Social entrepreneur Scott Thompson is betting that environmentally conscious consumers in midtown Sacramento will embrace an alternative to Styrofoam takeout containers.
“It was about this time last year,” Thompson said. “I remember sitting in a coffee shop here in midtown, and it must have been about lunchtime because I saw people walking around with their Styrofoam containers, and I’m thinking, ‘Really, are we still doing that, and – really – here in the middle of Sacramento?’ I thought there’s got to be an alternative, and I don’t know what I Googled. It was either ‘still Styrofoam?’ or something like that, and it came up with a website that had an alternative to single-use food containers, and I said, ‘All right, so there is an alternative. This woman figured it out. There’s no reason why that couldn’t work here.’ ”
“This woman” is Portland’s Laura Weiss, who had done environmental policy and advocacy for many years. She frequently patronized the city’s legion of food carts. Only one thing about the experience left her dismayed: the amount of food containers going into landfills. Then she began working with a food service company, and she discovered a hardy plastic container that could be reused and later, when its life was over, recycled.
When Weiss added the two together, she came up with the idea for a company that she called GO Box. Takeout diners, also known as subscribers, pay an annual fee to GO Box. They get a token they can show to any participating food cart vendor or restaurateur, and their food is packaged in one of the plastic carts sitting at the restaurants. Subscribers drop the plastic boxes, either clean or dirty, at dropboxes around town. Some companies lease drop boxes from GO Box to make it convenient for their employees.
Thompson contacted Weiss and went up to visit her last April. He used his savings to pay a licensing fee and buy the necessary materials. Six months ago, he recruited six midtown restaurants, including Alley Katz, Chita’s Mexican Grill, Jalapeños and N Street Café, willing to try it out. On Monday, he put up signs in each eatery announcing the program. No one has yet bought a $24 annual subscription at one of the sites, but Thompson is hopeful. His website, www.sactogobox.com, lists all the restaurants and latest news.
Roots of success
As part of a new speaker series, business accelerator Davis Roots asks well-known entrepreneurs to share their stories and advice in hopes of inspiring other big ideas.
First up was Chris Soderquist. He’s known as chief executive of Davis-based Octus Energy these days, but he has also been managing director of a luxury real estate investment firm at the Hunt-Boyer Mansion, 604 Second St., and a leader of two business incubators. Soderquist spoke last night, but I caught up with him before he got in front of the crowd.
He told me that, among other things, he was going to tell his audience to sell holes, not drills. By that, he said he meant that satisfying the customer is the goal, not creating a cool widget.
“Too many people are enamored with what they create,” he explained. “It’s great to have a passion for what it is, what is your goal, what you make or what you sell, but don’t lose track of what’s most important, which is the value or the outcome it generates for the customer.”
Davis’ Sugar Daddies will open a new store at Folsom’s Palladio at Broadstone just before spring, but first comes Bracketology.
What is Bracketology? Sugar Daddies asked customers to nominate 16 crazy flavors. Starting Monday, it will make two new ice cream flavors each week, allow customers to taste them for free, then get their votes on which one moves to the next round. The winner will go into rotation. Next week, chocolate Sriracha goes up against red velvet with cream cheese.
Sugar Daddies was born in June 2011 when Jake Jacobsen decided to team his Cupcake Craving business with Dave Robert’s Davis Creamery.
“Davis Creamery has been in Davis for the last seven years, and it’s homemade ice cream,” said Stacie Hoyt, the manager at Sugar Daddies, “and three years ago, they started selling Cupcake Craving cupcakes, and then when the lease was up, they decided, ‘Why don’t we just go into a business venture together?’ So they moved the creamery to downtown Davis and changed the name to Sugar Daddies. They are two men who have kids, so they thought it was a funny play on the name because they sell sugar and they’re both daddies.”
At 113 E St., the business is holding its own against competition: Baskin Robbins at 236 E St., Cream at 110 F St. and Icekrimski Cafe at 618 Second St. Hoyt doesn’t have an exact date when the Folsom location will open.
“We’re painting the walls and figuring out where we want sinks,” Hoyt said. Jacobsen’s current Cupcake Craving, 1167 Riley St. in Folsom, will close and merge into the new Sugar Daddies once it opens. The Cupcake Craving in Sacramento’s Howe ’Bout Arden center is not affected by this change.