Waste Farmers wins top honors at Denver Startup Week

For the past four years, Waste Farmers has been growing a business made on ending waste by smart recycling. And at last month's Jumpstart Biz Plan competition at Denver Startup Week, the sustainable agriculture company won big: It was the top selection of over 130 businesses that entered. This huge honor also came with a few perks -- including $50,000 cash, office space and consulting services. We caught up with John-Paul Maxfield, founder of Waste Farmers and Maxfield's Soil, to see what he had to say about the Jumpstart win.

"We're trying to build a redwood -- something that we hope is here longer than we are," Maxfield says. "Just as much as the cash, we're equally excited for the in-time services we get as a part of it."

His company now has fourteen employees and anticipates doubling that in the next year -- and it shouldn't be tough to find workers, since Waste Farmers recently won the "I'd drop out of Harvard to work there" award, too. But with growth comes new challenges that make the JumpStart win particularly welcome. "There's a famous quote by management guru Peter Drucker that says, 'Culture eats strategy for breakfast,'" explains Maxfield. "We want to attract the best thinkers and minds towards addressing one of the most critical problems we face. So for us, it was a really big honor."

As for that the $50,000 cash prize, Maxfield says, "We're focused on investing on our growth. For us, we need a really strong foundation. So it's nothing exciting, nothing wild and crazy, other than continuing to invest in the foundation and doing all the right things."

Of course, cash isn't the only perk for winners of the Startup Biz Plan competition. A year of office space is part of the package, too. "We're not sure on the specifics yet. We know we're going to be in Galvanize, which we're thrilled about," Maxfield says. "It's a great community. The energy and vibe is just awesome. So we're thrilled to have a space there. It's a fun opportunity for us."

And Maxfield has an important message he wants to pass on to the other competitors: "We didn't even make the top ten last year. So I just encourage other folks who participated to look at it as an opportunity to regroup and stay adamant to compete next year and keep fighting."

Six Colorado charities were selected by Denver Startup Week participants to share in $150,000 from Chase Community Giving. Each of the following charities received $25,000 to continue its mission:

Cottonwood Institute Kids Tek Mi Casa Resource Center Urban Peak Women's Bean Project Young Americans Center for Financial Education

More from our Environment archive: "John-Paul Maxfield and Waste Farmers are growing a business based on ending waste."

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Nate Hemmert