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April 25, 2012

Jennifer Wright ’09 (EMBA): Delivering a Better Pizza Box

Businesses that were first pitched as part of Columbia’s A. Lorne Weil Outrageous Business Plan Competition are proving that visionary thinking — and tenacity — are keys to entrepreneurial success.


>> The Idea: To provide an alternative to impractical, outdated, and wasteful pizza boxes. “The pizza box hasn’t changed for decades,” says Jennifer Wright ’09 (EMBA), who took second place in the competition in 2008. “How many times have you seen pizza boxes stacked on top of trash cans because people can’t fit them inside?”

William Walsh, Wright’s late business partner, consumed a lot of pizza as a college football player and started ripping off the tops of boxes to use as plates, then breaking the boxes down to recycle. “Why hadn’t anyone thought of changing this before?” Wright wondered.

>> The Business: Ecovention developed the GreenBox, a pizza box made of 100-percent recycled material. Several national pizza chains have expressed interest in the product, and the company is already working with national distributors like Whole Foods and pizza chains like Maryland–based Pizza Boli to make the new boxes available.

Last summer, Ecovention launched the SmartBox (made of partially recycled materials) with Pizza Hut Costa Rica and Telepizza in El Salvador and Guatemala. Both types of boxes break down into convenient serving plates, and the bottom halves convert into storage containers. Strategically placed perforations and scores allow for easy disposal in standard-sized recycling bins. A new pizza restaurant “doggie” box and compostable single slice container are also available, and a recyclable, multifunctional hoagie box is in the works. All three products are available in designs that are made from 100-percent recycled or partially recycled materials.

>> The Takeaway: Believe in your idea, even when no one else does. “Sheer tenacity separates successful entrepreneurs from unsuccessful ones,” says Wright. “If you’re ambivalent about your product or service, it will be that much tougher to stick it out during the not-so-rosy times.”

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