Biodiesel delivered right to your door
Going to college has a lot of benefits, but for Ryan and Ethan Harris, a college class led to starting a business — with the professor.
“Ryan was in my CAP 310, which is advertising cases and management, and during one of the lectures I needed an example of an environmental sustainable business, and I thought about delivering biodiesel to people that drive diesel automobiles,” said Joe Helgert, associate professor of communications at Grand Valley State University.
“After the class, Ryan came up and said, ‘You know, I really like that idea you have. I’m in. I want to do it.’ I said, ‘Well, it’s just an example, Ryan.’”
The two talked and soon realized that making the classroom example a reality was worth a shot. That led to the formation of Green Diesel Inc., with Helgert as president, Ryan Harris as vice president, and Ryan’s twin brother, Ethan, as secretary/treasurer.
Green Diesel’s product is called Bio-Direct, a B-99 biodiesel fuel additive, which comes from Zeeland Farm Services.
“Different from regular diesel, which is petroleum based, this is oil based, from vegetables — in particular, soybean vegetables,” said Ryan Harris, now a GVSU senior. “We use it as an additive instead of a fuel, so (consumers) will be running 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent petroleum.”
Harris noted that even as a 20 percent additive, biodiesel can reduce carbon emissions by 70 percent. Biodiesel also helps keep engines lubricated and can increase mileage by 10 to 15 percent.
Biodiesel sales jumped from 15 million gallons in 2002 to 250 million gallons in 2006, but while biodiesel is a rapidly growing fuel source, many people struggle to find it or don’t know how to get the most out of it.
“People are looking for a source, but they don’t know where to go or how to use it,” said Harris. “We’re just making it easy for them.”
The company was incorporated last April and developed its marketing strategy in August. The company repackages the biodiesel from 55-gallon drums into five-gallon buckets, which come with an electric pump and an engine grid that tells the user how much biodiesel to add to the gas tank. The buckets are delivered to the consumer via FedEx, and once the user is finished with the bucket, they simply send it back via FedEx and the process repeats.
It’s sort of like a biodiesel version of the milkman.
“It’s great because we don’t have any waste,” said Harris. “We’re not throwing anything away. They keep the pump for free. It’s completely sustainable. We’re buying recycled buckets. They bring the buckets back to us; we fill it back up and bring it right back.”
Green Diesel currently relies on word-of-mouth, MySpace, eBay and its Web site, www.greendieselincorporated.com, to sell its product. The company is looking for additional financial support to help back a more extensive advertising campaign.
“We’re finishing up a media plan right now,” Harris said.