How To Inspire People To Be Passionate About Your Business

So you know that nobody cares about your business right? (It’s okay, they don’t care about mine either. They care about themselves.) Want to learn how to get them passionate about what you’re building?

Listen to my interview with Tom Szaky, who founded TerraCycle in college, based on the idea of selling worm poop. In the program, Tom taught how to get employees, customers and press to rally around a startup.

Tom Szaky

Tom Szaky


Tom Szaky is the founder of TerraCycle, a company that collects difficult-to-recycle packaging and products and repurposes the material into affordable, innovative products.

We’ve had hundreds of interns come through and become a part of the company. It’s because we say, “become a part of a revolution. Help us eliminate the idea of waste in a very big way.” People want to become involved in that.

On the other side, we have people signing up on our web site to collect waste and get paid for it. And we have literally tens of thousands of accounts, and in each account there are hundreds of people. That’s millions of people collecting garbage, and helping us grow our business.

I think the key thing here is to become a cause. You become more than just a money making vehicle. You combine the benefits of a for-profit and not-for-profit in one entity. And that’s when you get people who get very excited and want to help you. Because it’s not just about, “I’m going to help this guy make a lot of money.” It’s, “I’m going to help this company create something that truly helping the world.” In our case, it’s eliminating the idea of garbage.

[This program was done because of help from:  Laura Clark Portfolio / Penguin Group and George Chevalier of TerraCycle]

The full program includes:

  • Tom’s amazing entrepreneurial story
  • An inspiring example of how business can do good
  • Tips for generating others passionate about your business
  • Techniques for getting publicity
  • Discussion of what it takes to be an entrepreneur
  • Andrew’s obsession with wanting a private plane

Give your feedback:

I pulled an excerpt that stood out for me when I recorded the interview. What stood out for you when you heard it?

25 thoughts on “How To Inspire People To Be Passionate About Your Business – With Tom Szaky

  1. PaulMagee says:

    I love this guy. Came across his website some time ago. I seem to remember they were one of the first to use video in a smart way to tell their story.

    It's interesting to hear from people who really are breaking new ground. I mean negotiating “waste stream licenses”, that's genius. Such an easy sell and such a great way to tie up the market.

    I also find it really useful to hear little facts like the 5% success rate making PR calls.
    Having metrics like that on hand can keep you sane.

    Great work.

  2. steven273 says:

    Great interview, really enjoyed listening to the way Tom built his company with a view toward having a profitable marketing department. I think this is something that a lot of companies don't take into consideration and a really good way to boot-strap your company right from the beginning.

  3. AndrewWarner says:

    That 5% success rate with reporters was very helpful.

    I assumed a company with this kind of story would get a 50% success rate
    with reporters they pitch.

    That means 20 attempts gets 1 article. How many people would give up after 1

  4. AndrewWarner says:

    I never thought a marketing department could be profitable.

    This a is a clever company.

  5. One of my favorite interviews, thanks! Loved his comments on 'becoming a cause' – so dead on.

    Keep up the great work.

  6. AndrewWarner says:

    One of my favorites too.

    Hearing how he started and built his company is inspiring.

    In his book he goes into all the different issues that kept cropping up as
    he grew the business. I tried to bring them up in this interview to show how
    tough it is to grow a company.

  7. David Nagy says:

    Is there a problem with the link? It gets me too a website with bikes and stuff like that.

  8. Omid says:

    Andrew, I am going to take (at least) two things away from this interview: always keep my motivation up (despite a few rejections here and there), and be a pragmatic optimist.

  9. AndrewWarner says:

    Thanks for the catch David.

    I typed .com for their domain when I meant .net.

    I owe you a whiskey when I see you in person. Thanks for catching that!

  10. AndrewWarner says:

    Right on Omid.

    This guy was slammed down on the floor by the world, over and over. And he
    kept getting up.

    Here are just a few things that he got back from:

    – He submitted his first business plan for this idea too late. Managed to
    convince his school to take it any way.

    – He expected to get revenue from collecting garbage, but no one would pay
    him. So he concentrated on other revenue.

    – He was about to go broke. He did a radio show where he talked about his
    idea. An investor heard him and gave him a few bucks to keep going.

    – He tried to sell his worm poop in plastic bags to local stores. They
    laughed at him. So he found a way to make it into a liquid spray, which
    ended up being a hit.

    – He couldn't afford bottles for his spray. So he dug around in garbage bins
    and used old soda bottles. Turns out using discarded bottles was so cheap
    that he does it to this day.

    -And on and on and on and on.

    Most people would cry themselves a puddle after just one of these setbacks.

  11. David Nagy says:

    Tea is very good for me. I'm a tea lover for ever and ever. :)

    In the interview I heard that it's .net
    like everytime… I've listened till the end. :D

    And if you'll come in Romania, sure thing we will see each other. @soultravelers3 planes to visit Romania this year so… next one it's YOU!

  12. David Nagy says:

    Maybe I could help him out to start the business in Eastern Europe.

  13. AndrewWarner says:

    Then tea it is!

    I love tea too. Olivia is getting upset with me because my tea habit is
    staining her mugs.

    See you in Romania.

  14. Sheezus, Tom is fantastic. It's enough to make me think that is about to get turned on its ear!

    Between listening to interview Fabrice Grinda yesterday and this fantastice interview today, I'm ready for global e-commerce (just need to make “my story” more compelling, create an adjunctive cause that is aligned with my company's mission, convince an investor that our 5-phase global development should be done simultaneously to take advantage of existing market trends, self-PR the hell out of this idea, and then hire a profitable marketing team into place).

    Starting to see why getting up at 5am makes sense . . .

    Thanks for the great info!

  15. jlaing says:

    Love his tenacious spirit. Definitely agree, for most businesses success is just a matter of not giving up. I've heard this from so many successful entrepreneurs now.
    Andrew thanks for bringing us these great interviews!

  16. Jose Maria says:

    Tom’s store is really inspiring. One thing that I’ve learnt from this interview and some others is that writing a book is a great marketing action. I’ve already suggested you to write at least an ebook with all the content you are gathering from these interviews. I’ll definitively buy it ;) I’ve started my own ebook on “How to use email marketing in the web 2.0 era”. I’ll probably ask for your help to contact some of the guys you’ve interviewed and hopefully they can give me some great cases of study on the best way to use email marketing. Keep the awesome work Andrew!

  17. AndrewWarner says:

    Brennan, you're getting up at 5 am?!

    I need to work like mad in every one of these interviews to help you build
    that global ecommerce, world-changing company you're working on.

  18. AndrewWarner says:


    You're right. I need to take these interviews and compile them in a way that
    makes sense and is even more helpful.

  19. Yes, it takes a cause.

  20. harshb says:

    Awesome interview! Its making me do things.

  21. AndrewWarner says:

    Isn't it amazing how he was able to build such a successful business by
    selling GARBAGE?

    Thanks for the note!

  22. Isn't it amazing how he was able to build such a successful business by
    selling GARBAGE?

    Thanks for the note!

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