Jeremy Cohen and Katherine Preston of Exchange My Phone
2011 has already proven to be a very busy year for both Jeremy Cohen and Katherine Preston. The young couple moved to New York City on January 1, settled in an apartment in Carroll Gardens shortly afterwards, and started their own business in early May. All within six months.
I met the Carroll Gardens newcomers a few days ago over a cup of coffee to find out what brought them to the neighborhood and to ask them about their business venture.
Their story is an inspiring one and proves that wonderful things can happen in life when one takes a few risks.
Katherine Preston is originally from London, England. Unhappy with her job as a financial writer, she gave up her career to to write her own book and to travel around the United States for a few months. She met Jeremy Cohen, fell in love and spontaneously asked him to accompany her on the rest of her trip. Just as spontaneously, he said 'yes'. It was during those days on the road that Katherine and Jeremy planned their future together in New York City and laid the foundation for Exchange My Phone, a responsible cell phone recycling business.
One could say that recycling comes easily to Jeremy Cohen. At an early age, he formed an awareness of re-use and re-purposing. After all, his family owns a used-book store in Chicago, one of the last hold-outs of its kind. It is still run by his father today. However, any thought of taking the store over were set aside. These days, used book stores are closing everywhere and Jeremy saw the handwriting on the wall.
Recycling used and broken phones, on the other hand, is very much an ecologically sound solution to a very modern and growing problem. And Exchange My Phone makes this process very easy.
If a phone still has value, the company will give a quote, send a postage-paid envelope, followed by a check. The mid-range and high end phones are then refurbished, stripped of their data and re-sold either in the United States or in emerging markets.
Even if a phone has no value, it can be sent for free to Exchange My Phone. The metals and plastic parts are separated and recycled by WeRecycle!, a New York-based electronics-recycling plant, which is certified by the Basel Action Network (BAN). They pledge to process e-waste in a globally responsible way.
Most importantly, as Jeremy and Katherine point out, the goal is to extend the life of cell phones and to give them a second or third life. If that is not possible, the aim is to keep the highly toxic parts out of landfills.
The young couple is so committed to recycling that they are helping businesses, schools and non-profits by organizing phone drives. (They are currently partnering with the Brooklyn New School)
And if that isn't enough, they donate one book to a local literary initiative for every phone they buy.
Jeremy and Katherine think Brooklyn is the right place to built their hyper-local business into, hopefully, a national one. It is evident that they have fallen in love with the borough, but more importantly, with Carroll Gardens. The appreciate the sense of community they feel here.
Let's all support their worthwhile efforts. Check their web site here and send them your old phones so that they can be recycled responsibly.
Jeremy and Katherine,
It was a great pleasure meeting you and learning about your business. I'll be sure to stay in touch.