Founded in 2017 by Rob Conboy, Glavel is a Vermont-based company that specializes in selling a lightweight building material from post-consumer recycled glass known as foam glass gravel. Because cellular glass is derived from recycled glass, it’s petroleum and chemical-free. Glavel began by importing foam glass gravel from Europe, with the plan to introduce the product to the U.S. market, build up a customer base, and eventually open a domestic manufacturing facility—all while helping to solve the country’s glass recycling problem.
In the years since Glavel’s founding, the U.S. building industry has begun to move aggressively toward materials with low-embodied carbon, creating another strong selling point for foam glass gravel. The Institute of Architects now calls for “building transparency” that accounts for embodied carbon used in building materials and the impact of those materials on the environment and climate change.
Recognizing the opportunity, Conboy and his team decided to make the leap to domestic manufacturing sooner rather than later in Essex, Vermont. In need of working capital, Conboy approached the Flexible Capital Fund (Flex Fund) in late 2020 to help make the transition from an import business to a manufacturer. The Flex Fund worked with Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) of Maine, a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) similar to the Flex Fund, to round out a $500,000 financing package using royalty (also known as revenue-based) financing.
Glavel has a strong mission fit with the Flex Fund and is committed to a healthy planet and healthy workplace. Their product is a cleaner, lower-carbon material used in construction, green building and transportation. They are fixing a broken system (materials made with fossil fuel / petroleum) by fixing broken glass (a recyclable material). It is no longer cost-effective to recycle glass into glass bottles. Upcycling is the best option. And, Glavel is working with the Flex Fund’s portfolio company, Encore Renewable Energy, to build a solar facility that through a Power Purchase Agreement, will provide 100% renewable energy to operate the Glavel plant and production kilns.