Brennan Zelener, a senior management student in the College of Business, is an entrepreneur to his core. But armed with a passion for technology and a quintessential know-how for business operations, Zelener isn’t running a lemonade stand.
Zelener is the founder of Newaya Recycling, a sustainable enterprise that purchases used smart phones and then sells them in bulk to businesses after minor refurbishing. Zelener’s brainchild has grown exponentially since its creation in his sophomore year at CSU, and Newaya is now part of the Rocky Mountain Innosphere Incubator program in Fort Collins.
Newaya began as Green iPhone, which Zelener launched in 2010. To start, Zelener bought old iPhones and refurbished them, then later sold the phones to individual buyers. As his company grew, and because he continued to work as a one-man business, Zelener decided to sell the phones en masse to larger companies.
The name Newaya came about almost by accident. Knowing that he could not keep the word “iPhone” in his name, Zelener held a brainstorming session with his closest friends to develop something new. The word “Newaya” rolled off his tongue as an example of the type of word for which he was looking, but he never intended for it to become the official name of his company. As time progressed, he realized that Newaya was the perfect name, and nothing else anyone had suggested rivaled it.
Newaya has since taken off in a big way, and last year Zelener claimed more than $30,000 in gross revenue for the company. He plans to spend the summer completely dedicated to Newaya in order to discover what type of potential the company truly offers. He will be working with Innosphere to build infrastructure as well as to find opportunities for growth.
Zelener says that this summer will determine if this project is one he will pursue or if it will be time to move on to the next adventure.
New experiences are what fuel much of Zelener’s ambition. However, this mindset took some time for Zelener to acquire. Originally from Alaska, Zelener came to CSU for Colorado’s similarity to his homestate. An undeclared freshman with a focus on physics and math, Zelener did not much enjoy his first year at college. He didn’t connect well in his large classes, and he wasn’t willing to venture far from his routine in order to meet new friends.
Upon returning to Alaska after his first year at CSU, he considered moving back home to finish his college career. He discovered that opportunities in his hometown were limited, and then his father gave him advice that sparked something inside Zelener. His dad encouraged him to experience new things and reminded him of the benefits that adventure could possess.
“There’s a lot to be said for getting out of your comfort zone and learning to thrive,” Zelener said.
Zelener returned for his sophomore year with a revived spirit and a clearer idea of what he wanted to gain from his time at CSU. He had a few discussions with Carl Hammerdorfer, director of the Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise MBA program, who told him about possibilities that came with a business degree. The College of Business appealed to Zelener with its smaller classes, superior technology, and quality professors. The College also helped him nurture his love for technology while providing him with essential knowledge for successful entrepreneurship.
Soon after finding his niche in the College of Business, Green iPhone (and subsequently Newaya) was formed. His pursuits have expanded beyond the business, and now Zelener explores his interests in technology and entrepreneurship with the many people with whom he has connected since breaking from his shell.
One such venture is something Zelener likes to call “Backyard Brainstorming.” Another creation of Zelener’s, this activity brings entrepreneurs like Zelener together to pitch ideas and then gain feedback from people of all backgrounds and levels of expertise. Students, graduates, and business professionals all come together to hear various concepts and offer support for growing businesses and ideas. The idea was so catching that Michael Freeman of Innosphere has decided to start his own similar program.
“It’s all about mentorship,” Zelener said.
Zelener’s promising career continues to expand as he tests the waters with Newaya. He plans to start a phone-collection program with the company that will allow for easy recycling of old, used, and broken cell phones. This, along with the many ideas constantly brewing in Zelener’s brain, is sure to pave a clear path for the young entrepreneur’s future.