to read… And, most kids hate reading. My son hates reading, okay? He just – he never understands why my daughter or myself, when I travel, that I've read books. “Dad, why would you read?” ‘Cause it's good. I like a good story. Ah, he hates reading because he's – he's at that age. He's just not the student. He's smart as heck.

Kristen: Right.

John: But, he's just not – doesn't like to be a student.

Kristen: Yeah.

John: But, I bet you if he got a golf journal from Rory McIlroy…

Mark: Yep.

John: They had a Rory McIlroy newspaper, he'd read it from…

Kristen:  He'd be all in it. Absolutely just gripped.

John: So, maybe an idea for you, is to start marketing this – your own company, your own paper and creating an own publishing company that you go to some of these people who can put out something in a different format for the younger people to get it, instead of everybody just being buried on this doggone telephone.

Kristen: Right. Lift up. Get up. Look at the world and interact with it in a different way. And, so we did. So, we have Bulrushed Books and then we launched Bulrushed Paper. So, that's what we are.

John: You know, what, what a great story, what a great story. So, I want to go back a little bit before we end up here. I do have a question though.

Mark: Okay.

John: Profit. I mean, you almost sound like you're there for the underprivileged and what you're doing with the textbook. Is profit bad. Is it good? Even? What is it? Because, today's world, you had a lot of people tell you, you make money, you're evil. But, you can't do this for free.

Kristen: I think that one of the responsibilities of anybody, any business you have, is we're supplying jobs and in order to help support other families. And, that's something that you asked earlier, one of the reasons that you come to work is, “I love that we can provide jobs for people locally.” We live in a small town. There's not, there's – there's… There's, like, an endless opportunity of places you can go apply to work. And so, I hope and pray that our business can keep growing and we can supply jobs, but that’s based on growth and profitability. And so, I hope our kids want to come and take over a division of the company one day and…

John: Help grow it to another level.

Kristen: Help grow it.

John: So, Mark, I'm going to get to this because you're – you're a Central Valley, California – Central Valley boy…

Mark: Yeah.

John: I’m from Bakersfield. You're – you were born and raised outside of…

Mark & John: Fresno.

Mark: Yeah. Yeah.

John: Yeah. And, so you were in the farming industry?

Mark: Yep.

John: What? Cotton.

Mark: Cotton.

John: What other crops?

Mark: Oh, um, had melons, we still do tomatoes, might do carrots right now. Just planted almonds for the first t–

John: Who’ve you, uh, grown carrots for? Bolthouse? Uh, Grimmway? Because in Bakersfield, where I am, they’re the two biggest carrot producers in the world are Bolthouse and Grimmway.

Mark: Yeah…

John: And they have so many different, uh, subcontractors growing carrots for them. Are you guys doing that for them?

Mark: No. So, um, the carrots… Those were actually for Campbell's Soup.

John: Okay. So, you went into Campbell’s… Tomatoes for Campbell Soup as well?

Mark: Um, Romas. But, for a canning facility right there in Lemoore.

John: Okay.

Mark: So, really close by. And, uh, and the carrots, particularly, weren't the narrow ones, but big fat ones. So, you're getting a lot of square inches, so you could chop them up and cube ‘em.

John: Okay.

Mark: Um, yeah. So, yeah. The…

John: So, we have that, ‘cause I – Sierra, the original Sierra at Sierra Bag Company, where we supplied bags for the potato industry, for the onion industry and then the cotton bagging and ties, we did that, you know. That business fell by the Wayside in California ‘cause water costs and whatever, what have you. But…

Mark: Yeah…

John: You know, it's funny, you and I come from the same background.

Mark: Yes.

John: Here we are in the somewhat recycling industry, if you will.

Mark: Right.

John: But food, farming's a recycling – you're using reusing the soil over and over and over.

Mark: Yes. Yeah.

John: So, it's just a different version of farming. You're a book farmer.

Mark: Yes.

Kristen: Yeah. We say that all the time. Book farming, for sure.

John: Well, the roots of where you came from, and I don't know much about your background and you're not a Central Valley girl –

Kristen: No, not a Central Valley girl.

John: From Wisconsin, but you know, I think that's just – it's a great story. I hope people that listen to, or watch Pile of Scrap can be motivated by, you know, it just isn't about big processing, MRF facilities, waste facilities, that there is a niche there's so much to this industry and you guys have provided a really unique niche and you know what? You might be able to find people listen to whom who have a lot of books and say, “Hey, you know what? What if I sent you some books?”

Mark: Right. Yeah.

Kristen: Call us.

John: You don't know what – you're doing textbooks now. It could grow.

Mark: Yeah.

Kristen: Absolutely.

John: It could be anything. So, maybe all you MRF operators out there who listened to this, right? If you got gaylords of books and a lot of textbooks? Contact the “Bee-chums” – “Bo-champs.” I want to call you a “Bo-champ”

Kristen: Yeah. I know. Well, thank you too, though. Like you said, this is part of what you're saying, having these podcasts and these opportunities to talk about the industry is inspiring other people. And so, thank you to you because part of this is all part of where our stories are kind of knit together now.

John: Yes, they are.

Kristen: So, I really appreciate that.

John: Well, Mark, Kristen… I want to thank both of you for allowing me to tour your facility. The best of luck to you. Um, you're going to grow this thing, your success… You haven't even begun to hit your success yet. I could just see it, feel it. This is such, I mean, my marketing mind keeps going, “Oh, what could you do with it?” But, I'm sure you got plenty. You're doing great. But, thank you both for hosting me here today in Moscow, Idaho. What a great little town. I love this place. I've was told not to call it Moscow. It's Moscow. See, you’re such a Valley boy. You know, potato, po-tah-to, right? So, anyway, well the two of you, thank you so much for hosting me and being part of an episode of Pile of Scrap.

Kristen: Thank you.

John: Thank you.

Conclusion: This has been a Sierra International Machinery original audio series. Thanks for listening. Please share this podcast and make sure to subscribe.


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Topics: Recycling

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