Ep. 025: Going from Rubble to Riches — The Sara and David Russick Interview

Sara Russick, David Russick, Entrepreneurs
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Hear how this visionary couple grew an innovative garbage collection business into a windfall of profits.  Listen as they describe careful planning and team-building as keys to their success.  Score insider tips about raising capital, finding the right manufacturing partner, selling to retailers and accessing startup resources.

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Episode Outline:

0:45 – Introduction to Sara and David Russick, Co-Founders of Bagster, LLC, and Tubbs, Inc. Waste Systems. And Gopher Angels Network.

3:37 – Beginning of the “Give Me the Basics” Podcast Segment

3:40 – Sara and David talk about how they saw Bagster as a business opportunity. They heard about a similar business idea in Europe. They operated a related business in the Midwest, so they were somewhat well-suited for the idea.

5:52 – Sara explains the complex two-part business model required for Bagster. It required both retail distribution and operational support (truck collection) competencies.

6:55 – Sara and David talk about their confidence level going into starting the Bagster business. Sara talks about the careful planning that went into preparing for the launch, and the stellar team that supported and collaborated on the idea.

9:50 – Sara and David describe Bagster as a better business model than that of Tubbs; and how Bagster was executed “nearly flawlessly” but “not easily.”

11:17 – David talks about the relationship between their two companies, Bagster and Tubbs.

12:05 – David talks about some of the tactical pivots that were required for Bagster to optimize benefits to customers.

13:19 – David and Sara talk about the uniqueness of operating a two-part business model, selling to retailers while offering supporting waste-collection vehicles for customers.

15:00 – David talks about how learning from their Tubbs business (i.e. knowledge of targeting customers) helped them succeed with Bagster.

16:15 – Beginning of the “Tell Me How” Podcast Segment

16:33 – David and Sara talk about how they financed their business, by doing a combination of self-financing, vendor-financing, loan financing and investor financing.

17:50 – David and Sara talk about entering the New England market.

18:24 – Sara and David talk about the challenges of raising “Series A” capital to help them expand into other markets, while running an existing business.

20:30 – David shares what he’s learned most about raising capital: (a) make sure your investors are aligned with your goals and (b) it helps if investors bring additional skills to your business, in addition to money.

20:55 – David talks about his experience in finding a partner to help manufacture the Bagster bags. He talks about the process of finding a manufacturer in China.

25:23 – Sara and David talk about their experience in selling their product to retailers; and how hardware stores are mainly operated by families (not corporate bureaucracies), so it’s easier to get access to them and develop rapport with them, if you have a product that they like.

27:37 – Sara and David describe how scaled their growth by using a franchise-like model.

30:08 – David talks about how they supported retailer salespeople to help raise product awareness and drive store growth.

33:24 – Sara talks about key aspects of their marketing plan to help generate consumer awareness and demand.

36:54 – Beginning of the “Let’s Get Personal” Podcast Segment

37:17 – David talks about his core motivation to become an entrepreneur. He describes his entrepreneurial drive as “genetic,” since his family owned a department store in South Dakota. He talks about how he “loves to create and build.”

38:49 – Sara talks about how she became an “accidental entrepreneur” while she was on track to become a lawyer. She describes how she “got sucked in” to the business.

39:52 – Sara and David describe how, prior to being married, dating and becoming entrepreneurs, they worked together at two companies.

41:10 – Sara answers the question, “Did your success surprise you?”

42:02 – David describes what he’s most proud of since becoming an entrepreneur: “providing work-jobs” and helping employees elevate their lifestyles. Sara talks about the joy of working with great people and assembling great teams. Her proudest achievement is “raising two awesome daughters” while operating and selling two businesses.

43:48 – David and Sara describe their top frustrations as entrepreneurs. “Never enough time or money to be perfect.” “Learning things too late.”

44:45 – Sara and David talk about what they’ve learned most about themselves since starting their companies. “I can handle more than I think I can.” “I love to learn.”

45:34 – Sara and David talk about how they’ve influenced each other throughout their entrepreneurial journey.

46:20 – Sara and David offer closing advice: “persistence is important.” Be “honest about your skills.” “Get your concept out there and work it.” “Tap into” entrepreneurial “resources and networks.”

About the author, John

John Benzick is an entrepreneurship coach and the founder of Venture Superfly. He is a Tech Partner at the venture-capital fund of Matchstick Ventures, a Mentor with Techstars Retail accelerator, an Entrepreneur-In-Residence and (former CEO-in-Residence) at the University of Minnesota, and founder and owner in two consumer product businesses. Click the button below to learn more.

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