Paul Tasner, Co-founder and CEO of PulpWorks, Inc., and more recently, Co-founder of Sort, has 40 years of operations experience. He has held leadership positions in ventures ranging from startup to Fortune 100. For the last decade, his focus has been on sustainability.
Seven years ago, Paul took a leap of faith while his peers were contemplating retirement. He embraced the challenge of disrupting the traditional packaging industry. Appalled by the amount of plastic pollution on our planet, and no longer content to accept the dangers of plastic packaging materials, he founded PulpWorks and set out to create a safe, eco-friendly packaging for consumer products. PulpWorks uses paper and agricultural waste to mold compostable packaging and therefore diminish the waste deposited in our landfills, waterways, and oceans. In 2016, PulpWorks was awarded a patent for their Karta-pack™, a compostable replacement for the toxic plastic blister pack. PulpWorks and Paul have been recipients of more than 20 awards and the subject of more than 70 stories in the media. Paul was selected as the TED Resident in 2017. His TED Talk on sustainability, entrepreneurism, and ageism has been seen by more than two million viewers and translated into 28 languages.
In 2018, Paul, with colleagues in San Francisco and Mexico City, founded Sort, a company using artificial intelligence, IOT, and computer-vision technology to solve the contamination challenges facing the recycling industry.
[1:14] Marc welcomes you to Episode 125 of the Repurpose Your Career podcast. Career Pivot brings this podcast to you. CareerPivot.com is one of the very few websites dedicated to those of us in the second half of life and our careers. Take a moment to check out the blog and the other resources delivered to you, free of charge.
[1:45] If you are enjoying this podcast, please share it with other like-minded souls. Subscribe on CareerPivot.com, iTunes, or any of the other apps that supply podcasts. Share it on social media or just tell your neighbors, and colleagues. The more people Marc reaches, the more people he can help.
[2:06] This week is Episode 125. Marc has been doing the Repurpose Your Career podcast for two-and-a-half years. The podcast should exceed 8,000 downloads this month! Five episodes have had 1,700 downloads or more in the last year.
[2:26] Marc has been blown away at the success of this podcast! The audience is one of the smallest demographics — Baby Boomers — that listens to podcasts. Marc says, Thank you!
[2:31] Next week Marc will speak with Kathy Lansford. Marc has known Kathy as the founder of Launch Pad Job Club, which is one of the first and one of the largest job clubs in Texas, founded in 2001. They are calling the discussion, “Got Hope? Current and Future Job Prospects for 50+ Workers.”
[2:59] This week, Marc is interviewing Paul Tasner. Marc shares Paul’s bio.
[5:47] Marc welcomes Paul Tasner to the Repurpose Your Career podcast. Paul feels that in real life he is not the person one envisions after reading his bio. He will let the audience judge.
[6:52] Marc found Paul through his TED Talk, which Marc found very inspiring to those of us in the second half of life.
[7:28] The first half of Paul’s life was devoted to engineering, manufacturing, and supply chain, including packaging and logistics, always as an employee. He had what appeared to be good jobs. Sadly, they didn’t remain good jobs. Entrepreneurism, however, has remained great for Paul.
[10:38] Paul asks people if they’ve considered entrepreneurism, and they say it’s risky. Paul says they’re at greater risk in their corporate job than Paul is as an entrepreneur.
[11:37] At age 64, Paul was fired. His company had done poorly and had a series of layoffs to meet budgetary restraints. The CEO who had hired Paul was replaced. The new CEO was someone Paul had known before and Paul was sorry to see him again.
[14:22] Paul was leaving the building on a Friday afternoon and was called into a meeting. The meeting was his exit interview. He and two others were let go. Paul met his wife and another couple at a restaurant, where he informed them he was just fired.
[16:06] On some level, the firing wasn’t a surprise to Paul. It was overdue and just the push that he needed. He never looked back. It was a blessing in disguise.
[17:10] Paul had flirted with entrepreneurism all his life but just hadn’t taken the plunge.
[17:52] In the 1990s Paul had consulted with some success and had gotten a permanent position from it. So he tried it again, only because he needed an income. He did it without any real passion and he felt that was not OK for his last career chapter.
[20:05] A former colleague of Paul’s had started his own business in Asia, creating packaging out of molded pulp fiber made from waste material. He asked if Paul wanted to be his North American sales manager. At first, Paul wasn’t interested.
[21:24] After thinking about the offer, Paul realized he really liked what his former colleague was doing. Paul came up with a counter-offer to start his own company in the States and outsource the manufacturing to his former colleague. They agreed.
