Photo: Kim Bhasin, Business Insider
Many companies tout the importance of “living” their brands, but few ever accomplish it. They leave it up to the individuals to do it themselves, and do nothing to spur engagement.The folks at TerraCycle truly do live their brand.
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Nearly a decade ago, then-20-year-old Princeton freshman Tom Szeky started up a green business that made fertiliser out of worm refuse and packaged it in used bottles. Later on, he completely changed his company’s business model into primarily upcycling — re-using waste without breaking it down — items like toothbrushes into consumer products, then selling them to retailers like Target and Walmart.
Now, he’s gone global, and things are booming for Szeky’s creation. TerraCycle cracked the top 1000 in Inc Magazine’s annual Inc 5000 list of fastest growing privately-owned companies, had feature write-ups in numerous publications and even had its own 4-episode mini-series on National Geographic called Garbage Moguls.
Despite the drastic changes and huge growth, TerraCycle’s culture has remained nearly the same, thanks to the company leadership’s initiative to keep it that way, and employees that believe in what they’re doing.
There are few companies as unique as TerraCycle, but somehow its incredibly quirky office manages to embody the company’s culture perfectly.
The office was designed by TerraCycle’s Chief Design Junkie (yes, that’s her official title) Tiffany Threadgould, who explained to us that “it’s sensory overload. It’s a display of everything that we’re about. In design there’s something nice to be said about that.”
We took a trip down to TerraCycle’s Trenton, NJ headquarters to see what all the fuss was about.
We pull into TerraCycle's little corner of Trenton. It's already obvious that this isn't your everyday office environment
Right as we walk in, we're greeted by a huge TerraCycle logo made entirely out of repurposed drink pouches
The wall is laden with repurposed books, the table's made of Mercedes-Benz rims and the graffiti on the wall's actually peeled off of cinder blocks and re-pasted
There's all sorts of random stuff on the walls -- but this is just a preview of the sensory overload to come
Here's the full showroom. That dress on the right is made out of Honest Kids pouches and was once worn on stage at Carnegie Hall by a concert pianist
And in there are samples of all the products TerraCycle has made. Here's some of the worm refuse products that got everything started
This is one of their trial in-store collection programs, which allows consumers to drop off waste in front of retail stores
Now, we head into the main office area. If you haven't caught on, graffiti's going to be a big theme
Bottle-curtains surround this conference table made out of doors. Two of the doors have working doorbells, in case people aren't paying attention
Every employee has a Nerf gun at TerraCycle, and CEO Tom Szeky packs some serious firepower. Behold, the Stampede ECS
Szeky's little conference table sits on a couple barrels. Can't everyone hear everything they're saying in here? Those bottles aren't quite soundproof
They research and develop new products in here, making stuff out of all sorts of things like candy bar labels and bottles
Threadgould shows us their plans to revamp the courtyard. There's going to be a TerraCycle logo visible on Google Maps
In the courtyard's current state, there's wall made out of wine bottles and decorated with bottlecaps. They plan to put a flower bed around it
The weekend before our tour, the whole courtyard was repainted by artists from all around the country as part of their 7th Annual Graffiti Jam
Back inside the showroom, the business development team convenes over lunch. We'd love to stay and chat, but it's time to head back to Manhattan
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