Peat moss is an essential ingredient in potting soils and seed-starting mediums. However, it is harvested from wetlands, which can harm animal habitats. Mont Handley’s PittMoss is different as it’s mostly made from recycled paper. This eco-friendly solution got him a deal with three investors on Shark Tank. As of 2023, PittMoss is worth $4.5 million.
About the Founder
Mont Handley is a resident of Chicago, Illinois. He once volunteered in the United States Army as a clerk and military policeman. After that, he pursued a bachelor’s degree in history at Purdue University.
He first worked in a nursery, and in 1998, he was appointed the Director of Planning and Environmental Services for Portage, Indiana. After two years, he worked as a senior sales manager at the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority.
Mont was hired to be the national sales director of the travel arrangements company VisitPITTSBURGH in 2005. His job was to recruit for regional seminars, conferences, symposiums, and meetings.
Founding the Company
The Chicagoan first had the idea of a peat moss alternative back in 1994. It started out as a simple kitchen experiment while he was still working at a local nursery.
While on the job, he became aware of several issues with the conventional peat moss and the harm it was doing to the environment. So, he set out on a long-term project to resolve the issue. In 2011, he finally came up with PittMoss.
PittMoss is a low-cost product that uses recycled paper and several other organic materials. After shipping out the first batch, Mont saw the potential in his invention and quit his job to focus on the business full-time.
Shark Tank Appearance
In 2015, Mont Handley had trouble increasing revenue because of his factory’s capacity. To fix the problem, he needed a substantial investment to fix production problems. Mont appeared on season six of Shark Tank, asking for $600,000 for 25% equity.
Although most of the Sharks were initially drawn to the green product, they found some issues with the business strategy. Plus, the valuation was quite high for a startup that had only generated $22,000 in sales.
Despite this, Kevin O’Leary offered $600,000 for 40%, but he wasn’t willing to go in alone. He invited the other Sharks to share the deal, Robert Herjavec and Mark Cuban joined. After some negotiating, the three investors made a deal for $600,000 for 35%.
After Shark Tank
After its Shark Tank episode aired, the deal with the three Sharks closed but PittMoss encountered some manufacturing issues. Given Cuban’s interest in eco-friendly businesses, it’s not surprising he’s more involved than Kevin and Robert.
Founder Mont Handley stepped down as CEO in 2016 and was replaced by Brian Scott. Although Mont no longer runs the company he still has a seat on the board.
The company raised an additional $1.2 million in funding from Innovation Works, Blue Tree Allied Angels, and Idea Foundry. With this, the startup finally fulfilled its potential and generated a lot of orders through its website, PittMoss.com.
The product is now available on Amazon, where it has a 4.2-star rating from 21 users. Today, PittMoss is planning to expand globally to boost its $3 million annual revenue and is worth an estimated $4.5 million.