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Business Observer Friday, Jan. 15, 2010 10 years ago

Raw success

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Gulf Coast entrepreneur Aziz Tejpar long sought an outlet for his business creativity. He finally found it in a most unusual place: sewage.
by: Mark Gordon Managing Editor

REVIEW SUMMARY
Person.
Aziz Tejpar, Environmental Biotech
Industry. Sanitation, Hospitality
Key. Tejpar got out of the car-rental business to see if his business creativity skills could translate to the sewage business.

The sweet smell of sewage proved to be the perfect scent for Aziz Tejpar when he pondered an entrepreneurial career change a decade ago.

And with that career change in full effect, Tejpar, president of Bradenton-based grease remediation firm Environmental Biotech, hopes to turn those scents into dollars.

His trump card is Greasesafe, a system his company created that he says can get rid of sewage and grease in one efficient setting — for significantly less than what it currently costs companies and local governments.

“We've been doing grease on the front end,” says Tejpar. “But now we will get into it from the back end.”

Tejpar's livelihood shift initially took hold as he thumbed through an issue of Forbes magazine while he flew from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. in 2000. Back then, Tejpar headed up a car rental business in England with 15 locations and 2,000 vehicles.

Tejpar was successful in the car rental business. In fact, the Kenyan-born, American-educated, British national started with nothing and grew his business into one of the largest Budget Rent-A-Car franchises in England. He also ran his own independent luxury cab company in Greater London.

“But the car rental [business] was getting boring,” Tejpar recalls thinking during that cross-country flight. “I had been there and played that.”

Tejpar actually longed for a business where he could combine his business instincts and his creative impulses under one brand. He found that in Environmental Biotech, a then-Sarasota-based company with a proprietary grease-eating bacteria that could unclog sewage from restaurant drains.

Tejpar read an ad for Environmental Biotech in Forbes during the flight. The company sought investors and owner-operators to help grow its international franchise base.

Tejpar was so excited about the opportunity that he called the owner of the company, Sarasota entrepreneur Bill Hadley, soon after his flight landed. Within a few months, Tejpar had bought the franchise rights to grow the business in England.

By 2006, when Environmental Biotech had surpassed $5 million a year in annual revenues, Hadley sought a buyer for the company. Hadley intended to focus on other business ventures.

Again, Tejpar bit: He bought Environmental Biotech for an amount he declined to disclose. Tejpar opened dual headquarters for the firm, one in England and another in Bradenton.

Safe grease
Environmental Biotech now has about 90 employees in its domestic and foreign offices, with annual revenues of around $10 million.

And Tejpar has some big plans for the company in 2010.

Over the next 12 months, Tejpar plans to grow the company's B Pothole Free division, which he bills as a unique solution for businesses and municipalities fed up with the expense and undertaking involved in pothole repair. The B Pothole Free system, says Tejpar, uses a patented, infrared asphalt heater to turn a manpower-heavy process into a two-man, 20-minute job.

Environmental Biotech has used the B Pothole Free system to repair parking lots for a few months, with clients that include a Manatee County mall and about 45 Starbucks in the Jacksonville area. Still, Tejpar thinks the future of B Pothole Free lies in the franchise model.

To that end, a franchisee can lease a B Pothole Free operation for $35,000, with an additional charge for royalties. The system includes all the necessary equipment, which is packed into a hitch-ready cart. (See Review, 11/05/09.)

But Tejpar says B Pothole Free is tiny in comparison to what he thinks Greasesafe will do for Environmental Biotech. Tejpar predicts Greasesafe will be the next big thing in the grease and sewage industry because it is both environmentally friendly and cost effective.

Tejpar doesn't plan to officially launch Greasesafe until later this year, so he declined to elaborate on many details about the science of the system. But he did say that the business model for the project is to go after municipalities as clients and partners, with the thought that he could build the mini-waste disposal stations anywhere in the country.

Matt Robinson, Environmental Biotech's head of operations and product development, says the nationwide sewage disposal industry is abuzz over the potential of the system.

Robinson, who has spent the past year in charge of the Greasesafe project, says he has received calls on it from public works officials as close as Miami and as far away as Hawaii and Idaho.

Says Robinson: “The market for this is tremendous.”

'Bloody nasty'
Indeed, Tejpar has long believed the garbage and sewage business is like caskets, baby blankets and beer: A line of products that will always be in demand.

It's a thought Tejpar has held for many years, going back to when he worked and lived in his native Kenya.

He came to the U.S. for college, to go to Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. After he graduated from FAU, Tejpar returned to Kenya for a short time before he moved to England with his family.

At each stage of his business life however, the barriers to entry for the garbage industry were piled high. People like Miami waste disposal mogul Wayne Huizenga —Tejpar's business hero — got into the industry early and ultimately ran powerhouses.

Other people, says Tejpar, got into the field allegedly through criminal connections.

“The only other way to get into in the industry was through grease,” says Tejpar. “And nobody wanted to do it because it was so bloody nasty.”

Nobody except Hadley, who founded Environmental Biotech in 1991. Hadley has since gone onto other businesses, including one that sells storage boxes for trade shows.

Tejpar, meanwhile, says there is still a big future in grease and sewage remediation, past what Greasesafe can do for Environmental Biotech.

For instance, Tejpar says the global market for the company is ripe: Governments in Europe and Canada, he says, have not yet caught up to the U.S. in terms of laws and ordinances that set standards for how and where sewage can be dealt with.

With that in mind, Environmental Biotech has dispatched teams of employees to hold “Grease Summits” in various international locales. The gatherings are educational sessions on the industry that also provide a way for the company to market its services.

Moreover, as the technology in the industry grows, Tejpar is confident his firm will grow with it. He hopes Greasesafe is just the first of many innovations.

“My vision is for Environmental Biotech to be at the forefront of environmental technology going into the future,” says Tejpar. “And we are developing the technology with our customers in mind. That's our business model.”

REVIEW ARCHIVE
Bill Hadley and Aziz Tejpar share a passion for at least two things: Business growth and grease.

Hadley founded a business based on proprietary grease-eating bacteria in Sarasota in 1991. He took the company, Environmental Biotech, to about $5 million a year in annual revenues.

Tejpar bought Environmental Biotech in 2006. The company has since doubled its annual revenues and moved its domestic headquarters to Bradenton.

For more on Hadley or Tejpar, go to Review.net and search: Hadley and Tejpar.

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