Americans throw away an estimated $55 billion in e-waste material annually, and only 12.5% of all electronic waste is currently recycled. This means that $48.1 billion dollars is not being recycled.
Albert Boufarah is the CEO and entrepreneur looking to change all of that. Founding SAMR Inc. almost twenty years ago, Albert is on a mission to ensure that all electronics are recycled effectively and efficiently. Born and raised in Freehold, New Jersey, Albert Boufarah has always had a desire to be his own boss, forcing himself to learn the ropes of entrepreneurship at an early age. When he was younger, Albert Boufarah owned a waste management company as well as a tree removal company. Working in these industries enlightened Albert as to how many precious metals in used electronics he was being asked to dispose of—as well as their immense value. As Albert continued running these companies, he realized the immense potential there was in electronics recycling. About 20 years ago, Albert started SAMR Inc. with only a few employees and quickly grew the business to the point that a much larger warehouse was needed. Albert is very passionate about electronic recycling and is determined to educate others on how to recycle properly and reduce their electronic waste.
How did you get started in this business?
As luck would have it, this line of work came to me. Equipped with an entrepreneurial spirit, the circumstances in my life brought me to electronic waste. I recognized that there were very few companies toiling away at this problem, and I decided to tackle it myself. I not only wanted to recycle the precious metals being thrown away by local companies but streamline a system that made it easy for consumers to do so. A lot of responsibility falls on the consumer, and what we do is take the guessing out of the equation. Our goal is to serve the planet, help consumers make responsible choices, and grow sustainably.
How do you make money?
All the services we offer help us make money and lessen the impact of electronic waste on the environment. We provide companies with e-waste recycling containers, which allow them to dispose of their electronics outside of their door as soon as they are done with them. We also have an electronic recycling pick-up service, which is a perfect solution for towns or businesses that refresh their electronics in large quantities several times a year. Lastly, we provide asset management solutions, which can offset or reverse the costs associated with retiring newer equipment.
How long did it take for you to become profitable when you were starting out? Was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
It didn’t take long for me to become profitable, primarily because the work I was doing was solving a problem for my customers. From waste management to tree removal, both of my businesses were identifying a specific area of need in the community, and the rest just fell into place. Through treating my customers and employees with respect, keeping an open mind, and taking all feedback into consideration, I hope to continue to grow as a CEO and leader.
How did you get your first customer?
My first customer was brought to me through word of mouth. When you are starting out a new business, the best way to grow your customer base is to lean into your existing network. From friends to family and colleagues, there are dozens of people in your life whose trust you have already gained, so go to them first. This is a great way to get started, primarily because you have people you trust trying your product or service and can help you iron out all the details before you start to scale.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works well to generate new business?
The best marketing strategy we use are off-page SEOs. This means creating content on other people’s websites that refer traffic back to our own. From providing our expertise in a local article about waste reduction to co-writing a blog on someone else’s website, this method allows us to think outside of the box, and also to engage new partners in our overall mission. When opportunities come up, I am much more likely to be considered by these new partners than a competitor.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
Taking space away from your work is one of the best things you can do for your company overall. As an entrepreneur and CEO, you live and breathe your work, and it can be difficult to take a moment away from it. The most challenging thing for me has been allowing space for other activities, like sports, chess, and watching action movies. It is true that if you do not look after yourself, you will not be able to look after others. Take care of yourself as a number one priority, and the rest will naturally follow.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
I take chances and I don’t fear failure. The thing that stops so many people from acting on their dreams is the fear of failure. It is scary to fail. It is painful to be rejected. But if you do not try, you will never find out what you are capable of. When I come up with an idea, whether it fails or succeeds, I am winning. If I fail, I learn a lesson. If I succeed, I have made progress. As a young entrepreneur, taking chances and failing can be scary, but you want to make as many mistakes as possible when you start out, as this will be your foundation for everything you do moving forward. Picture success like a pyramid; it is going to take time to build the foundation before you can start building up. Just embrace the process and know that every layer will get easier as time goes on.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
It is the small moments above all else that have kept me motivated. This includes everything from small businesses expressing gratitude to us for our service, to receiving a reference from a loyal customer. A lot of the work we do is in service of others and in the interest of the environment, and it is the impact that we have on this level that makes me feel accomplished.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
SAMR Inc. hopes to continue to grow beyond our facilities in the future. We hope to continue to build meaningful partnerships with local businesses and find improved, more efficient ways to serve our customers. By building out new locations in states across the country, my hope is that we will be able to increase e-waste recycling to at least 50% by 2030.
What business books have inspired you?
The best business book that has inspired me is Seth Godin’s Linchpin. This book is written by an expert in the marketing industry and outlines the importance of key strategists in an organization. Godin outlines that a linchpin is completely indispensable, and that we can all be linchpins with the right amount of work, problem solving, and ingenuity.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to hurry up and make mistakes. As I mentioned in my previous answer, you need to make mistakes early in your career to be able to establish a solid foundation to build upon. I was fearful of making mistakes very early on, and it just delayed the lessons I learned until later in my career.