By Erika Riley The Frederick News-Post, Md.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Entrepreneur Mary Pat Kulina has built an enormously successful business out of shredding other people's documents.
The Frederick News-Post, Md.
Mary Pat Kulina started her mobile shredding business, All-Shred, 20 years ago out of her basement in Frederick. The large shredding truck she had recently bought and affectionately named Old Betsy resided in her driveway.
She would go from door to door in downtown Frederick offering to demonstrate what the shredding truck could do, which is shred up to 10,000 pounds of paper -- or about two cars' worth -- on-site.
Today, All-Shred serves more than 7,800 clients in six states. Kulina owns a fleet of 15 trucks. And recently, she was named the 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year by the Maryland Women's Business Center.
Kulina does not believe that simply being a woman in business is inherently more empowering than being a man in business. But she does acknowledge that working in a male-dominated industry comes with its specific challenges. Many people in the industry did not take her seriously, she said.
"For me, being a woman founder and owner in a male-dominated industry has been hard, because at the end of the day we're a trucking company, and it has been hard to get the recognition," Kulina said.
Now, however, the business is large and has a recognizable brand.
Not long after Kulina bought her first truck, she and her husband, Stephen, moved the business, along with their previously launched HVAC business, to Middletown. Only a few more years went by before the business had to move once again, in 2008, to its current site on Winchester Boulevard in Frederick.
All-Shred's clients include banks, medical centers, hospitals, government offices, accountants and retail businesses. "Everybody has to shred," Kulina said.
She doesn't see the increasing use of digital documents as a problem, either. In fact, she believes that it could be helping the mobile shredding industry.
"It's so funny -- the paperless society has done nothing but help us. Think about every day in work life: You print out documents that they say you can just store on your computer," she said. "You're still printing because you're fearful that your computer's going to crash."
Ninety percent of All-Shred's clients are on its route service, meaning that a truck comes regularly to pick up paper dropped in bins provided by All-Shred. The trucks can shred up to 10,000 pounds of paper at a time. The paper is then brought back to the warehouse to be baled. After being baled, a paper grading company picks it up. From there, they are sent off to the pulp mills, which is the next step in becoming recycled paper.
All-Shred also has one media truck in its fleet. This truck specifically destroys media such as hard drives, CDs and DVDs. While Kulina loves owning her own business, she doesn't shy away from the fact that it is a lot of work. Being the owner of a business means that she works even while she's at home or on vacation. Still, she always loved entrepreneurism.
"I would have to say [my favorite part is] starting something from scratch and watching it grow," Kulina said.
The most rewarding part of owning her own business, however, is an easy pick: giving back to nonprofits in the community.
Kulina supports and sponsors many organizations, such as the Rotary Club, American Veterans, Alzheimer's Association and Community Living. Big Brothers Big Sisters is especially important to her as she was a big sister herself in the 1980s. A more recent partner is Platoon 22, which focuses on suicide prevention for veterans.
The entrepreneur even started her own scholarship fund, the JWH/SPK Get a Ride for Doing It Right Scholarship Fund, after the deaths of her husband and her father in 2009. She provided 12 scholarships her first year.
"But I wouldn't be able to [give back] without the support of All-Shred," Kulina said. "It truly is a team effort." ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.