Written By: Brian Brown, Business Consultant

Katherine Wirtanen is an experienced public works professional. In her time working in the public sector, she observed the burden that recycling glass places on community landfills. Intrigued by the question of how to better utilize this resource, she began researching the various ways recycled glass can be used in industry beyond simply making new glass containers. The solution she arrived at would become her business venture EarthMagic Recycling, LLC.

Ms. Wirtanen’s plan for EarthMagic Recycling was to create a business that could accept discarded food and beverage glass from her local area of Buena Vista and Rockbridge counties, VA and transition it to sand that can be used in a variety of products. Some of the proposed uses include artistic sand, pool filtration, sand blasting material, construction additive, and bedding for water and sewer projects.

To bring her plan from fantasy to reality Ms. Wirtanen turned to Buena Vista Economic Developer Kristina Ramsey. Ramsey and the Buena Vista Economic Development team appreciated Ms. Wirtanen’s idea but needed her to produce a concrete plan and projections before public resources could be allocated to her project. To that end, Ramsey referred Wirtanen to RCAP’s Southeast affiliate (SERCAP) to assist her with small business planning services. Through the Wells Fargo Open for Business Program, SERCAP was able to provide business consulting services for the development of the business plan and financial projections. SERCAP provided over 25 hours of research and consulting as well as provided access to planning tools necessary to build the business plan at no charge to Ms. Wirtanen.

Armed with a new detailed business plan and a strategy to bring her pulverized glass product to market, Ms. Wirtanen was able to secure $15,000 in financing from the City of Buena Vista’s revolving loan fund towards the purchase of critical equipment. She was also able to apply for The Gauntlet Business Program and Competition using her new plan. The Gauntlet 2022 class started with 153 entrepreneurs with 68 advancing to the competition level.  The competition provides awards to finalists at bronze, silver, gold and platinum levels.

On Wednesday, May 25th at a ceremony held at the Vinton War Memorial Katherine Wirtanen was awarded the Platinum Gauntlet Award – the highest honor in the series. The achievement comes with an award package worth $10,377.  The package includes $4,000 in cash and in-kind contributions totaling $6,377.  In-kind services include legal consultations, interviews with local media outlets, and training opportunities with a local community college, among other complimentary services.

In her acceptance speech Ms. Wirtanen said “I would like to thank all the partners who helped get our business here, we will use this award to supplement operation funds and equipment purchases.” EarthMagic Recycling, LLC is currently open and actively recycling food and beverage glass.

To learn more about EarthMagic Recycling , LLC visit the website at www.earthmagicrecycling.com.

To learn more about the free business services offered by SERCAP, please contact Brian Brown at [email protected].

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