Jack Fridge, president of Denham Springs, La.-based Livingston Waste / Express Waste Solutions and Waste360’s youngest 40 Under 40 award recipient, started his company at the young age of 17. Over the past two years, 24-year-old Fridge has built up his company from 585 customers to more than 20,000 customers in Livingston Parish, Tangipahoa Parish and St. Tammany Parish.
Fridge got his start in the waste and recycling industry when he was just 12 years old. He worked alongside his father to assemble and deliver carts for Coastal Waste Services (CWS), and he also attended meetings at Waste Management and other companies his father was employed at.
“At CWS, Jack was often by his dad’s side learning about work ethic at an early age,” says Chris Jean, former owner of Coastal Waste Services. “He has a ‘do whatever it takes attitude,’ and I have watched him grow from a child to a coach to the young entrepreneur that he is now. Jack has become an incredible businessman that both his employees and customers love and admire.”
Even though Fridge grew up in the industry, starting his own waste and recycling company didn’t come easy. Waste360 sat down with Fridge to talk about the challenges of starting a business, his goals for Livingston Waste / Express Waste Solutions and his passion for the waste and recycling industry.
Waste360: You started your own company at the age of 17. Where did you get your inspiration to start Livingston Waste / Expressfridge-jack-770 Waste Solutions?
Jack Fridge: My dad has been in the waste and recycling industry for about 38 years now. When I was 12 years old, I would build carts for him when I wasn’t in school and I would attend meetings with him when he worked at Waste Management and other companies.
When I was 17, I decided that I wanted to do something different, and I noticed that there weren’t any recycling efforts in my area. I then started knocking on doors and thousands of people turned me down because recycling isn’t something people really think about in Livingston Parish, La. Some people would rather burn cardboard in their backyard than recycle in some areas around here.
When I was attending Baton Rouge Community College in La., I was playing basketball, coaching and working a night job to pay for college and my first trailer. I was also taking speech classes to help get over my fear of talking in front of people.
In 2012, I sat down with my parents and we talked about my options because what I was doing clearly wasn’t working. I suggested that we start picking up garbage twice a week and include recycling services. Most people we talked to in Livingston Parish said they would recycle, but they wouldn’t pay for it. At that time, Waste Management was our only competitor, and they only picked up garbage once a week with no recycling services. We decided to go with my suggestion of doing garbage pickups twice a week with free recycling. We charged customers close to the same price as Waste Management.
When I began the business, I was too young to drive a truck. Therefore, my mom was my first driver and secretary. As things progressed, I worked as the hopper, sales person, recycling driver, helper and secretary to get things into motion.
Within a month and a half of starting our services, the parish said that we needed an occupational license and insurance. The parish was not aware that there was an actual contract between each hauler and the parish because it was a brand new administration. At that time, we had 585 customers and they made us pause our services from November 2012 to November 2013 until we had the proper insurance that was required.
A parish councilman heard what was going on and talked to me about investing in the company. He understood the struggle since he was once a young entrepreneur and he got involved to help me build credit and push the company forward. At that time, I had one dump trailer for recycling and one garbage truck for trash.
In November 2013, we bought a new truck and grew from 585 customers to around 20,000 customers currently. We have had a lot of obstacles and a lot of different things happen to get us where we are today. A lot of things had to fall in place, and they eventually did.
When I started, I didn’t have any credit and I didn’t have any money. It took a lot of hard work and working with people I trusted to help us get where we needed to be. After we brought on the parish councilman as a partner, we met the requirements, signed the contract and started growing.
Waste360: Have you always had a passion for waste and recycling?
Jack Fridge: When I was young, I would see the garbage man coming and I would want to watch him dump the trash in his truck. I think a lot of kids have that feeling. I always tell my drivers that rule number one is to wave at everyone because they are always watching. Of course, the real rule number one is safety, but some people get as excited about a garbage man as they do about the ice cream man.
One time, I was shooting a basketball as a child and a garbage helper came up and shot a basketball with me. That was such a special moment to me, and those kinds of moments are what spread in the community. Our slogan is “We Are Your Community Waste Company.” In every community that we go to, we want to be the hometown team, and we want to do it for our community.
Waste360: Tell us about Livingston Waste / Express Waste Solutions and your role as president.
Jack Fridge: I oversee the entire company, but I am not diving into every role like I used to. Every so often I have to jump on a truck, but it doesn’t happen as often as it used to. I have daily meetings with the management group to check in and make sure everything is going right. Also, I manage the financing with the banks and pay the bills. I am working on passing the management of financing and bills off to someone else, but it’s a slow transition right now.
Waste360: What are your goals for the company?
Jack Fridge: I honestly think that we could double in size every year for the next five years, if we do things the right way. I would like to see the company prosper, and I want to keep working hard and moving forward.
We just recently bought our first front-load truck, and we are looking to expand in the front-load and roll-off business now that the residential business is pretty much carrying itself. It might be more profitable for us to use trucks like an automated side loader, but it’s not customer friendly and it’s not always about the profit. I feel like the people in La. are spoiled, and I want to keep it that way.
Looking way into the future, I don’t think we will sell to a larger company, but you never know what the future holds. The sky is the limit for us and now that my dad is working for me, we want to do as much as we can to grow the company. If we sold, I would feel like we betrayed our customers because they wouldn’t get the intimate service that we can provide.
Waste360: What advice would you give to someone looking to break into the industry?
Jack Fridge: I would tell them to pray a lot and work as hard as you can every day. There are no days off until you get to your goal and once you’re there, it becomes a little easier. Work hard and work smart at the same time, and trust that everything happens for a reason. No matter what challenges arise, it will all work out in the end.
Waste360: What does this 40 Under 40 award mean to you?
Jack Fridge: It’s a blessing, and in a way it’s kind of like an ‘I told you so’ to all of the people who made fun of me and laughed at me for starting my own business at a young age. My fiancé and my dad are also very excited and while I don’t like to talk about titles, they enjoy doing it for me. I also won Entrepreneur of the Year for Livingston Parish so it’s a blessing to continue to be recognized.