From Pig Pen to Big TimeCreative Folk, Entrepreneurs | January 8, 2015
By Billy Jupp
To start a company from scratch, and create a legacy takes time.
This is what Ted Smith and his late business partner Jack Kelly did. The two started out as pig farmers who collected scrap food waste to feed their pigs, but went on to own and operate KS Environmental—one of Victorias largest waste management companies.
The brothers-in-law started from the humblest of beginnings; a pig farm in Heatherton Victoria.
It has remained a family business ever since.
Ted believes that being a family company is what helped the business grow and flourish: “Everyone cares about its success; whether you are directly related to me or just started yesterday, everybody is interested”.
Every member of Ted’s immediate family has contributed heavily to the success of KS Environmental, “They have all played a part,” he said, “I can’t imagine it without any of them”.
Ted’s son Paul agreed that what made the business so strong was also what makes it so unique: “There would be very few families in the world that have the opportunity to enjoy working together the way we do.
I mean, it may wind up in the odd argument or two, but we still see each other at work and a lot at home. It makes us more down to earth and in turn more successful.”
Ted admits that he is surprised by the level of success KS Environmental has reached. “It was never really supposed to grow like this, it was just the next logical move after feeding pigs food scraps became illegal,” Ted said.
But this humble attitude belies Ted and Jack’sbusiness acumen. “We thought … we are already collecting waste for people, why not make a go of it,“ Ted said.
“So we signed the already loyal customers we had to contracts and then set about finding what more we needed to keep busy.”
Eventually the company secured the waste removal contracts for high profile facilities, such as the MCG.
From there the company was ever expanding and developing new products and procedures in “obvious, but I’d like to think efficient style,” Ted joked.
Ted’s son, Michael Smith, believes that the most significant waste management development of recent times is recycling.
“It’s boomed in the last 10 years,” he said. “It doesn’t seem too long ago nobody knew what it (recycling) even meant.”
Despite being at the forefront of waste management developments KS Environmental have had more than their fair share of obstacles.
“Well, you are always going to get mechicanical failures,” said Paul “but overall there aren’t many setbacks in day to day operations, and even if there are you just have to keep going.”
“I suppose really the only major setbacks you have in life is the passing of a person,” added Ted.
“I recently lost my wife (of 65 years) Imelda, it was hard to deal with and I miss her every day,” Ted said.
“The only major loss to the business I suppose was that of my founding partner Jack Kelly. I wish he could see us now, I’m sure he’d be chuffed”.
Jack Kelly died of cancer while the company was in its formation stages but despite the setback of losing a founding partner K S Environmental has gone continued to grow.
With the growth of the company Jack Kelly would most certainly be chuffed. From owning a small piggery to a major waste management company all in the space of a few decades is no easy feat. It is truly a testament to what a determined family can do.