Inventing on a Jet Plane
What do you do on plane rides? If you’re like me, you thumb through a stack of magazines while drifting in and out of an uncomfortable slumber. If you’re Jeff Mateka, founder of Redbox+, you kill time by dreaming up entire new business ideas—successful ones, at that. So the story goes from Lyle Blanchard, franchise development director at the Winona, Minnesota-based company that’s been cleaning up job sites since 2007.
Blanchard and Mateka, two gearhead friends for years, worked to take that fledgling idea and turn it into a fully functional, franchised company that’s designed to combine two services—roll-off trash removal and a portable restroom—on one truck with one driver.
“I believe he still has that piece of paper,” Blanchard said of Mateka’s original sketch of the concept. “We knew we had a good idea.”
After a few years of trial and error, Redbox+ began franchising in the spring of 2014. Knowing that the waste industry rakes in $51 billion a year, according to Blanchard, the idea seemed like a no-brainer to save money and manpower at job sites across the country.
“Trash doesn’t stop,” he said, saying nothing of the human element in the equation. “Even in a downturn, instead of building a house you remodel the one you’ve got.”
After displaying the product at a trade show in early 2007, the company quickly saw a rush of interest from the contractor industry. The company initially focused on manufacturing and selling the product directly, but quickly saw interest fizzle, which is where franchising entered the equation.
“Maybe we should go down the licensing path and, bam, next thing we know we’ve got guys looking to license,” Blanchard said
As it’s currently configured, with one trip, Redbox+ will deliver the roll-off box and toilet to a jobsite, then come and pick it up whenever the job is done. The company now has three franchisees, with several pending throughout the country. He added that the company has a very long list of interested parties.
While the company has a long way to go to reach its dreams of becoming a big player in two big industries, the story is a great tale of the power of franchising—as well as the potentially infinite value in always carrying a pen and paper. I think it's a genius idea.
You never know when you’re going to strike gold, even if it’s in the form of construction trash and human waste.