Acting on Impulse: How Marina McCoy Adapted in the COVID Era
2 minute read

“My friends call me ‘the chameleon,’” said Marina McCoy, Vermont’s 2020 Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Since the beginning of the year, her company, Waste Free Earth, has responded to significant changes in client needs due to COVID-19. Where before, McCoy’s services focused on big event waste elimination, now they focus on remote flat-rate, team-based consulting. She attributes her successful transition in part to her relationship with the Vermont Small Business Development Center and her own impulsivity.

Climate Action in the Age of COVID-19

The problem of climate change is multifaceted and ever-changing. Amidst policy debacles and a fear-gripped public, McCoy is pioneering a sustainability consulting service that aims to attack a large contributing factor to greenhouse gas emissions: waste. “So many companies have progressive sustainability missions but still have no zero-waste initiatives,” she said in an interview with VtSBDC. “…but our consulting makes strategizing easier and more supported.”

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in the US, the consumption of single-use plastics has increased by 250%. At the same time, purpose-driven organizations are thriving, as more consumers recognize the importance of social responsibility in production, packaging, and selling practices. A recent article by Burlington-based marketing agency, KSV, about intersectional environmentalism says, “Beyond needing or wanting to supplicate customers for the benefit of succeeding as a brand— there is a morality motivation.” McCoy thought to use waste-free consulting to assist more organizations to grow in an era that requires tangible contributions to environmental goals.

The Chameleon

McCoy’s ability to rethink her business strategy came naturally, she said. When asked about how she feels about the risks associated with owning a business she said, “I don’t see it as risk, I see it as impulse.” By reframing “risk-taking” as necessary adaptation, she is able to see opportunity rather than roadblocks. “I didn’t realize that until I started surrounding myself with other entrepreneurs. I recognize, now, that we all have impulsivity in common.” 

McCoy’s relationship with the Vermont Small Business Center started in November 2018. Advisor to Addison County, Sarah Kearns, worked with McCoy early in her business planning through pitch deck feedback and sales call preparation. “[Sarah] has always been there as a huge, huge supporter,” said McCoy. “She always got back to me within a day.” In addition to advising sessions with Sarah, McCoy used the Business Model Canvas, originally developed by Alexander Osterwalder, and utilized in VtSBDC’s Start Your Own Business workshop.

Waste Free Earth enables businesses to rethink their consumption and waste, by offering waste elimination and diversion programs, end of life product transparency, and zero waste event production. Waste Free Earth now offers three levels of advising: Ally, Advocate, and Leader to help “roadmap your goals and track your success.” Beyond the logistics of waste-elimination, McCoy has developed a service that allows organizations to use sustainability practices and purpose as a vehicle for growth.

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