Justin Cummins, Eller Finance and Entrepreneurship ’07
Director of Finance, Green Giants Consulting
When Justin Cummins and his entrepreneurship program teammates graduated from Eller, they planned to launch the venture they developed in the program, Waste2Energy — a company built around an early-stage technology that extracts organic materials from trash.
“We were looking to take the technology into a scalable form,” Cummins says, “but we ran into intellectual property problems with the inventor and what we hoped was going to be a good relationship soured.”
In the meantime, a solar firm contacted the team’s entrepreneurship mentor, Don Piper, looking for help with a business plan. “He brought it to us,” Cummins says. Three of the four Waste2Energy team members stayed, evolving into a consulting company with sustainability expertise — Green Giants Consulting. “It kind of rose out of the ashes of the technology we were going to launch,” Cummins explains.
The decision to launch a company immediately after graduation wasn’t easy. “I also had an offer for a finance position,” he says. “It’s really the crux of the entrepreneurial question, because on one side, you have this job with a regular paycheck that you can count on, and on the other side is this incredible opportunity, but you don’t know if it’s going to pay off.” Cummins concluded that there was no time like the present to try it out. “In my early-to-mid 20s, I don’t have any major expenses besides food and rent… it’s the perfect time to live on a tight budget and see what we could do.”
It was also a plan in line with Cummins’s goals going into school. He came to the UA from his native Houston in part because of the strong reputation of the McGuire Entrepreneurship Program. “I like the idea of starting with nothing, coming up with an idea, and turning that into reality,” he explains. “I’ve always been intrigued by the value of a product, how a company can take $10 worth of materials and turn them into a shoe that’s suddenly worth $100.”
Starting Green Giants Consulting immediately after graduation was a trial by fire for Cummins and his colleagues Martin Reed and Andrew Nicholas. “It’s just the three of us,” he says. “There’s not someone at the top who’s directing us to finish a project. We have to be very self-sufficient and maintain a self-starter mentality.” They’ve learned everything as they go, from how to file taxes as a small business to marketing — all without additional administrative support. “We answer phones, handle accounting and invoicing, set up the website,” he says. “It’s been difficult, but looking back, it’s incredible to see what kind of experience we’ve gotten. At the beginning, it was definitely like stepping into a dim, unlit area where you just had to fumble around and feel things out.”
The vivid memory of that time has sparked a new direction for the company. “This is a tough economy. People aren’t spending as much money and they’re looking to squeeze the most value out of a dollar. It forced us to analyze our business again so we can really wow our clients with the value we have to offer,” Cummins explains. “Taking our experiences from the last two years, we saw how we could improve our value to clients and instead of the company fading, we’re reborn.”
Green Giants Consulting offers assistance in business plan development, legal structure, operating agreements, logo and marketing material design, financial pro formas, website development, and more. Cummins says they’ve also started a blog and a Twitter feed to share thoughts on business, entrepreneurship, and sustainability.
“The biggest thing we’re realizing and understanding now is that just because you’ve done something before and it’s been successful, doesn’t mean that it will be again,” Cummins says. “You have to innovate. If we’d continued doing the same thing, we’d no longer exist in six months.”