Shawn Sweeney will soon be graduating from the MBA program at Belmont University. Like a growing number of graduate students and alumni, he made the decision to leave his corporate job to become a full-time entrepreneur.
But what makes Sweeney unique is his choice of a business partner for his venture. It is his 7-year-old son, Gunner.
As with many opportunities, this business was born out of an interest that Shawn and Gunner had in common.
When Gunner was 5, he became interested in recycling. It was around the same time that Gunner was also learning about money and how to count. Since Nashville's recycling program does not pick up glass, Shawn Sweeney mentioned the idea of taking neighbors' glass to the recycling center for a fee. That piqued Gunner's interest right away.
In August 2009, Gunner and his dad walked through their immediate neighborhood to find customers. Six neighbors signed up.
The neighbors loved the service and began telling their friends and neighbors. Gunner Recycling soon reached the maximum capacity for the family truck, so father and son decided that it was time to invest in a trailer.
As Gunner Recycling continued to grow, it quickly became a family business. Tiffany Sweeney, Gunner's mother, became part of the team. Shawn Sweeney recently left the corporate world to focus more time on entrepreneurship, including Gunner Recycling.
"It's inspiring to see the amount of glass recycled through our small business," Shawn Sweeney said. "Gunner's vision is to get every person in the world to recycle as his customer. I'm still trying to talk him into focusing on getting every person in Nashville to recycle as his customer.
"We have a great opportunity to reach more residential neighborhoods, apartments, office buildings and small businesses."
Gunner is already learning important entrepreneurial lessons.
"When you are forced to explain every detail in a situation, it helps to slow down the process and make a more informed decision," Shawn said of teaching business to a 7-year-old. "We've learned not to over-complicate things. There is no need to make our simple business difficult. Keeping it simple for us means keeping it simple for customers, and they seem to appreciate it."
Gunner loves to deliver bins to new customers because "his customers" are his favorite aspect of being in business. Customer service is an important lesson for entrepreneurs of any age.
I am a strong advocate for teaching children about managing money and business at a young age. Many undergraduate students who come to study entrepreneurship at college arrive with operating businesses in hand. I hope I have the privilege of having Gunner become one of those students in my class in a few years.
If you are interested in learning more about Gunner's business, visit www.gunnersrecycling.com.
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