Non-profit moves into public storefront but finds business climate hinders success of core mission | nnbusinessview.com

Non-profit moves into public storefront but finds business climate hinders success of core mission

Pat Patera

A perfect storm of setbacks buffeted Pinky Pink’s Ink Corp., now struggling to save its Enviro-Store in Sparks.

Operated by a non-profit, Pollution Prevention Innovation, the store both sells and recycles laser ink toner cartridges.

Started in 2005, last April Pinky Pink’s Ink moved from a home base to a 1,300-square-foot storefront at Greenbrae Shopping Center at 548 Greenbrae Dive. The effort serves 400 businesses in and around Reno, Sparks and Carson City.

But the once-favorable conditions soured, says Executive Director Julie Calvery, who runs the effort with President Mary “Lisa” Carver. Now the organization needs to raise $5,000 in donations by March 20, she says.

After a year during which the business was buffeted by increased competition and falling prices, expected grant funding fell though. Unable to meet the monthly rent, Pinky Pink’s was given notice to vacate its space, says Calvery.

Pinky Pink’s principals turned to Sparks Chamber of Commerce for help.

“We want to help people stay in business and be successful,” says the chamber’s Executive Director Len Stevens. After researching the situation, it referred Pinky Pink’s to the Nevada Microenterprise Initiative, which makes loans to small business.

Pinky Pink’s Ink relies partly on donations from corporations that change equipment and find themselves in possession of cartridges that don’t fit the new machines. Helping to stock the store’s shelves recently were thousands of dollars worth of new cartridges from Morgan Stanley and Baldini’s Sports Casino.

Pinky Pink’s Ink derives equal parts of its income from sales of new and refilled cartridges.

However, in the past year, Calvery says store sales dropped significantly as more recylers entered the field, bringing on a surplus of refilled cartridges.

Meanwhile, prices plummeted. A year ago, says Calvery, a shipment of about 1,800 empty toner cartridges brought $2,800; now it brings a mere $800.

But the main focus of this business, she says, is to educate the community about toxic hazards of laser toner than contains trace elements of mercury, cadmium and lead.

“Hundreds of tons of laser toner cartridges end up in landfills,” she says. “Or they get shipped to Third World countries for dismantling by hand.” Instead, she says this recycling effort sends used cartridges to domestic leaders in remanufacturing industry.


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