Encouraging Entrepreneurs

Tristan Corriveau studied English literature at the University of New Hampshire, but has found his calling as an entrepreneur. Photo: Thalassa Raasch/MaineCF

A Mainer with a novel idea finds support at home

Tristan Corriveau is passionate about soap. Used soap.

Corriveau, 27, is one of Maine’s many young entrepreneurs and founder of The One Gallon Soap Company in Scarborough. His fledgling company, which recycles used bars of soap into liquid hand soap, began just a year ago in his basement after a trip to Boston.

“This is crazy – this is like a full bar of soap!” he recalled thinking as he left his hotel room after a one-night stay. Corriveau returned to his Scarborough home, scoured the internet, and discovered only one nonprofit that recycles soap to people in need around the world.

Just a couple weeks later, he found a willing partner when The Press Hotel in Portland agreed to provide used soap instead of throwing it away. His supply secured, Corriveau’s biggest hurdle was… what next? How would spoiled soap, with its admitted ick factor, come clean?

He turned to the University of Southern Maine’s biology department faculty and paid a student to fine tune their idea to sterilize used soap in an autoclave – the same kind of machine dentists and tattoo artists use to disinfect their tools.

It worked. A few months later, he’s scraping, sterilizing, chopping, blending, boiling, and pouring his liquid soap into one-gallon jugs bound for businesses and soap dispensers across Portland and available for purchase online. The Press Hotel, which uses Corriveau’s liquid soap, has embraced the collaboration. Each month, employees save more than 120 pounds of used soap and compete for top collection honors and free breakfasts courtesy of Corriveau and the hotel.

The Harpswell native has found plenty of support in his home state. A $5,000 grant from the Libra Future Fund, which encourages creativity to combat out-migration, helped him purchase equipment and supplies. In February he joined 37 other people with big dreams – and businesses or products to back them – for the 2017 Top Gun class. The program, administered by the Maine Center for Economic Development, pairs high-potential entrepreneurs with mentors for networking, weekly classes, and a final business competition.

The center, along with the Maine Technology Institute and University of Maine innovation programs, are fueling the state’s economic growth through Maine Accelerates Growth (MxG), a fund partnership with the Maine Community Foundation.

For Corriveau, a passion for recycling soap is matched only by enthusiasm for the future. His goal: “to prove out Portland as a city that can become a zero-impact ecosystem for soap,” then carry the model to as many cities as possible – from Maine. “This is definitely home base.”

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