Gunner Sweeney 

The Entrepreneur

The Entrepreneur
click to enlarge Gunner Sweeney

Photo by Eric England at the Sweeney household

Gunner Sweeney

Ask Gunner Sweeney, the precocious, politely curious lad with a shock of blond hair, why he chooses to spend his weekends collecting glass for recycling from select Nashville neighborhoods, and his answer is pretty simple: "I just like recycling."

Ask father Shawn about this 7-year-old CEO with an environmentally friendly start-up, and he's not exactly surprised. "He picks up on quite a bit," says Shawn, who's pursuing an MBA at Belmont while employed by a broadband provider. "We'll be out driving, and he'll say, 'How much are taxes on cars?' I mean, what 7-year-old's asking about taxes?"

The oldest of three, Gunner is home-schooled by his parents, who find ways to relate the complexities of business management to him simply — keeping things in basic terms, laying out a business model together and reaching group decisions on each course of action.

Running recycling routes in East Nashville and Germantown on Saturdays and Sundays and 12South on Tuesdays, Gunner and his crew pick up bottles twice a month for a $6 monthly fee, with a $9 fee to start off. The bottles are transferred to a rented warehouse in South Inglewood for sorting and short-term storage before being deposited at the Metro Recycling Solid Waste Center on Doctor Richard G. Adams Drive, just off Trinity Lane in East Nashville.

His company, Gunner's Glass Recycling, is about a year-and-a-half old. Created by Gunner and his father when Gunner was just 5, the arrangement began with the family SUV repurposed for pickups along with a trailer. But thanks to word-of-mouth and fliers, Gunner's Recycling has gathered enough steam to warrant possible expansion. Shawn notes that they'll likely soon hire a second outside employee. (They currently have just one, Roderick, who came recommended by a customer and runs some routes for Gunner.)

But apart from his knack for entrepreneurialism with a sustainable twist, in most other ways, Gunner's an ordinary 7-year-old. He likes to play, ride bikes, climb trees and jump on his trampoline, though some of his extracurricular tastes run a bit more adventurous than most: He recently took up rock-climbing and wakeboarding. While a sizable portion of income admittedly goes to "employees and taxes," he invests a good chunk of it.

Asked what he wants to be when he grows up, Gunner's keeping his options open. "I don't know yet," he admits. "I might just keep this." And why not? The business shows no signs of slowing. Visit Gunner's website (gunnersrecycling.com), and to sign up, email Gunner at service@gunnersrecycling.com.

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