Karen Coley comes from a family background in the trucking industry, so being in waste management with huge vehicles and large expenses is no shock to her. Founded in 2018 and now under Coley’s lead, SBC Waste Solutions has grown from basically nothing. Now it has 40,000 to 50,000 customers with more than 50 trucks.
“Our growth is pretty much exponential,” says Shawn Flood of SBC Waste Solutions. “In five years, we’ve gone from zero sales to looking to finish this year at about $35 million, which we should add next year to over $45 million. Our goal is to reach $100 million by the year 2028. That’s our goal is to be a $100 million company by the year 2028. Which in this industry is pretty improbable.”
Of course, inflation affects every business, but with the cost of necessary equipment, vehicles, and fuel rising so fast, SBC Waste Solutions is hard hit at times.
“The waste business is almost impossible to do properly because it’s so financially challenging,” Flood says. “A garbage truck costs $400,000 right now. The dumpster on wheels you put behind the convenience store costs about $1,000. It’s very capital-intensive. So people just don’t go around starting garbage companies. You don’t see that in this market. There are only six companies in the whole Chicago market.”
Being a small, newer company has disadvantages, though. Flood said they met with a truck sales company recently and found it disappointing, especially in terms of their planned expansion.
“We’re trying to get more trucks, and they won’t take us seriously. I feel like something’s going on, with us being a woman-owned company or something,” Flood says. “We try to change the narrative like, ‘Hey, guys embrace us.’ Some companies still have an old way of thinking, feeling they need to deliver their trucks to the dealers and the big guys and not a smaller company like us. We’re trying to change that narrative.”
SBC Waste Solutions maintains a focus on sustainable and eco-friendly practices. Coley wants to revolutionize the way waste is handled, ensuring minimal environmental impact while also exploring innovative solutions in waste management. It’s not just picking garbage anymore, and Coley wouldn’t want it any other way. She’s been expanding not only into recycling, but also into other sustainable practices, like having her company do its own recyclables processing, possibly opening up a construction and demolition facility, and turning to solar energy for its power needs.
“We’re at a point now financially, that we’re actually looking to start developing our own automated recycling facility, which will be automated with robots and other cutting-edge technology,” Flood says. “Then we can start taking all our waste and recycling to our own facility for processing it ourselves, instead of paying someone else for that service.”
And it’s not all about how SBC Waste Solutions makes a profit, but also how the company helps improve its community. Coley noticed a street in an industrial area with 20 businesses along it, and she thought, why can’t these be powered by solar? She talked to the companies, and talked to the mayor, and a Solar Initiative was born in Broadview, a small suburb of Chicago.
Karen Coley and her majority-woman-owned SBC Waste Solutions are changing the face of garbage in Chicagoland, and she plans to keep the ideas rolling.