Turning waste into energy and a $20,000 prize

Sierra Nevada College students Seth Gunsauls and Aaron Kerson are excited to present their business model at a competition later this month with a grand prize of $20,000. If they win they plan to reinvest their award into their bioenergy business.North Lake Tahoe Bonanza:   Aaron Kerson and Seth Gunsauls aren’t like typical students entering a contest. The Sierra Nevada College senior and junior, respectively, are finalists in the Donald W. Reynolds College Cup, a Nevada statewide contest which recognizes college students submitting business plans.

But, unlike school competitions that award students ribbons or scholarships, $20,000 is on the line for Kerson and Gunsauls if they win.

And, their business plan isn’t just a hypothetical classroom project. KG BioSolutions, the pair’s prospective business, hopes to market a line of electric generators powered by a restaurant’s waste vegetable oil.

"The biggest difference between classroom work and this is that there is a difference between what works in the book and what works in real life. With a class project writing a business plan is easy, because you can just say you have money to start with," Kerson said. "In real life you don’t have money to start with, you have to go out and raise it."

Gunsauls said the generator would be attractive to restaurants because it takes waste vegetable oil, which the restaurants either pay to have disposed or have disposed at no cost, and turns it into electricity. The processor, which would stay at the restaurant, processes the vegetable oil into biodeisel and an attached generator uses that to create electricity.

"Our goal is to make this is as easy for the restaurant as possible," Gunsauls said. "We’ll drop off the unit and come every week to empty it, so because they are busy and don’t need any more work than they already have."

Kerson explained the unit has the power to reduce a restaurant’s kilowatt-hours spending by 40 percent on the spot, saving the typical business $200 per month.

The pair are hoping to make KG BioSolutions a fully-functional company and are looking at the competition as a launching platform.

"We’re definitely focused on winning," Kerson said. "It will show that there is interest in our business plan and hopefully give us some connections to get this off the ground."

Kerson and Gunsauls have a lot to live up to, Gunsauls said, because students from SNC have won the competition in each of the last two years.

The logistics of their business plan is that it works on a leasing program.

Gunsauls, who serves as director of operations for the company, explained the unit costs $20,000 and KG will collect $200 per month for the service.

"We thought the lease program was a good idea because if a business wants to move, it’s not stuck with this big machine," Gunsauls said.

Both said area businesses, including at least one casino and a school, have shown interest in their idea.

To grow the business, Kerson said a larger unit could be employed to service an entire casino buffet or larger restaurants.

Starting a business has been a lot of work, the two said, as they have been putting in work on it for the last eight months.

Gunsauls said one challenge has been marketing the idea to two very different groups- investors and potential clients.

"As the marketing applies to restaurants we want to convey the savings they can realize from our product. With investors its a little more tricky to show them how exactly they could profit from us," Gunsauls said.

The two say they plan to reinvest the competition’s winnings- after Uncle Sam takes his tax cuts- into the company.

The D.W. Reynolds College Cup is taking place April 21 to 22 at John Ascuaga’s Nugget Casino in Sparks. For more information on KG BioSolutions, visit www.kgbiosolutions.com.

Kyle Magin
Bonanza Staff Writer