It’s cold and dark at 4 a.m. when Craig Boyce ’92 begins one of his 20-hour days. He hops into his shiny 1,500-gallon vacuum truck, turns on the lights and drives through the silent Santa Barbara streets. Pulling into the parking lot of a popular restaurant, he brings the truck alongside a 200-gallon container of used cooking oil, transferring the contents to his tank. He repeats the process 50 times that day, even making a stop at Westmont’s dining commons.
Craig and his brother Mark Craig represent the new breed of green entrepre-neurs; they founded Coastal Byproducts in 2008 to recycle used cooking oil. The company offers a valuable service to San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura and northern Los Angeles counties: free storage units and no charge for collecting oil. Their revenue comes from selling the waste for biodiesel, lubricants, soaps, cosmetics and animal feed. To date, only the brothers and their wives, Lorena Boyce and Amanda Craig, work in the business, but they hope to be hiring soon. They sign up new clients every week and open a processing plant in Bakersfield, Calif., in June.
The idea of starting a green business appealed to Craig. He’s a proponent of alternative energy and runs all his trucks on biodiesel. Until the economy declined last fall and prices dropped, Coastal made a good profit collecting a relatively small amount of used oil. “The recession has been a blessing,” Craig says, “It’s made us get out and really expand our customer base.”
Despite the 4 a.m. start, Craig is happy to go to work every day. “When you have passion about what you’re doing — and you work for yourself — you don’t mind the long hours,” he says. “Seeing a business take shape energizes you to keep it going. A lot of people have great ideas but don’t follow through.” After collecting oil in the morning, Craig spends afternoons making sales calls and evenings refining his business plan. Initially, the brothers financed the company themselves, but now they’re seeking loans to expand. To date, they’ve reinvested their profits and haven’t drawn a salary.
Craig majored in economics and business at Westmont, where he learned about business plans. He focused on the small business program because he likes working for himself and thinking outside the box. “Entrepreneurs do everything,” he says. “They empty the trash, answer the phone, drive the trucks, operate the forklift — and they enjoy it all.”
After getting his degree from Westmont, Craig took a sales job in an office because that’s what he thought a college graduate should do. He hated it and left to become a lineman with Cox Cable. Eventually he started a power-washing company, Boyce Industries of Santa Barbara, with Mark, who bought him out a few years later. Cleaning up the mess made by used cooking oil gave the brothers the idea for Coastal Byproducts. Craig’s father owns a small manufacturing plant for power-washing equipment in Santa Ana, Calif., and Craig spent a few years running this company and learning how to fix machinery before returning to Santa Barbara last year.
While Mark graduated from UC Santa Barbara, all Craig’s other siblings went to Westmont: Mollie Boyce ’93, Ryan Craig ’03, Karrie Craig ’04, and Kathryn Craig ’05. “We really loved it at Westmont,” Craig says. “We got a great education.”