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Social Entrepreneur Profile


Ron Gonen

Co-Founder and Managing Director

RecycleBank

 

Shadowed by:

Laura Clancy, Giselle Leung and Greg Zumas

 

Entrepreneur Contact Data:

1733 Spring Garden Street

Philadelphia PA 19130

Phone: 917-822-6476

Email: gonen@recyclebank.com  

Website: www.recyclebank.com

 

Basics:

Founding Date: 2004

Corporate Form: Limited Liability Company

Geographic Focus: Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and New England

Full-time employees: 12

Industry: Services

Social Mission Areas: Education, Environment, Consumer awareness, and Business, government and citizen collaboration.

 

Mission:

*Provide cities with a cost effective and environmentally conscious solution to the rising cost of waste disposal

*Offer rewards program to provide households with financial incentives to increase the amount they recycle

*Enable companies to partner with their consumer communities

 

Q and A with Students:

 

Q: Can you tell us a bit about Ron Gonen?

A: Prior to RecycleBank, Ron was a Senior Consultant at Deloitte Consulting. Ron focused on developing CRM and strategic account management programs for clients. His clients have included Bank of America, Bank of Montreal, Bank One, GE, and DIRECTV. Ron was a co-recipient of Deloitte Consulting's National Impact Award in 2002 for his development and management of a consulting unit that provides pro bono consulting services to non-profit and charitable organizations. In addition, Ron was a founding member of the National Conference for High School Students Against Hunger and Homelessness.

 

Ron received an MBA from Columbia Business School where he was a Eugene M. Lang Center for Entrepreneurship award winner and received a Bachelor of Arts in History and Economics from the University of Massachusetts where he graduated cum laude and was awarded Massachusetts Commonwealth Scholar honors.

 

Ron has been a guest speaker on the role of business in society and environmental policy at a number of venues, most recently at Columbia Business School, Wharton, University of California Berkeley, Haas School of Business, CUNY, Penn State, EarthRight , The National Recycling Coalition Annual Conference, The Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia Conference and the NYC Cleantech CEO Conference. Ron is a mentor for the Global Social Venture Competition.

 

Q: What led you to choose to shadow him?

A: We were interested in shadowing Ron because his business idea offers a new paradigm on how we can engage governments, businesses and citizens to promote recycling habit and effect positive environmental, social and financial impact along the way. We were also interesting in following a venture that has the potential to scale. In this case, Ron's vision is to roll out RecycleBank programs on a national basis.

 

Q: What issues did your social entrepreneur face during the project?

A: 1. HIRING: With a fully fleshed out organizational chart, Ron needed to build out his company by recruiting capable personnel in sales, marketing and relationship management in order to grow the business. 2. DELEGATION: As RecycleBank gradually transitioned from a start-up to a structured organization with a leadership team, Ron needed to relinquish some control and delegate responsibilities over major aspects of the organization. 3. CLOSING DEALS: To extend the reach of RecycleBank, Ron needed to close deals and roll out the company's recycling programs in other counties in Philadelphia, Delaware and New Jersey.

 

Q: What was interesting, surprising or inspiring about shadowing this SE? 

A: To promote the services and value offered by RecycleBank, Ron has to address three sets of audiences: consumer households, corporate vendors who participate in the reward program, and municipalities. What was interesting was watching Ron tailor his message depending on the audience so that the ideas expressed could be best understood. While the underlying value proposition of RecycleBank does not change from audience to audience, how they react to that proposition depends more on their internalized and preconceived ideas of recycling as a social value. Thus, Ron has found it advantageous to emphasize "putting money in the pocket," or economic development, when selling RecycleBank's services to municipalities and households.

 

Q: What did you learn about being a social entrepreneur from this project?

A: 1) Being flexible and quick to addressing changing circumstances is a requisite to taking the start-up to the next level 2) In RecycleBank's case, a social venture is first and foremost a _business_ and it must respond to investor's expectations while striving to achieve social impact. 3) Just because there is a strong social/environmental component underlying the business doesn't mean it has to be the major marketing message. It is more important to talk about the business in terms of values that the consumers can internalize.

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