Office manager Will Wooten is seen in the retail area of Biobased Solutions. – Bill Colvard | The Tribune
HAMPTONVILLE — In six short years, Biobased Solutions has grown from a one-man pallet recyclying operation to a full-service building store, lumber yard and pallet manufacturer and recycler with 17 employees.
Company owner Mac Steelman said that in 2013 he was teaching at Reagan High School in Winston-Salem and didn’t really know what he wanted to do, but he knew it wasn’t teaching.
“It was paying the bills,” he said Friday from his office in the company he has built. “But I was not sure I wanted to do it my whole life.”
Steelman has a degree in renewable energy from Appalachian State University, but he said that doesn’t fully explain how he got where he is. “I don’t have a real good answer how I got into this,” he went on. “God opened a door, and I stepped out on a leap of faith.”
According to Steelman, it’s illegal to throw pallets away in North Carolina, and that quirk of the law gave him his start.
“That’s why you’ll see them stacked up beside dumpsters,” he said.
So Steelman started picking up pallets with a pickup truck and refurbishing them so they could be sold and reused.
“It’s not a brand-new idea,” he said. “Other people do it.”
But few do it as well as Steelman does it. it wasn’t long until he had a truck and trailer and his first employee. In 2016, he bought a tractor-trailer and was up to five employees, necessitating a move to a larger facility.
“I found out there was a lot of competition in the pallet industry,” Steelman said. “But businesses around here liked working with me, a local guy who could deliver good service and was dependable. They liked the idea of putting money back into the community and buying local.”
Steelman moved into the old Craver Chair Factory in Courtney after a customer bought it and leased it back to him. There he grew to 10 employees before outgrowing that space.
In 2018, he purchased the former Cassteven’s Lumber operation in Hamptonville and integrate his existing systems with the well established lumber facility, moving his operation there in March 2019. Allen Walker, the owner of Casstevens, agreed to stay on after the sale, and Steelman continues to benefit from his 35 years of experience.
By absorbing Cassteven’s Lumber into his operation, Steelman has a full building supply company as well as his pallet manufacturing business. He sells retail to individuals as well as commercial sales to corporations. In addition to building and recycling pallets, Steelman builds custom shipping materials, and is certified to ship internationally. There is a 30-by-40 foot kiln on his property where 750 pallets can be heat-treated at once in order to conform to international regulations.
“Our lumber is excellent quality,” said Steelman. “That’s why so many commercial customers come here. They get much better quality than in big box stores. I was a customer here before I bought the place, so I’m not just talking as the owner. I’m talking as a customer. I’m proud to be selling the products I wanted to buy.”
Steelman has long since moved on from being merely a pallet recycler, but sustainability remains at the heart of everyhing he does. He has integrated sustainability efforts throughout his business and has a personal passion for educating others in using Appropriate Technology and eco-friendly methods of agriculture.
Old pallets are recycled into new pallets. Rough lumber is sold to individuals and businesses, many of whom use it to get a rustic look.
“It’s not barn wood,” he said. “But it looks a lot like it.”
The wood that is not suitable for re-use is sold as bulk firewood, often bought by customers with water stoves. Steelman heats part of his own facility with a water stove fueled by unsaleable wood. The rest of the wood is ground into mulch. Nothing is thrown away.
“We put a lot of thought into what we’re doing here,” Steelman said. “When contractors buy materials from us, they send us pictures of finished projects, and we post them online. We’re trying some new approaches. Collaborating with retail customers on social media is not something you used to do, but this business is not what it was 50 years ago.”
Biobased Solutions is located at 4744 US Hwy.21, Hamptonville. Business hours are Monday – Friday, 7:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. More information is available at: biobasedsolutionsllc.com
Office manager Will Wooten is seen in the retail area of Biobased Solutions.
Biobased Solutions has its own version of an “indoor” lumberyard
Josh Yarboro and Dillon Callicutt build pallets at Biobased Solutions in Hamptonville.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-258-4035.