If you’ve been a participant or fan of the WBENC national pitch competitions, you’ve likely seen Jessica Findley, Co-Founder and CEO, Neowaste, deliver her compelling presentation that won her first place and $20,000 in July 2021. Headquartered in Pell City, Alabama, Neowaste converts mixed, contaminated plastic waste into diesel fuel. This isn’t the stuff of science fiction but is the world of chemical recycling. Neowaste uses Polycrack Technology and is able to convert one ton of plastic into 260 gallons of fuel that has a real impact on the environment and bottom line.
Jessica is no stranger to pitch competitions and winning big. In 2019, she competed in the Alabama Launchpad Startup Competition, a program of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, and was the seed-stage winner bringing home $100,000. The pitch focused on turning automotive plastic and tire waste into fuel. That win earned the attention of a major oil company and translated into a letter of interest from Sunoco to purchase their “neofuel.”
Since that time, Neowaste has expanded their processing capacity and hired a part time operator. They have conducted many conversations with “what feels like hundreds of municipalities and major corporations,” according to Jessica. She says, “Mostly all of those are WBENC supporters and we’re talking to them about processing various waste streams and also about integrating our conversion units into companies’ actual operations, so that no waste ever has to leave the facility.” As CEO, Jessica is cognizant of managing their growth in a measured way stating, “We are trying our best to strategically manage our growth so we don’t get too big too fast.”
Jessica has learned many lessons building her business and offers the following advice to WBEs in any sector, “For me, it comes down to managing expectations and not saying yes to everyone right out of the gate.” She notes that potential customers get excited about the technology and they want to see it deployed to process waste immediately. “It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution and it requires deep collaboration with the waste generator and offtake partners to make it make sense economically. There’s a big gap between the technical ability to convert someone’s waste into fuel and the economic viability of scaling up to a commercial operation. I’m constantly educating people about this to help them understand why we can’t just start processing all their waste tomorrow.”
Jessica has a strict course of action in place and key performance milestones the company is committed to achieving before scaling up again. She says, “Folks appreciate that we’re not promising the moon on day one and respect the fact that we’re honest and staying true to our original commercialization plan.”