Fixing potholes isn’t the sexiest way out of the recession.
But for Aziz Tejpar, an entrepreneur who runs a company that destroys drain grease in restaurants and hospitals by using live bacteria, pothole repair might just prove to be the best way.
“America is built on strip malls,” says Tejpar. “And strip malls have a lot of potholes.”
So Tejpar, president of Bradenton-based Environmental Biotech, has created a new franchise-model business to harness a technology he says will turn the staid industry of filling potholes into something efficient and entrepreneurial. Even better, says Tejpar, this system has no need for jackhammers and is environmentally friendly.
Tejpar calls the system, and the new company behind it, B Pothole Free. The technology revolves around a patented, infrared asphalt heater that is placed over a pothole.
Then, using short, medium and long wave thermal induction, the temperature is raised to 200 degrees Celsius, so heat permeates the entire pothole. The heater is removed after about 10 minutes and a two-man crew reshapes the area with the new road material.
The area is then compacted down and smoothed over while still hot. The entire process takes about 20 minutes.
B Pothole Free charges $99 for each standard size repair, which covers a pothole as big as 3 feet by 3 feet. It costs a county or municipal government about $250 to replace a pothole using traditional methods, says Tejpar, for a job that takes at least twice as long and usually requires twice as much manpower.
Tejpar discovered the pothole repair system in England, his native country, on a business trip last year. Tejpar bought the technology and imported it to Bradenton, where he and a team of researchers spent the past six months refining it.
“[This] is a project we’ve dedicated ourselves to for a long time because we believe in its many benefits,” says Tejpar. “It’s a safer, cleaner and quieter process than current pothole repair methods.”
Tejpar has already begun deploying the system. Clients include a mall in Bradenton and about 45 Starbucks stores in the Jacksonville area, for which Tejpar sent out two-man crews to fix potholes in the store’s parking lots.
Company executives are also targeting Wal-Marts in Florida, thinking that well-traveled lots are in greater need of this kind of service.
But Tejpar believes the future of the business lies in a franchise model. He is planning to lease a full B Pothole Free operation for $35,000, as well as charge a royalty fee on revenues. The operation includes the asphalt heater and related equipment, which is packaged into a hitch-ready cart that includes company signage. Tejpar’s crew from Environmental Biotech will train the franchisees.
B Pothole Free is also partnering with Sarasota-based Insignia Bank on equipment leasing, as Tejpar says he realizes a lack of financing is a steep hurdle for entrepreneurs to get into a new business these days.
Tejpar projects that an ambitious, fully trained B Pothole Free operator, working with commercial landlords, can be filling 30 potholes a day. That can translate to $3,000 a day in sales.
As the 2010 Winter Olympic Games got underway in Vancouver, hundreds of Ismaili volunteers from across Canada officially became ambassadors to the world. Donning green-coloured jackets emblazoned with “Ismaili Volunteers” on the front, these Olympic Ambassadors have been welcoming tourists and athletes to the city since the beginning of February, providing information and directions, and managing queues and crowds in Vancouver City Centre.
“It is an amazing feeling to volunteer alongside other members of the Jamat at the largest event Vancouver has ever hosted,” said Kahir Lalji, an Ismaili volunteer.
Through CIVIC — Challenging Ismaili Volunteers in Communities — a youth based programme that focuses the energy of young Ismailis towards improving the wellbeing of the communities in which they live, younger members of the Jamat were also invited to help welcome the world. Volunteers aged 18-25 responded enthusiastically, signing up rapidly to take on the role of youth ambassadors.
“We were given the opportunity to volunteer at one of the busiest downtown locations,” said Adam Samji, a youth volunteer. “It was a great feeling to represent the Ismaili community in our special green jackets and to showcase our spirit of volunteerism.”
Ismaili volunteers benefit from the recent experience of organising large events that commemorated Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Golden Jubilee, as well as the Jamat’s Khushiali celebrations that take place every year. Their performance has garnered applause from the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC), who requested their organisation and management expertise to streamline other volunteer host locations.
“We are fortunate to have attracted a large and diverse application pool of people from around the world who are willing to volunteer for the Games,” said Allen Vansen, who is responsible for workforce operations at VANOC. According to the organisation, more than 77,000 people applied to donate their time and talent to contribute to the success of the Games.
In addition to taking part as Olympic Ambassadors, the community has also partnered with VANOC in other ways. Some Ismaili volunteers received specialised training from the Olympic Organizing Committee to chauffeur senior government officials and ministers to Olympics Special VIP Events. VANOC also engaged the community’s assistance in managing Olympics-related events.
On 11 February, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada, hosted the 2010 Olympic Truce Youth Dialogue at the Vancouver Public Library, which was attended by over 500 youth from across Canada. Following a similar successful event held at the Ismaili Centre, Burnaby in September, VANOC asked the community to co-manage and provide human resources.
After the dialogue, the Governor General met with the Ismaili volunteers and expressed her appreciation for their contributions towards the success of the event, recalling the earlier Truce Dialogue at the Ismaili Centre.