YEDaily: Lisa Von Sturmer

Lisa Von Sturmer has completely turned around the idea of composting and made it fun since her company, Growing City’s inception in 2009. Having a deep want to positively change the world both short and long term, check out the hurdles this passionate environmentalist has had to endure in this YEDaily…

Elevator Pitch: Describe your job in a nutshell.
I own and run Growing City. We are a premium corporate composting service that makes it easy for businesses to reduce their waste by up to 50%, overnight.  We are a full service composting and waste reduction solution.  With our innovative and unique in-office valet service, our clients simply need to put their organics in the provided Compo-Capsule and Growing City does the rest. We even send out monthly reports to let our clients know how much waste and CO2e we’ve diverted from their office together!

Why did you start your company? What was the inspiration for this route?
I actually worked in television for several years as an editor with dreams of becoming a director before starting my business.  At one point, I worked for an MMA fight show (similar to UFC), and had been working really hard to move into story producing.  I was booked to go on location to shoot some fights, but at the last minute my boss pulled me off and told me it was because “the locations were no place for a lady”.  Essentially, I was held back because of my boss’ feelings about what he thought was appropriate for women.  That was a pivotal moment for me – I was furious and I never wanted to feel like I couldn’t control my own success ever again.  Coincidentally, I was also reading the 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss at that time (a classic responsible for creating a generation of young entrepreneurs I’m sure!).  I decided to take the plunge and work for myself.  I wanted to work for a company that had a positive impact and legacy (I didn’t want to be remembered for just hiring some bikini models and cutting fighter profiles).  I wanted to make a difference!  So once I knew what my business model looked like – and I had my checklist of priorities (community involvement, environmental sustainability, etc) ready, it was just a matter of finding the idea that fit.  Composting was a perfect match and I’ve never looked back since!

What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
Every time we start a new client, I go in personally to teach the staff about composting, how we do it and why it’s important.  I love how excited people are to participate in a tangible green initiative – it makes people feel empowered when they can actually see the difference they’re making!  I often get feedback from my clients that their staff are now starting to compost at home after seeing what a difference it makes at work.  I absolutely love hearing that kind of feedback, and I would say that getting people excited about sustainability is the highlight of my job!  The most challenging part was definitely learning about the day-to-day operations (learning how to do book keeping, financials, payroll etc).  I come from a visual arts background so I was always intimidated with the numbers side of business – but it’s a vital element of your company’s success so I forced myself to learn.  I’m extremely happy to have people to take care of that for me now, but it’s still important to keep tabs on everything and I’m constantly challenging myself to learn more.  It is difficult at times, but it’s also pretty exciting to learn new skills that you never thought you could!

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I’d like to see Growing City across Canada and moving into other global markets in 5 years.  I’d also really like to continue my work with CYBF (Canadian Youth Business Foundation) to help inspire and encourage young people to become entrepreneurs themselves.  Entrepreneurs are one of the most important elements of our economy and we need to continue to support young people who are trying to bring their visions to life!

What does success look like to you?
I would say that success looks like sharing: sharing time and ideas with people who are just starting out on their path to entrepreneurship.  Being a mentor is the ultimate reflection of success – you’ve made it yourself, and now you’re helping others to achieve success as well.  Sounds good to me!

What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
Without a doubt, being a Canadian delegate with CYBF at the recent G20 Youth Entrepreneurship Summit in Nice, France was easily the biggest milestone in my career to date.  Meeting with other successful young business owners to share ideas and problem solve ways that our governments can help young people start their own businesses was amazing.  Our Canadian delegation was filled with inspirational entrepreneurs, and we’ve committed to continuing the work here at home to create a Canadian Communique that we will present to the federal government.  It was an honour and a privilege to meet everyone and to continue to be involved!  I was so grateful for the opportunity.

Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
“Before you quit, try.” There’s a lot of work, dedication and sacrifice involved in starting a business – but it will pay off in the end.  Believe in yourself!  It may seem daunting at first, but whatever the skill you can learn it.  Whatever the hurdle, you’ll find your way over it.  Find yourself a mentor (or many!), join a supportive program, don’t be afraid to ask other entrepreneurs out for coffee and ask how they accomplished certain things – and read.  There are so many fantastic books that will help you build your business.

Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
Yes, Growing City supports a different local organization every month.  We donate compost, we donate service, and we have community events (litter pickups, community garden volunteering, etc).  We work a lot with the Environmental Youth Alliance, World in a Garden and Evergreen.  We love to support urban agriculture and community gardens.

What to you is notable?
Positivity.  So many people go through life focusing on what isn’t working, why ideas will fail or what they don’t like about people.  Meeting those that have a zest for life and positive energy is always so refreshing and exciting, people like that always stand out.

Blackberry, iPhone, Android, or Other?
iPhone for sure!