Castle Ink’s CEO, Lauren Elward, is not your typical housewife. A mom by day, teacher by trade, and entrepreneur by night, there’s nothing typical about her.
Five years ago Elward, when not creating lesson plans for the high school English classes that she was teaching, started to brainstorm and draw up business plans for an online venture she was convinced “had the right stuff.” Nearly a year later Elward took the reins of Castle Ink, a fledgling Internet startup that sells low cost printer ink cartridges and other printer supplies.
The idea started simply. As with most teachers, Elward found herself buying HP ink cartridges for her printer at least once per month. “The copy machines were often broken and I found myself having to use my own money to print and copy lessons from my home printer. It was extremely expensive. Not to mention the waste I felt I was generating by throwing away the used cartridges,” comments Elward. With no venture capital, a time consuming day job, and a baby on the way, Elward set her sights on launching a website that offered alternatives to the high priced ink cartridges offered from name brands like Hewlett Packard and Epson.
Elward decided to launch a product line that consisted almost entirely of green products; specifically remanufactured toner and ink cartridges. “It is important to help the environment and I realized that recycling these empty ink cartridges is easy, profitable and environmentally beneficial. It helps reduce solid waste, conserves raw materials and the energy needed to produce a new product. Most cartridges can be recycled up to six times,” states Elward. In addition to a product offering consisting of remanufactured (and some compatible) ink cartridges, Elward launched a successful recycling program in conjunction with a partner business. The recycling program encourages consumers to recycle their ink cartridges by actually paying them cash in exchange for their empty cartridges. Now that she had decided on a product, she got to work on a marketing strategy.
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