By Marilynn Nash
An 8-year-old Joe Craven heaps his red wagon with sweet corn from his father’s field. He peers down the road on a summer day in southwestern Minnesota, hoping for business. As cars pull up, Craven accepts money from customers, looking up with a smile, placing produce in their outstretched hands.
“I’ve always wanted to start a business,” said entrepreneur Craven, now 25 years old. “It was my dream.”
Craven’s entrepreneurialism and thrift began with parental examples, unwavering through childhood, college years, and into adult life.
Joe’s mother Rita Craven, a retired computer technology teacher said she wrote textbooks and computer training materials, formed publishing companies, owned a word processing business, and ran an aerial photography business with her husband Mark Craven. She said he runs a crop farm, ran an angling and hunting adventure business, and is a pilot who flew in-demand charter planes after 9/11.
Rita Craven said that Joe Craven has always been interested in business.
“When he was about 6 years old he would go around the neighborhood and collect aluminum cans,” she said. “Neighbors would put them out in bags.”
Craven took interest in eBay Inc. at a young age. Rita Craven said that he wanted her to invest in the site before it got too big.
“Joe bought bulk wheat pennies in 40-pound lots,” said Rita Craven, “and he would repackage them in one-pound lots and sell them on eBay.”
She said that was successful because many people didn’t want to buy 40-pounds of wheat pennies at a time.
Rita Craven said Joe Craven ran a fishing supply business on eBay called Joe’s Jigs. She said he made jigs by getting 5-pound buckets of lead from a tire store, melting it, pouring it into molds, attaching hooks, and painting them.
She said he also made and sold a lot of bottom bouncers, which weigh bait down so that it sinks to the bottom of the lake.
Craven said he studied administration and finance at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire to prepare himself to run a business.
“The Student Investment Management Program I was involved in was more influential than my entire schooling combined,” Craven said.
He said students managed a $250,000 portfolio of stocks in the investment program at UW-Eau Claire, which was funded by a grant.
Andrew Holland, co-owner of ProVyro Waste Services, said he met Craven while participating in that investment management program at UW-Eau Claire.
Craven said he remembers conversations with Holland about starting a business.
Craven and Holland founded ProVyro last spring and it’s already a success.
“We’ve doubled our assets,” he said.
Holland, a financial sales representative at Royal Credit Union, previously an auditor with Ernst and Young, serves as ProVyro’s chief financial officer.
Holland explains how ProVyro was formed.
“Joe called and said he really wanted to start a business,” Holland said. “We did extensive research … and tested several businesses.”
He said they explored real estate and other innovative ideas before settling on the waste management industry.
“One reason we chose that business was because we could turn a profit quickly,” Craven said.
He said there was a big upfront investment for equipment, no building to maintain, they could both keep their full-time jobs, and hire two employees.
They spent time setting up ProVyro’s marketing plan, logos, and philosophy Holland said. He said that Craven is a hard worker, is motivated, and makes good management decisions.
“Management is the number one reason a business is successful or not successful,” Holland said.
A good example of this is when ProVyro teamed up with Gordy’s County Market in July for an event called “Go Green: Give Your Gadget Day.” The public was invited to bring up to two electronic items without a charge to recycle.
The recycling event was successful beyond his expectations Craven said. “We collected and recycled over 120,000 pounds of electronics.”
Craven and Holland said they value local connections and teamwork.
“Joe is concerned about having a positive impact on the environment and community,” Holland said. “He’s interested in how profit, environmental responsibility, and community go hand-in-hand.”
Even as problems have arisen on the job, Holland said, Craven handled it well. When one of ProVyro’s trucks took a branch off a tree and also when a truck took down a power line, Holland said Craven’s first concern was employee and customer safety then customer damage to property.
Owning a business at a young age has negatives and positives, Craven said.
“People might not take you seriously at first, until they see the work you do,” he said. “But also being young — we don’t have a family and kids — we can afford to take the risk.”
If you want to learn more watch this ProVyro YouTube video.