6-year-old uses smarts, savvy to start business

Photos by Jacob Wiegand/The Herald 
Shortly after 8:30 a.m. Saturday morning, Eli Hartings of Jasper, 6, transported a bag of cans from the home of his great-grandmother, Annie Burger, to the family minivan as his father Ross Hartings assisted. Eli collects cans from people around Jasper, and some from his father's Evansville office, and takes them to Jasper Salvage, Inc. for a profit. The funds he makes off the enterprise are added to a savings account at the bank.


JASPER — You can’t really call Eli Hartings a businessman because, well, he’s only 6-years-old.

But the kid has smarts. Instead of pocketing money from a lemonade stand or from doing work around the yard, Eli has designed his own recycling service that helps the Earth and his bank account.

Through aluminum can collection and community drop-off in a garbage can at the end of his family’s driveway, the soon-to-be first-grader at Holy Trinity Catholic School has been able to pocket north of $100 doing something he loves.

Andrea and Ross Hartings (Mom and Dad) help out with the business’ sign design and chauffeuring their little recycling man around on can gathering day, but for the most part, the business is entirely operated and guided by Eli. He’s the idea man, and his reasons for starting the business last July were simple and respectable.

Eli placed a thank you note inside in a mailbox Satruday as he collected cans.

“I make money and I recycle cans,” Eli said, acknowledging that recycling is good for the environment.

He was inspired by his grandfather, Andy Hartings, who has a can crusher he uses to compact cans before selling their aluminum to Jasper Salvage on the city’s south side. Ross remembered how Eli’s eyes lit up when he heard he could make money while recycling, and said now the kid takes a lot of Grandpa’s cans in his own trips to Jasper Salvage.

But even before that, Ross said his son had always been business-minded. He’s constructed makeshift carnivals and arcades with bottles for a ring toss, plastic bowling pins, cornhole boards, and a miniature basketball hoop in the family’s basement.

Andrea said her son has always liked garbage trucks and recycling. As early as age 2, she remembers Eli standing at the door watching the trash truck come each week.

After arriving at Jasper Salvage, Inc., Robert Rasche of Dubois helped Eli transport the cans into the center Saturday morning.

“It was fun to see him take that interest,” Andrea said. “He doesn’t really watch the trash truck anymore — he’s at school — but now he’s using that interest in a fun way. He also likes to make money so it’s kind of been fun to watch him take that interest that was kind of funny as a young kid and turn it in to something new.”

You may have seen the big, black trash bin bearing a recycling sign and the name of his company — “Eli’s Recycling Service” — sitting at the end of the driveway outside his family’s Jasper home a block south of Highway 56 on the west side of town.

It’s his latest entrepreneurial venture, and one he paid for with money he has earned from his business.  Before that, Eli had a cardboard receptacle for passerby to dispose of their cans, and prior to that he and his dad simply visited the homes of family members and friends in the Jasper area for bags of cans that they would then deliver to Jasper Salvage. About 15 people are on that route now. The young tycoon gets about 50 cents for every pound of aluminum he delivers, and Ross and Andrea said their son takes home around $10 or $15 per trip.

Eli and Ross still make that trip about once a month, but now the future business mogul hopes his profits will continue to grow as cans come directly to him. Dad said the drop-off receptacle has already been filled with donations of cans since its placement last week. And Eli is constantly adding more aluminum donors to his registry.

As they drove through Jasper in the family minivan Saturday morning, Eli looked over the day's earnings. "I work most of the time so for us this is one-on-one time for us," said Ross, who works as a chiropractor. "It's pretty special."

Moving forward, Eli hopes to expand his model by replacing the drop-off can on his property with huge dumpsters that could hold thousands of cans, or by getting a big truck for Ross to drive around on their route. Mom and dad smiled proudly at the suggestions. Ross said Eli’s next plan is to place drop-off receptacles at family members’ houses, which will help extend his reach. Right now, he’d like to be a recycling man when he grows up. He’s saving all the money he gets from the business in his bank account.

“He said, ‘I’m always thinking about ideas to make it better,’” Andrea said.

In addition to running the business, Eli also plays basketball, baseball, soccer, football and tennis. Ross and Andrea have three daughters, Anna, 4, Macy, 2, and Sophie, 2 months.

Those wanting to drop off cans at Eli’s Recycling Service can take them to Eli’s drop-off container at 582 St. Charles St. in Jasper.

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