CEOs / Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Martin Salter, Co-Founder & CEO of WOSUP

Martin Salter is the co-founder and CEO of social impact enterprise, WOSUP (War on Single Use Plastic), enabling large-scale sport and entertainment venues to actively contribute to a zero-waste, zero-carbon future by swapping single-use plastic with reusable and infinitely recyclable WOSUP aluminium cups.

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Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?

I started as a copy boy at the Sydney Morning Herald in 1990, like many young Aussies, working to save for a trip overseas. I was 18, and straight out of school, and discovered my love for all things media and advertising while working at the newspaper.

After returning home from my travels backpacking around Europe for four months (around the time the Berlin Wall came down), I decided it was time to study. I had a passion for food and, as a result, joined the first intake at the Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School.

I loved every moment and came away with great skills including some formal training as a chef. This enabled me to work and earn money while I began researching my first entrepreneurial endeavour, which harnessed my love for the media/advertising industry with the launch of a men’s magazine called Metropolitan Style.

It was a great publication, but admittedly I was too young and after four issues I had to close it. If crowdfunding was around in 1996, who knows, maybe it would have succeeded. I then worked in magazines, radio, and startup digital networks, before running Sydney Airport’s advertising and sponsorship area for almost 10 years, during which time I tripled revenue.

In 2017, I went out on my own and set up a consultancy helping airports and other infrastructure to commercialise their assets. The following year, close friend (and WOSUP co-founder) Karl Page and I found ourselves sitting at the footy, feeling overwhelmed by the sea of empty single-use plastic cups. We began reusing our plastic cups and contemplating an alternative, eco-friendly solution. WOSUP Australia was born. 

We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?

I’m up by 5am to digest the news via CNBC and the Sydney Morning Herald, before taking my wife coffee in bed, and help getting our two daughters up and ready for school. After school drop-off, I head to WOSUP’s warehouse, at Brookvale, arriving at 7.30am for a catch-up coffee with one of my business partners followed by a strategy/planning session.

The rest of the day is filled with emails, meetings and Zoom calls, covering everything from sales to sponsorship discussions, operations overview, tech briefings with our developer in India, budgeting and paying bills, WOSUP Directors’ WIP, liaison with major venues for trials of WOSUP cups and more.

As CEO of a startup, I’m hands-on across every aspect of the business and no two days are ever the same. I leave the warehouse at 5pm, cook dinner for my family and, after checking emails, go to bed by 9.30pm.

Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?

This can be quite tricky at the moment as our startup, WOSUP, is immersed in the world of major sports and events, on a mission to tackle plastic pollution and help fast-track Australia’s shift to a more sustainable, circular economy.

Only with concerted action, can we stem the harmful impact of plastic waste polluting the planet, which means at the moment I’m currently away attending events most weekends. I also try to spend time with my mum on Sundays, and during school holidays, I will take an afternoon or day away from the office to enjoy as much time as possible with my daughters. 

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Change is constant, and it’s essential for growth. Have you made any lifestyle changes in the past year to improve your work-life balance?

I left corporate life and went out on my own to achieve this, and it has largely allowed me to work on my own time, and when I needed to, in order to provide a better service for my clients and spend time with my family. Before we started WOSUP, I was able to spend a lot of time with my daughters during a really important period of their lives.

As they are getting older, I can afford to focus more on developing a new business. Most weeks (since I left corporate life) my wife and I have lunch together every Friday at one of our local pubs, either The Welcome or Bald Rock. We hardly ever get time together, and one of the benefits of this life is that I always try to make time with her. 

We’re always on the lookout for new resources! Can you recommend any books, podcasts, or newsletters that have helped you in your journey towards balance?

Although slightly unorthodox as a recommendation for work-life balance, the book I read over and over at school was Catch 22, set during World War II. The reason it resonated with me is because the protagonist, Captain John Yossarian, was constantly innovating, pivoting, and had empathy.

Although his efforts to leave the war kept being rejected, he stayed the course and developed incredible resilience as a result. Resilience is definitely a major part of launching WOSUP as COVID hit. I’m proud we stayed the course and remained focused on the end goal of making a positive difference where the biggest impact can be made – across large-scale sport and entertainment venues.

At WOSUP, we believe prevention is the best cure for plastic waste, meaning stopping production of plastic at its source. With every use of a reusable and infinitely recyclable WOSUP cup – collected from venues, hygienically cleaned, returned and reused, before being recycled – patrons can delight in the knowledge they’ve delivered a carbon reduction of 3kg CO₂-e, thanks to our partnership with Australia’s first carbon offset provider, Greenfleet. 

Before we wrap up, do you have any final words of wisdom or insights on work, life, or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

It’s vitally important to acknowledge with family when time is tight and to show gratitude for their support. I try to spend every free moment I can with my family. Friends generally understand, but it’s also important to ensure you don’t let friendships fall by the wayside to achieve your goals.

Many years ago, I developed an annual weekend away with my closest male friends on the last Friday of July. No matter what’s going on in our lives we have stuck to this commitment for the past 20 years.   

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.