Jennifer Jones Not Your Everyday Scrap Operator 11/2/15 11/02/15 8:03:28 AM
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Jennifer Jones revels in her non-traditional role as owner of a scrap metal recycling company, one started by her mother.
– Photo by Michael Tran
Not Your Everyday Scrap Operator
By Andy Roberts
The Daily Record
Maybe this one can put another stereotype to rest.
Jennifer Jones, owner and president of Scrap Central, knows she may be among a minority of women in her industry. Considering how she got her start, however, it is hardly a surprise that she is doing so well.
But more on that later.
A little more than a year ago, Scrap Central moved a few blocks from its original 85th and Blondo location to 85th and Maple.
Jones followed her mother into the business. An Omaha native who attended Brownell-Talbot School, she earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in environmental studies in 2010 and has worked for the family business since graduation.
An only child, her father died of melanoma when she was a 9-year-old, and she lost her mother (“my best friend”) four years ago, so Jones started taking care of business at an early age.
“I found myself growing up quickly in an effort to help my mother as she juggled being a business owner and single parent,” she said.
Sheila Jones, Jennifer’s mother, was an accountant whose clients included a recycling operation at Scrap Central’s old location on Blondo Street. Seeing the “potential in the industry,” she grabbed the opportunity when the chance to buy the business came about.
Jennifer Jones said her mother liked the idea of a centrally located recycling facility to serve the Omaha community.
And “she liked the idea of a mother and daughter running a business together.”
That has proven to be an extremely good thing, because Jones has long been developing her business talents.
“I started out having my first business mowing lawns in the neighborhood when I was 9,” she recalled. “The next year I embraced the ‘Beanie Baby trend’ ... I can’t tell you how many times I dragged my mom to the local malls to wait in line for the newest and rarest Beanie Baby to hit the shelves.”
Then, unlike so many of her peers who would keep them for play purposes, Jones would buy the Beanie Babies and resell them to area collectors. In high school, she took advantage of Brownell-Talbot’s classroom laptops and started a ticket selling business.
“I would research the area venues which were sure to sell out and buy as many tickets as I could,” Jones recalled. “By the time I got to college I stayed pretty busy with classes and had to cut back on the side businesses and focus on learning as much as I could about the scrap yard.”
That included learning about the materials they recycle. Those include all non-ferrous metals, aluminum in its various forms, copper and insulated wire, brass, stainless steel, car and truck batteries, and catalytic converters. The metals are separated and products like aluminum are processed into 600-pound bails and sent to mills where it is melted and made into new products.
That expansion, from the base of aluminum, tin and other metals, made the move along Keystone Drive from Blondo to Maple a necessity. “We had been at our old location since 2001 when we started,” Jones said. In 2011 she said she really started to grow the business and increase their volumes.
“We started taking steel and it really expanded the volume.”
Jones knew she wanted to stay in the area, so talks began with Lyman-Richey. The move was made and security has improved with Scrap Central now surrounded by a 10-foot tall concrete wall instead of chain-link fences.
“It’s a fortress. We have eight cameras that are monitored 24 hours a day,” Jones said.
Jones points out that she has been “extremely touched” by the support she has received from Omaha-area business leaders. Gail DeBoer, president and CEO of SAC Federal Credit Union, was singled out.
“She has given her personal time to mentor me as my business grows,” Jones said.
The future appears to be promising, and Jones sees the long-term outlook as good. “I am lucky to have a strong support system from friends and distant relatives in the area,” she said.
She added, however, that at the moment the markets are experiencing trends like 2008 before Wall Street’s near crash.
“The markets are very depressed right now,” she said, with some commodity prices at 10-year lows.
Jones sees electronics recycling as one area for expansion. “We purchase laptops and computer towers, she stated. “We have made electronics recycling a focus to better serve our business partners and community.”
She claims to have few outside interests. “I have always been business minded and love the entrepreneurial spirit, which I learned from my mother,” Jones emphasized. “If I were to name a hobby, it would honestly be sitting on my couch thinking about ways to make more money.”
But, while looking to expand, Jones also looks to give back to the community.
“My mother was one of the kindest people I will ever know and she taught me the importance of supporting charitable causes,” she recalled. “I love being an entrepreneur and enjoy supporting community initiatives and organizations.”
Those include a variety of fundraisers, and a partnership with a Lincoln elementary school, the YMCA, and Susan G. Komen Nebraska.
All of which leaves her little precious time to think about being one of the few women in the field of scrap metal recycling.
“I’m certainly in the minority in this industry,” Jones admitted. “I don’t think gender has anything to do with your ability to run a business, but I really don’t think about it that often.”