How to pay for making biodiesel: sell soap

Like many schools, the University of Florida has developed a number of programs and efforts to produce and promote renewable energy. Mechanical and aerospace engineering major Eric Layton saw an opportunity to learn in a proposed biodiesel plant, and threw himself into the project whole-heartedly: according to the Gainesville Sun, “He helped build and maintain the plant and served as the coordinator for more than 50 volunteers who learned about plant management and operations.” He even received an award for his efforts.

And then, last Spring, the funding ran out.

Undeterred, Layton partnered up with entrepreneurship graduate Telly Concepcion to figure out a business model for funding the plant. The result: Soap Concepts LLC, and its first product, Gator Glyss.

Why soap? Glycerin’s a byproduct of the biodiesel production process, so there was a clear connection. It’s also better for the skin than typical soap ingredients. Keeping with the concept of reuse that characterized the biodiesel plant (it reprocessed used cooking oil from campus food services), the soap’s fragrance comes from essential oils “made from fruit peels collected from UF campus eateries.” The bars of soap themselves bear the University logo.

While the project’s still getting off the ground — the company’s finishing up the licensing process to sell the soap commercially — orders are already coming in. The start-up is also working on its first commercial contract with the University’s Reitz Union Hotel.

An inspiring example of necessity breeding invention! Know of other start-ups aimed at funding sustainability projects like this? Share them with us…

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