[22:17] Paul’s former colleague’s business and Paul’s business both changed, and they no longer work with each other. Today, Paul has several other manufacturing partners that manufacture packaging for consumer goods for Paul’s company. Most packaging is high-end, using sugarcane fibers that create a sleek-looking package, almost white.
[23:33] Most of PulpWorks’s clients fall into the premium end of consumer products, such as electronics, cosmetics, and premium food items. PulpWorks is a small company and can’t compete with mass-producing products for huge organizations. Their production runs are short. Paul feels it is a fairly nice niche.
[24:40] Most of the packaging PulpWorks makes is designed to replace similar packaging made from plastic. We encounter unnecessary plastic packaging every day.
[26:06] Plastic disposal is in a crisis. Paul explains how we shot ourselves in the foot with China. Some waste management companies have no option but to put recyclables into landfills. They don’t have a market for it anymore.
[27:51] PulpWorks has always had two full-time employees: Paul and his Co-founder. Everyone else is a contractor, a temp, or a consultant. There are about half-a-dozen people according to the situation. They use lawyers, accountants, designers, coordinators. There is a deep pool in the gig economy and Paul has a large network.
[29:04] Paul and his Co-founder tried to raise money for the business but never did. They boot-strapped it all There were valid reasons people did not invest in PulpWorks and some reasons Paul thought were less valid, such as his age! Paul says the success rate of older entrepreneurs is 70%; far better than the rate of young entrepreneurs.
[30:35] Older entrepreneurs are a very successful group and getting more successful every day because the Baby Boomer Generation is growing in ranks and will outnumber the youngest generation that is in the workforce.
[31:18] Employers are going to have a problem if they simply set their sites on hiring twenty-somethings. They’re going to run out of talent. There just aren’t enough twenty-somethings to fill the roles.
[31:38] Success among older folks continues to rise. The 70% success rate of older entrepreneurs is a good number to bet on.
[31:53] PulpWorks is at cruising speed. They have their infrastructure completely developed and in place. Most of their efforts are focused on securing more business. They get a lot of inquiries online. They come up very high in SEO. They are intent on growing their revenues. They have no plans to sell the business.
[33:06] Paul is 73. If he feels pretty much the same as he does today five years from now, he will still be doing this or something like this. He loves what he is doing and gets up early to check his email every day. He keeps in pretty good shape by walking a lot.
He likes his boss a lot! He’s a good guy.
[35:34] When Marc saw Paul’s TED Talk, he told himself, he needed to get Paul on the Repurpose Your Career podcast. Marc calls Paul a real inspiration. Marc and Paul agree they both want to work as long as they love what they’re doing.
[36:00] Paul talks about Sort, the new business he has started with a couple of partners. Unlike PulpWorks, it can’t be bootstrapped. They need to raise money in order to launch it. There are capital requirements in order for it to be successful. It’s a tech venture. They are in Northern California, where tech is king, so they hope to find the capital.
[37:03] Marc thanks Paul and hopes you enjoyed this episode. Paul is a great guy. Marc recommends that you watch Paul’s TED Talk.
[37:22] The Career Pivot Community website has become a valuable resource for 50 members who are participating in the Beta phase of this project. Marc is recruiting new members for the next cohort.
[37:33] If you are interested in the endeavor and would like to be put on the waiting list, please go to CareerPivot.com/Community. When you sign up you’ll receive information about the community as it evolves.
[37:48] Those who are in these initial cohorts set the direction of this endeavor. This is a paid membership community with group coaching and special content. More importantly, it’s a community where you can seek help. Go to CareerPivot.com/Community to learn more.
[38:11] Marc invites you to connect with him on LinkedIn.com/in/mrmiller. Just include in the connection request that you heard Marc on this podcast. You can look for Career Pivot on Facebook, LinkedIn, or @CareerPivot on Twitter.
[38:30] Please come back next week, when Marc will speak with Kathy Lansford on current and future job prospects for the 50+ workers.
[38:39] Marc thanks you for listening to the Repurpose Your Career podcast.
[38:44] You will find the show notes for this episode at CareerPivot.com/episode-125.
[38:52] Please hop over to CareerPivot.com and subscribe to get updates on this podcast and all the other happenings at Career Pivot. You can also subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, the Google Podcasts app, Podbean, the Overcast app, or the Spotify app. And, if you’re listening anywhere else, please let Marc know!