An environmentally-friendly and entrepreneurial spirit has always run deep in Al Reed’s veins. At the age of 10, his grandmother encouraged the University of West Florida alumni to combine opportunity and ambition by collecting aluminum cans from a field near his home and recycling them.
“My grandma would say, ‘That’s free money. No one is getting those cans,’” Reed said. “So I’d go get them and turn them in to make some money. That was my first business idea and it’s really when my passion for recycling began.”
Decades later, the local businessman continues to do his part to be environmentally friendly while watching his businesses boom. Reed’s first official business idea came about more than 20 years ago following his graduation from UWF with a business marketing degree. He had begun selling computer parts on eBay and found the high cost of boxes was cutting into his profits. That’s when his curiosity and enterprising nature kicked in.
“I thought ‘it would be great if someone had a service for this and sold boxes for cheaper and delivered them directly to homes,’” said Reed.
In the absence of such a business, Reed created one of his own. He started Boxes on Wheels, where he shipped new cardboard boxes to people who ordered them online or picked them up at his warehouse in Tampa. Four years later when the business was just breaking even, he prayed for inspiration and guidance. The very next day, Reed said his prayers were answered and he began to think outside the box.
“I did a Google search about used boxes and I couldn’t find anyone that was selling them,” Reed said. “I thought ‘I wouldn’t mind paying for used boxes.’ That piqued my interest.”
Reed began contacting moving companies to inquire about purchasing their used boxes. He eventually connected with a box manufacturer and several stores that had scrap boxes that were just sitting there and collecting dust. He initially recruited 108 stores to buy their used boxes. Now he does business with a couple thousand stores and has a contract with ACE Hardware.
Reed’s success multiplied when another hobby of his turned into a business idea.
“I started buying junk, quality used and reconditioned automotive batteries and began the journey of figuring out how to repurpose them,” Reed said.
Reed found an international AI technology company and together they developed a machine that could repurpose used batteries. After the technology was perfected, the batteries were better than new. In 2016, Reed launched his battery business, Battery Guyz, on Fairfield Drive in Pensacola which offers a green alternative to purchasing new batteries by selling a variety of reconditioned ones. The “z” in Battery Guyz stands for Generation Z. Reed’s business is the first battery franchise system to zoom to the Internet to sell batteries to zip codes around the U.S. within 1-2 days.
It’s not only locals who know about the amazing work of Battery Guyz. Reed’s business captured the eyes of the nation in 2021 when he appeared on ABC’s “Shark Tank.” With the help of the Florida Small Business Development Center at UWF, he prepared a comprehensive investment pitch for the sharks. Despite not reaching a deal, Reed said the advice he received from the SBDC at UWF was invaluable. They not only helped him perfect his pitch, they also assisted in the development of a marketing plan and pricing support which has benefitted all of his businesses.
Reed said he took the advice of the sharks who loved his business idea but advised him to work out some operational aspects, develop its e-commerce presence and pursue franchising options. “I took their advice and have seen my business take off,” Reed said.
Reed took his company national and partnered with Walmart and Amazon to sell his formula that reconditions batteries. Earlier this month, his product became the first to be sold on newegg.com.
“It was hard to believe, but you could buy all used items in auto parts stores but used automotive batteries,” Reed said. “So that became my niche. Never give up on the journey of becoming not average. It’s timeless! Look in the marketplace and create your own lane.”
To learn more about the Florida SBDC at UWF, visit sbdc.uwf.edu.