Em"bark"ing on a New Product Journey
Finding the diamond in the rough and thinking outside the "bark" certainly rings true for this small nimble manufacturer based in Licking, Mo. Even as the world faced a health pandemic and economic disruption, Ozark Shavings found a way to leverage wood waste to grow and create jobs for folks in the community.
Founded in 2009, Ozark Shavings Company was established as a fourth installment component to a family of companies that operated in land management and Missouri wood-based product manufacturing. Deeply rooted in forest ownership and manufacturing, Ozark Shavings produces wood shavings for pet and animal bedding.
Ozark Shavings began producing premium animal bedding using Short Leaf Missouri Pine trees, a locally harvested and renewable natural resource. An enormous amount of wood waste material is left behind from all these manufacturing processes, creating additional disposal problems. Rather than taking the waste to a landfill or allowing it to sit dormant on the property which could become a fire hazard, CEO Rob Rogers wanted to find a way to put the waste to work. After researching repurposed wood markets and noting wood tailings techniques that municipalities and private sectors were using to accomplish this task, Rogers turned to Missouri Enterprise to help Ozark Shavings embark on the new product journey.
Ozark Shavings was not the only wood-based business in the area, which turned out to be a favorable circumstance with other businesses leaving behind both tons of wood waste and opportunities for Rob’s new business venture.
Turning to Missouri Enterprise for assistance with market research, a feasibility study, a competitive analysis, and materials sourcing, Ozark Shavings began to move forward with four solid value-added wood waste products: bark material, shavings material, compost materials, and mulch. With the goal of selling to smaller home centers and landscaping retail operations for both home and commercial beautification and decoration, Ozark needed special equipment to further break down the waste and to make the vision a reality.
“We decided the next step would be to help the company secure the capital it needed to support its endeavor,” said Jimmy Story, Business Program Manager for Missouri Enterprise. “Removing debris from the land and repurposing it to grow the local economy is a win-win-win for the company, the community, and our state.”
“Jimmy’s thorough grant and governmental program knowledge proved to be critical in helping us navigate the correct funding path,” said Rogers.
Jimmy helped Ozark Shavings apply for an Environmental Improvement and Energy Resources Authority (EIERA) grant which provides loans and sub-grants to help companies add value to a waste product. Awaiting the grant approval, Jimmy worked to connect the company with other businesses in the saw and wood industry to sustain sources for the wood waste.
Within a few months, the grant application was approved. Ozarks Shavings began to lease equipment, hire new employees, develop new manufacturing processes, and cultivate new clients. By the spring of 2020, the company went to market with the new product lines.
“What makes this project so exciting for Ozark Shavings is the fact that the entire process is indefinitely sustainable and renewable as the natural resource has a planting program,” said Story.
Producing tons of wood tailings each day that are now used in the renewable process, Ozark Shavings has taken the lead in the area to educate other manufacturers on repurposing their waste product as well as initiating purchasing programs with other mills for their waste product.
New product lines like mulch, potting soil, and decorative bark are now created from what was to be landfill. Ozark Shavings is extremely proud and grateful to have the opportunity to serve as a renewable agricultural resource for Missouri.
“The new development through these grants has furthered our commitment for a no-waste policy to help protect the environment thus making our world a better place. This project has increased our company’s bottom line by taking what was a waste item, that had to be disposed of for a fee, and turning it into a new product with a positive revenue stream,” said Rogers. “This project has allowed Ozark Shavings Company to become more of an asset to our community in our ability to hire more people and create a stronger economy. We have also continued to hire throughout the Covid-19 crisis. I would like to thank the State of Missouri and the Missouri Enterprise team for their assistance in the creation of new ways to build communities.”
“With the fluctuation and seasonality of their primary finished products, this secondary product line provides the company with a more sustainable business model,” said Story. “Manufacturers who think outside of the box know they can turn to us to help validate their ideas. They come to us BEFORE they take a step. They know we have their best interest in mind and that we are going to help them along the way.”
Ozark Shavings would recommend the use of the Missouri Enterprise team to other grant applicants.
In the Numbers:
Retained Jobs 12
New Jobs 5
Cost Savings $500,000
Retained Sales $2,500,000