By Kevin J. Sabo
For the Bashaw Star
A pair of teenagers from the region are learning first-hand about the entrepreneurial spirit, with their side business based out of Bashaw’s PolyAg Recycling Plant.
Kobe Zembal of Bashaw, 14, and 16-year-old Kale Rochette of Sherwood Park went into business with each other at the end of March, making raised garden planters and benches out of recycled plastic lumber, which is produced at PolyAg Recycling.
The boys were nudged onto this venture by Dan Zembal, the owner of Poly Ag, and Dan Rochette, a family friend.
“For Dan and I, the motivation was to get our boys, in the midst of this pandemic with their options limited …for us to create a cohort and create a little venture for them work and learn,” said Dan Rochette.
“We didn’t want them to just do something and pay them for it. This is actually a business venture that is really theirs, and they do have visibility of all aspects of the business.”
And so far, business has been good.
“When we started on this venture, we were making planters,” said Kale.
“(They ranged) from big, huge planters, to tiny little planters. We weren’t expecting the little planters to sell, but they did. Our most popular planter was the medium one.”
The demand for the planters, while selling well for the first couple months of operations, did begin to taper off, which led the four to discuss options as to what else they could produce.
“We figured for the summertime, benches would be a natural transition,” said Dan Rochette.
The plastic lumber used in the manufacture of these planters and the benches is produced at Polyag Recycling, though other construction also uses plastics from the residential recycling stream as well.
“There are materials from the residential recycling stream, which is recovered and put into the plastic lumber,” said Dan Rochette.
Three different sizes of the planters are offered for sale. The small planters sell for $300, the $medium for $400, and the large ones for $500. The benches sell for $300.
The designs of the planters and benches are all done in-house, with Dan Zembal acting as chief engineer, designing, and producing prototypes for the boys to copy.
To-date, the boys have made $25,000 in sales.
“At first it was a little side-gig, then we actually started doing more and more of these — as we were building these we realized people actually wanted them,” said Kobe. “That was when a little side-gig turned into a business.”
The boys spend most Saturdays working at the PolyAg facility building the planters and benches.