Ākina-30

Three words to describe Global Action Plan Oceania? Waste, bold and growth.

And I don’t mean waste in the typical sense of that word. They certainly aren’t rubbish. I use that word because what others see as waste, GAPO sees as opportunity. So much so that they have created a business out of dealing with other people’s waste. And a very successful one at that.

At their core, GAPO are a community recycling centre, but have also identified a range of other business streams including sustainability consulting, education and recycling services to the Auckland community. One day of the week you may find them on-site at their Devonport Community Recycling Centre, another day out at their Otahuhu shop, another on Waiheke, and then the rest of the week you may struggle to find them as they are around New Zealand consulting to larger organisations on how they can better manage their waste. As a living wage employer, they create opportunities for people who face barriers to employment, improving environmental outcomes by diverting waste from landfill, repurposing waste into value products, and teaching people to “do the right thing” with their rubbish: GAPO’s aim is to transform the waste industry for the good.

This is a bold goal. Luckily backed by a pretty bold team, with a great deal of professional and industry experience. The driving force behind GAPO are Andrew Walters, Jane Walters and Adam Benli. Andrew and Adam met when they both worked together within a local government sustainability team. They both enjoyed the work, managing the sustainability practices for a region, but they both experienced first hand the inevitable inefficiencies of local government, and knew there was a better way to achieve the impact they wanted.

So, they started a business on the side of their day jobs providing waste consultancy services to organisations on their own terms. And when they got their first major contract, both Andrew and Adam resigned from their day jobs and made this business full time. Andrew also managed to convince Jane to leave her day job to help steer the ship, and it’s fair to say since then they’ve seen some pretty phenomenal growth.

When they created their first business plan, their five year goal was to have five permanent employees and be earning a reasonable income. One year later – yes only one year later – they have found themselves with 17 employees, a reasonable income and are cashflow positive. Fair to say they have smashed their goals, and have even more ambitious ones going forward.

What’s even more impressive is the fact that, in hiring these staff, GAPO have committed to hiring those who face barriers to employment, and working with them to help them find rewarding employment. Some of their staff have intellectual disabilities, but with a bit of patience and support, the GAPO team have helped these employees excel at their job, and greatly improved the quality of life of the worker. On top of this GAPO have committed to paying the living wage, a higher salary than the minimum wage, to help their employees maintain a better standard of living.

Growing at this rate is difficult to sustain though. Whilst there is still growing demand in the industry, there comes a point when a business needs prioritise and strengthen the streams of work that have the most impact, in order to consolidate and organise itself to ensure it is stable enough to continue to grow. And this is one of the key reasons GAPO applied for Launchpad Work. With the support of their Venture Manager they are looking to create some order amongst the growth, enabling the founding team to step out of the doing and into a more strategic managerial role, so the company can grow in the right directions going forward, as they build self-sustainable operations that can scale.

We’re really pleased to have GAPO as part of Launchpad Work, and to work with them as they solidify the broad foundations they’ve created in their first year, and further identify exactly where and how they are creating impact. Already they are starting to prioritise business opportunities which create impact that most aligns with GAPO’s purpose, and we look forward to see where this takes the business next.