After creating and nearly losing what was his brainchild, Joe De Gennaro has taken big chances to get Terra Wax back in his possession. He’s endured fickle investors, court battles, and poor distribution through another company–now he wants to get the word out about the company’s new direction.
In 1995 De Gennaro wanted to create a nontoxic, biodegradable wax with natural ingredients, but had no idea where to begin. Experimenting from scratch, he trashed every pot, pan, and carpet in his house for a year.
Using chemicals would’ve been too easy and not environmentally sound, so after 400 tries he finally created his recipe using stuff that’s never before been used in wax. According to De Gennaro, his surf-wax creation isn’t even a quarter wax and that’s why it doesn’t blend well with other waxes–it can only be used by itself or with a base coat. Believe it or not, over half is made with natural minerals found in the ground.
His environmental fervor doesn’t stop with the wax. The paper around the wax is made from treeless-plant-based papers and the wax combs use recycled plastics that break down in 100 years without releasing toxins.
When he finally showed the wax to shops, he began getting orders for truckloads even though he was still making it in his kitchen. As the wax’s popularity grew, so did his inability to make the product to meet demand. De Gennaro needed venture capital to finance the growing company.
He found an initial investor who wanted to pinch money by using regular paper despite the recycled label on the wrapper. The same investor then also tried to take the company through the courts using claims of trademark infringement. According to De Gennaro, although he had proof Terra Wax was his idea years ago, it didn’t matter in court–the side with the most cash wins and the investor had a lot of money into it.
De Gennaro had a good friend who was a lawyer. It was through this friend and a group of other lawyers that they were able to win the suit. However, in payment for their work, the law group also became owners. The group’s plan for the company was to make a quick profit and sell it for tax reasons–which they almost did for dirt cheap.
But De Gennaro had loyal friends, two of whom helped him buy out the investors and get his company back to him.
Meanwhile, Terra Wax has suffered as a result. While the court and investor problems went on, the wax disappeared everywhere except in San Diego and Japan–a result of poor domestic distribution by a third party he’d made a sole agreement with.
Finally all this is behind him. De Gennaro says he’s back and has already sold a quarter-of-a-million bars in the first five months of this year. “It’s a good wax people still want,” he says. “People are stoked on an environmental product that works and is affordable.”
De Gennaro practices what he preaches in every aspect of his business and his life–he doesn’t even own a car. “I’ll keep it green ’til the day I die and hope that by being a good example, others will do the same.”