I had the pleasure of interviewing Alex Shulze and Andrew Cooper, 2014 graduates of Florida Atlantic University who had a vision of cleaning the ocean and coastlines one pound at a time. Their global cleanups, 4Ocean, are funded entirely through the sale of their sustainability products, where every item purchased funds the removal of one pound of trash from the ocean. By creating jobs, utilizing the latest technology, and raising awareness about the impact of trash in the ocean, the company is building the first economy for ocean plastic and creating a cleaner, more sustainable future for the ocean.
1. Can you tell us about your journey to becoming CEO?
The journey to become a CEO has been nothing short of a crazy roller coaster ride. We started 4Ocean 2 years ago (January 2017) and have been trying to learn and work as hard as we can everyday. We began 4Ocean after a post-college surf trip to Bali, we were devastated by the amount of plastic in the ocean. Why wasn’t anyone doing anything about it? One afternoon, we came across an old fishing village where fishermen were literally pushing their boat through piles of plastic that had washed up on shore. We realized that the proliferation of plastic threatened both the ocean environment and the fishermen’s livelihood. We wondered if the fishermen could use their nets to pull the plastic from the ocean. We hit the drawing board and realized that we could hire fishermen to focus on cleaning plastic from the ocean. As of July 2018, we have pulled over 1,000,000 pounds of plastic and trash from the ocean. 4Ocean now has offices in Florida, Bali and Haiti and is continuing to grow.
2. What is your definition of success?
Success is when you can bring good into your life and the world around you at the same time.
3. Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
The funniest moment that we have experienced has to be when we were training our first 4Ocean captain on his routes to pick up trash. Andrew got too close to the edge of the boat and fell into the water, fully clothed with cell phone in pocket.
4. What failures have you had along the way? How have they led you to success?
The term failures, is definitely a relative term. What some might categorize as a failure, others might categorize as a learning experience to help them get to where they are today. We have definitely had a lot of learning experiences. The most important is to be patient in business and to hire employees that are passionate about the job and not just looking for a paycheck. It only takes one bad apple to spoil the whole barrel.
5. What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
The fact that 4Ocean has such a strong focus on sustainability, not just in our product but the service that our product offers with every purchase, we definitely stand out. For every bracelet purchased, we remove one pound of trash from the ocean.
6. Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
Of course! We plan to open up 4Ocean cleanup headquarters in 12 new countries in 2019 and utilize the latest technology to increase cleanup production.
7. Can you tell us about the initiatives that your company is doing to become be more sustainable? Can you give an example for each?
Our company is making strides moving in the sustainability direction. We have taken the next step when it comes to recycling and have banned single use plastic in the office and provided everyone with sustainable reusable materials. We are currently in the process of getting solar panels installed powered to Teslas power wall battery banks. We are doing anything that we can to reduce our carbon footprint!
8. What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Taking the time to hear their ideas and listen to them. The most toxic thing to a working relationship is not hearing someones ideas and valuing their opinion. People have the drive to succeed, you just have to give them the time, tools, and training.
9. None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I (Alex) am incredibly grateful for my parents support throughout my entire entrepreneurial life. Even when I was just 8 years old selling lemonade on the beach, my parents were the ones that gave me the resources and advice to make it happen. They have always been so supportive of me and I would not be where I am today if it were not for them.
10. How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Aside from our mission to clean the ocean, we each have personal foundations and are in the process of starting to benefit causes close to our hearts.
11. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why.
1 — Invest in the right people and you can achieve anything.
2- You are going to sacrifice an incredible amount to achieve success.
3- Make the necessary time for the important factors in your personal life.
4- Don’t burn yourself out. Take the time to refresh and recharge.
5- Seek advice from those who know. Look for mentors that have achieved success in similar industries and learn as much as you can from them.
12. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
We would inspire the movement for cleaner oceans! It is up to us to set the future of the ocean and our actions today can make long lasting change. Even small actions can create big change.
13. Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Action cures fear.” We find this quote incredibly relevant because anytime we were hesitant or scared of something, taking action is what would dissolve fear the fastest. Quitting our jobs to start 4Ocean was one of the biggest fears — — but we dove headfirst and went for it.
Originally published at medium.com