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Making A Mark On The Planet


2nd December 2020

Keenan Recycling is a rapidly growing local business and a green energy success story. In this Passion, Purpose and Making A Difference conversation Claire Keenan, Collections Director, chats to Jude Thorpe about the purpose at the centre of the business: to make a positive mark on the planet by transforming food waste into electricity, heat and fuel.

Operating throughout the UK Claire shares the challenges of growing from a small, family feel firm. Play the video or read on to discover Claire's super power, how she encourages young people to look at things from a different perspective, you "might not want to get into waste, but you might consider recycling" and the importance of grit and self belief for women in business.



Conversation transcript:

[00:00:09.290] - Jude Thorpe

Hi, I'm Jude Thorpe. I'm a director with Thorpe, Molloy McCulloch Recruitment. I'm delighted to be back with the second in the autumn series of video chats. And I hope you're enjoying the new, improved, shorter, snappier format, emulating the Vogue Seventy Three Questions series.

[00:00:24.770] - Jude Thorpe

I'm making it my mission to elicit some key nuggets of career advice from inspiring women who have a strong sense of purpose and passion.

[00:00:33.890] - Jude Thorpe

And I am delighted to be joined by the fabulous Claire Keenan this morning. I'm going to challenge you in no more than seven seconds to tell me about your role as Collections Director with Keenan Recycling.

[00:00:50.990] - Claire Keenan

My role involves growing the business whilst keeping up our really good quality service with the 70,000 bins that we lift at the moment.

[00:01:00.320] - Jude Thorpe

Every month, 70,000 bins across Scotland and now into England as well?

[00:01:09.440] - Claire Keenan

Yes, right down to Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, now Salisbury and Gloucester as well.

[00:01:16.760] - Jude Thorpe

So first question in at the deep end, what are the challenges about working for a family run company?

[00:01:24.200] - Claire Keenan

Well, when it's good, it's amazing. When it's bad, it's awful.

[00:01:34.310] - Jude Thorpe

Very honest. I appreciate your honesty, and tell me what your superpower is and how, and when, you use it.

[00:01:43.130] - Claire Keenan

I'd really just say problem-solving and getting stuff done. So, you know, in operations there are just problems every day. And you've just got to deal with them.

[00:01:53.940] - Jude Thorpe

And I know you're very passionate about nutrition and growing your own fruit and veg and you have some fabulous polytunnels. I've been privileged to have a look round. Tell me, is that an interest that you've had for a while or is it something that came about as a by product of the business and recycling organic waste? Which way around was it?

[00:02:18.100] - Claire Keenan

I've always been into nutrition and health and outdoorsy sort of stuff, and I was a personal trainer, knowing nutrition was quite important.

[00:02:29.530] - Claire Keenan

So it has been great to be able to actually grow my own veg and grow my own cucumbers and juice them, it was just quite amazing. And to have compost to grow them in and the compost just makes everything grow so well.

[00:02:40.660] - Jude Thorpe

Tell me about a couple of career challenges that you've overcome that might resonate with other businesswomen. How did you overcome them?

[00:02:50.500] - Claire Keenan

I just think being a woman in business is quite tough. It's hard just to get your voice heard and be believed that you can, you're the person for the job and you've just got to be quite resilient and strong and believe in yourself and just have grit.

[00:03:09.820] - Jude Thorpe

How long have you worked for Keenan Recycling? Because you've worked there on and off haven't you?

[00:03:15.460] - Claire Keenan

Yes, we started in 2001 and I worked in the business until 2007. Then I went away to start my own business personal training and helping busy mums to be fit and healthy, look after their families. I came back to the business in 2014. So almost seven years.

[00:03:37.840] - Jude Thorpe

What's been the biggest challenge in the last seven years?

[00:03:40.030] - Claire Keenan

Growing from Aberdeen to the central belt and bringing everyone along for the journey. Lots of people don't like change. Some people really like it.

[00:03:48.610] - Claire Keenan

Some people like being part of a growing business, but trying to keep the sort of communication going throughout the business. And as you grow and keeping the quality of service and keeping that family feel to the business as you get bigger. And we always want to be at the end of the phones to all of our customers, and deal with any problems. So, just trying to keep the family feel.

[00:04:13.960] - Jude Thorpe

And what motivates you?

[00:04:17.480] - Claire Keenan

I like being creative and growing, doing things is my creativity. I like making something out of nothing and making our mark on the planet, I suppose, as well. And me, making my mark on the planet.

[00:04:38.330] - Jude Thorpe

So that gives me a brilliant segway into my next question, which is I know that you've recently become a board member for Techfest. Why did you decide to participate on a third sector board of that nature?

[00:04:51.140] - Claire Keenan

Sarah Chew the managing director asked me to be on the board. And I think she is brilliant and so motivational and inspirational, so being on something with her is quite an honour, and I'm different than any of the other board members. Maybe my logistics and transport experience will give it a different angle.

[00:05:13.910] - Claire Keenan

I think it's really important to give young people as much variety in what they're exposed to when they're growing up. Nobody ever really planned to get into waste, but maybe they might want to get into recycling. Our industry is pretty fun and dynamic and fast-paced and challenging.

[00:05:36.990] - Claire Keenan

There's lots of technology that we're using. We've got nine depots across the U.K, looking to open another two pretty soon. So we use mobile phones. It's all done in the cloud. We've got live CCTV so we can dial in and watch people working. And if there's any issues, any incidents, we have truck telematics so we can look at driver behaviours. We get the weight of every single bin that we lift. Technology is so important for our business.

[00:06:13.050] - Jude Thorpe

So last question. What career advice do you give to your children or what career advice do you wish you'd been given as a young person?

[00:06:22.800] - Claire Keenan

I always tell them to go the extra mile to focus on what they want to do or at least try to push themselves out of their comfort zone and don't always take the easy option. You will usually do better taking or pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and believe in yourself. And you can be whatever you want to be. If you believe, if you really, truly want to do something, you can do it and you can do anything.

[00:06:51.390] - Jude Thorpe

What are your plans for the rest of the week? Because I know you've got quite an interesting adventure ahead of you.

[00:07:02.610] - Claire Keenan

We're going to England to look at 2 potential new depots. We did think about taking our motor home, but just thinking that we might get stopped by the police. But we do have our letters to show that we're working. We're going to fly down and visit some potential customers and new depots.

[00:07:20.490] - Jude Thorpe

Thank you very much. That's been brilliant and as inspiring as ever. And I think a brilliant example of somebody with a strong sense of passion and purpose. So, thank you very much.


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