Java’s Compost is a family-owned, full-service composting company that seeks to make composting as fast and convenient as possible. The husband and wife team, Java and Michelle Bradley of South Orange, NJ, provide on-site composting equipment and services to sustainably dispose of food waste.
Their services include weekly at-home composting, consultation services, and the provision of a starter composting kit for customers’ homes. Additionally, excess household compost can be donated on the customer’s behalf to Java’s Compost’s urban farm partners in Newark.
We couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate earth day than to spotlight a company that is doing their part to save the environment.
How did you both meet?
Michelle: We met in Massachusetts in 1992 as freshmen at Amherst College. We were mostly just friends there and luckily, didn’t start dating until after we graduated.
What inspired you to start a business together?
Michelle: Honestly, it wasn’t totally thought through. Java became really passionate about composting as a result of managing the compost system at a charter school in Newark. The transformation of taking what is normally considered trash and giving it a second chance at life, by turning into compost, was fascinating to him.
I, on the other hand, was completely repulsed by the idea and it literally took me years to even consider composting. I grew up in NYC and Java is from San Francisco so that should shed some light as to why!
After seeing the documentary, DIRT, the movie, I did a complete 180 and started to feel incredibly guilty when I threw away food. If I could feel this way, we knew there had to be other people that did too. So the idea to start a food scraps recycling service was born.
How do you balance being parents and business owners?
Michelle: Wow, great question. It’s anything but easy and most of the time we aren’t that successful at it. For the first year in business, all our “down time” would be spent working and much of it still is.
But we still make sure we keep up with our boys’ basketball practices and games, even if it means we have to bring some work along to do in between games or while we’re waiting for practices to be done.
Describe your individual personalities and how you blend them to make the business work?
Michelle: Blend them? We’re still working on that! Java and I are very different and going into business together has brought that out even more clearly. He is a gentle soul that would give away all his knowledge and expertise for free if he could.
He is extremely patient and works at a pace you would expect from a California kid. He is meticulous so his work is extremely thorough.
I, on the other hand, am the opposite. Growing up in Manhattan, I learned to do most things pretty quickly, which can serve a purpose but is not always good. I need to practice being more patient and also need to work on toning down my critical nature. My strengths lie in my ability to connect with people and get out there and hustle to help our business get to the next level.
What advice do you have for other couples in business together?
Michelle: Be willing to learn about and acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses. Be open to working on them but also be realistic in your expectations of one another. Java and I have been together for 22 years, so all our quirks and habits are pretty ingrained in us as is our dynamic.
Going into business together won’t change any of those things and may heighten them as you work through all the growing pains of starting a business. I think we went into a little naive thinking it will be “fun”. Some parts are fun and some challenging. Building something from nothing, together, is the best part.
Where do you see the business in 5 years?
Michelle: In 5 years, we hope Java’s Compost is known as the solution to residential and small scale commercial food waste production in Northern New Jersey. We want all people to understand that their food waste has value.
Right now, that is very hard to see when all food waste either gets piled up in a smelly landfill or burned in an incinerator. We’re trying to educate people that composting your food scraps reduces your garbage by more than 50% and that it actually turns into a valuable, useable product.
Composting can do everything from helping combat climate change to restore our nutrient depleted soils. Continuing to throw food in the trash isn’t sustainable and since we only have one planet that’s habitable at the moment, the sooner we adopt composting as the norm instead of the exception, the better it will be for all of us.
-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson (IG@thebusyafrican)