St. Marys native and budding entrepreneur Mark Posteraro has combined several diverse interests in developing new businesses. Now living in State College, Pa., he is a partner in Bright Box Ideas, a fledgling website development and marketing company.
We (Posteraro and business partner Justin Eleazer) started the company about a year ago. The main focus of the company is to create affordable, usable websites for small businesses,” Posteraro said.
“What we’ve found is there was a space in the market. Small business owners know they need to be on the internet and they don’t have time to know that much about it.
“Basically we’re trying to provide a service to small organizations or businesses or companies to get a website they can manage themselves at an affordable cost. And then we can help them manage it to the extent they need it.”
Posteraro is the son of Denny and Donna Posteraro of St. Marys. He has two sisters, Erica Hayes of St. Marys and Lynn Paul of West Chester, as well as two nieces and a nephew.
A graduate of St. Marys Area High School, Posteraro earned a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts with a concentration in new media from Penn State in 2007.
“Most of my classes were in computer design, computer program stuff and three-D modeling,” Posteraro said. “My degree was very computer-oriented, but it was also mixed with art and art history.
He said his experience in print design and print media and his business partner’s experience in small business consulting led them to develop Bright Box Ideas.
“What we do is we bring those skills together in with the business,” Posteraro said. “My business partner, he’s very business-oriented, he has a very business-like mind, and we’ve tried to provide a service that’s affordable by creating a certain type of process.
That’s been our goal. And it’s been pretty successful so far. We’re picking up new clients and we have a lot of repeat clients.”
He said they realized there was a need for individuals and small businesses to market their businesses through websites that are custom-designed for them, but are also easy to maintain.
“We’ve kind of found over the years in the market a niche where people have a certain budget they can spend on it, but they need more out of it, so we’re trying to give them everything,” Posteraro said. “It’s really expensive to do everything custom. We’ve tried to make the process on our end very easily repeatable and then leave it up to the business owner to fill in and make it its own identity."
The business also hosts the websites on their server and provides the necessary upgrades and backup. Several employees, along with Posteraro and Eleazer, market, design and create the sites.
“There are some really smart people here involved,” Posteraro said.
Posteraro said although he enjoys the technical aspects of the business, he prefers to work more on the creative side and manage the overall development of the company.
“I need to understand it [the technology] and I need to understand what’s going on, but that’s not really my forte. I don’t really like to write code. I like to manage what’s going on and designing,” he said.
“Eventually as the company goes, I would just like to start managing everything. I do really enjoy the design end of it.”
He said he likes the pace of the business and the challenges it brings.
“It’s really my dream to not have a 9-to-5 job that’s the same every day. I mean, this is challenging and it’s stressful and there’s a lot of growing pains, but it’s fun. You have to learn things that you didn’t know you were going to learn,” Posteraro said.
We’re growing all the time and that’s what’s exciting about it. We’re prepared to grow.”
Posteraro and his business partner have also recently developed a pilot project that combines their marketing and business development savvy with their interest in preserving and protecting the environment. They collect non-meat kitchen waste and eggshells from some of State College’s many restaurants and produce rich compost using large bins and red wriggler worms.
“I’ve always been interested in environmental things and I love the outdoors and getting out in them a lot,” Posteraro said. “I’m interested in sustainability. That’s always been part of my personality.”
Posteraro said the compost idea was inspired by a book he read about using worms to produce compost.
“I bought a book called Worms Eat my Garbage’ a few years back, and I actually read through it, and it was really neat, and that’s a basic guide to vermi composting, or worm composting,” Posteraro said. “And I started up a small one at my house and did this and I was successful on a small scale. I just did it with my own kitchen scraps.
“My friend (Eleazer), who’s a very business-minded individual, very smart guy, was also interested in doing things that were sensible for the environment. So we did a bunch of research and some spreadsheets, some business models, and we went after it.”
Posteraro explained that the compost is made from pre-consumer waste, such as vegetable scraps. The natural method used cuts down on toxic waste in landfills, does not emit carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases, and produces a rich product in high demand by anyone who grows things, from the plant enthusiast to large-scale farming operations.
“Vermicompost is amazing compost. It’s got a lot of great things going on for it. It creates this ridiculously awesome soil that can be sold in bulk or in bags at farmers markets or other places. It keeps the mineral and all the good stuff in soil in the soil,” Posteraro said.
He pitched the idea to some of his contacts in the area’s service industry, and he said they were very receptive to the idea.
“We have some restaurants in town who save food for us, Mad Mex and Spats Café and the Rathskeller, and Indulge Bakery saves their eggshells for us,” Posteraro said.
“We have a space in a garage, we have a rack system, we keep them in 10-gallon bins. We have compost and we also use corrugated cardboard and paperboard from any boxes, cereal boxes. We recycle all that and we shred that up and we mix food. We give them (the restaurants) buckets and then we pick them up and put food from the buckets in the bins and cardboard and put it back on the shelf.”
He said while the process can save owners some money by reducing their waste fees, it takes some effort on their part because they need to save and store the scraps until they can be picked up.
“People are more or less going out of their way because they know it’s a good thing, they understand it’s a good thing,” Posteraro said.
While the project is small now, Posteraro said his hope is to expand it to the point where it is profitable and offers large reductions in waste hauling fees to larger businesses such as grocery stores, which have a great deal of waste that could be used for compost.
“We’ve come to find that grocery stores throw away hundreds of pounds of produce a day because it goes bad on the shelves or comes in bad on the trucks,” Posteraro said.
“We probably take about 50 gallons of food a week just now. The need is there. It’s important that you make the business sustainable financially, because if it’s not sustainable, it’s not going to work.”
He said the richness of the compost produced from this natural method is a big selling point for anyone who grows things, and that they hope to eventually sell it in bulk, as well as providing worms to the public, all while reducing the carbon footprint.
The worms, he said, anchor the project.
“The worms are very useful. People buy then. You can set up little home composting things where people can just put their kitchen scraps in them,” he said, adding that the worms may also be used as chicken feed.
I’ve been really looking for a business that I can believe in and get behind, to help the environment and do good in a lot of different ways,” Posteraro said.
“This is my baby here. This is my dream.”
While he doesn’t have a great deal of free time to pursue other interests just now, he does try to enjoy the recreational opportunities in the State College area. He enjoys snowboarding, kayaking, backpacking and other outdoor pursuits, as well as the area’s vibrant music scene.
“Whenever something good comes to town, I try to catch it. I like the smaller venues,” Posteraro said. “I do still build tennis courts with my dad in the summer, too.”
Posteraro said he maintains a close relationship with his family.
“I talk to my parents all the time. They’re great and give lots of good advice and help me through.”
He also draws inspiration from his parents.
“My dad’s done a lot of great things. My mom’s a great teacher. They’ve always been good to me. They’ve always let me pick what I wanted to do and supported me in it,” Posteraro said.
Although it is not a long trip from State College to St. Marys, Posteraro’s busy work schedule does not allow him to visit as much as he wants, but he gets back often enough to connect with his family and enjoy the outdoors.
“What I love about Elk County was that it allowed me to have that connection with nature. It’s beautiful,” Posteraro said. “I like the woods and there’s a lot of it. There’s a lot of great woods right there, a lot of streams and places to go.
“I love coming home. I have a lot of friends and family there. It’s a great little community.”