Ending Soon! Save 33% on All Access

Entrepreneurship In the Scrap-Metal Industry One of the top 10 entrepreneur influencers on Instagram, Adam Weitsman rebuilt his family business from scratch and came to be popularly known as the 'king of junk'

By Gianluigi Ventre

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're reading Entrepreneur Asia Pacific, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

Adam Weitsman
Adam Weitsman

There are always choices available to those facing tough challenges on the road of life. Some choose to project their hardship upon the world around them, but those who prosper choose to accept the consequences of their actions, fulfil responsibilities, and use adversity to grow and improve. Adam Weitsman, owner and chief executive officer of Upstate Shredding – Weitsman Recycling, made the latter choice. In the wake of career changes, financial hardship, and a horrifying past, Weitsman has emerged from his troubled past to become a widely respected player in the scrap industry, an influencer, and a philanthropist.

Today, Weitsman is colloquially known as the "king of junk'. Although assuming this esteemed title was not among his plans as a youth, an unexpected turn in life led him to become involved in what had always been the family business. He started his career at Manhattan Art Gallery and within two years, opened his own American Folk Art Gallery in Greenwich village. After graduating from college and losing his sister to cancer, Weitsman returned to his hometown of Owego, New York, from New York City to help his father in the scrap metal trade. Becoming acclimated to the family business proved a challenge to Weitsman, who worked in the art world in his previous professional life.

The family has been part of the metal industry for over 80 years, but in the auto parts domain, operating from a small scrapyard. Weitsman realized the shortcomings in the market and the huge potential of recycling. Weitsman came up with the business plan for Upstate Shredding-Weitsman Recycling in 1996. Within six months, he acquired 17 acres of land in Owego to build his own plant. He established groundbreaking standards in the field and won international accolades. Throughout his journey, he has been on lookout for opportunities and technical innovation. He was recently working on expanding his port of Albany plant by installing a scrap metal shredder that processes over 800 tons of scrap metal each day. He also undertook a $5 million renovation and upgradation work in his Syracuse yard to maintain an edge in the market. In Owego, he installed a micro-fines plant that removes precious metal from shredder auto fluff and allows it to be reused.

Right people around you

Surround yourself with people who want to see you succeed. Over time and after the copious hands-on experience, he became interested in the wholesale side of the business and started his own company in the scrap metal shredding industry. However, financial strain occurred due to the bankruptcy of a key vendor that Weitsman hired who supplied the first shredder. Weitsman, unfortunately, participated in check kiting, which resulted in a 2004 prison sentence. Starting over was daunting when Weitsman was released after serving for eight months. He still credits the unwavering support of his friends and family, providing him with a renewed faith in and focusing on loyalty and integrity. With all the love and support, Weitsman began to work on rebuilding his family's business legacy.

Today, Upstate Shredding – Weitsman Recycling is the largest private scrap metal processor on the East Coast. In 2005, Upstate Shredding also acquired Ben Weitsman & Shred, a heritage retail yard founded by his grandfather in 1938. He diversified patiently and cautiously to 15 locations throughout New York and Pennsylvania, including a location in the prime spot of Geddes. The company has received many recognitions, including the top international awards for the industry, American Metal Market Scrap Company of the Year in 2015 and 2016, and Platts Global Scrap Company of the Year in 2014 and 2016.

Building useful networks

While there is much to be said for the value of self-sufficiency, Weitsman acknowledges that the success of his business is mainly due to the people he works with, from customers to employees, suppliers, and even agents selling scrap metal. "The key to this business is dealing with people who are great. There are a lot of smart people in this industry, and I'm trying to surround myself with them," he pointed out. On instagram, he has a follower base of over 5 million users. He utilizes his social media presence as a communication, marketing, branding and networking tool. The presence helps him to promote his work as well as create a rapport between himself and the clients.

Prioritizing mutually rewarding professional relationships with loyal and committed people has proven to catapult Weitsman to success. To this day, he asserts that the loyalty of his customers, employees, and business partners allowed him to rebuild his personal and professional reputation.

Giving back to society

Today, Weitsman is not satisfied with only being a successful entrepreneur. On top of being considered the king of scrap metal, he has become renowned as a philanthropist and donates heartfully to various charities. His community-minded and business-focused perspective resonates with the public, as Weitsman was recognized this year as one of Instagram's top 10 influencers, according to VIP Media Group and an independent Agency.

Weitsman, now a millionaire entrepreneur, focuses on expanding his business while giving back through altruism to the community that has always supported him. While Weitsman hasn't experienced a smooth road on the ride to the top of his industry, he asserts that his struggle has made him the entrepreneur, philanthropist, influencer, and family man he is today.

Social Media

The Next Big Thing on the Web: Sites Tailored for You

Dynamic website personalization is a powerful tool that can boost business.

Real Estate

3 Factors Driving Real Estate Investment in 2020

This is shaping up to be a unique year, but unique problems mean unique opportunities. Here are 3 ways real estate investment is changing and how that should impact your strategy.

Health & Wellness

The 7 Most Powerful Women to Watch in 2014

These seven innovators are having a major influence on technology, healthcare and the government. We've got our eye on these powerful women. You should, too.

Thought Leaders

The 7 Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs are a diverse bunch. The best ones, however, share a collection of characteristics -- from tenacity to the ability to tolerate risk -- that are crucial to any successful venture.

Business News

Apple iPhone 7 Users May Be Owed a Slice of a $35 Million Settlement — Here's How to Claim Your Share

Previous (and current, no judgment) iPhone 7 users may be entitled to up to $349. The deadline to file a claim is June 3.