Let’s get a few things straight at the beginning, because honesty is everything.
The, shall we say, “calendar girls” featured in the annual Bayshore Recycling calendar are actual employees of the company.
And they don’t feel exploited.
In fact, they feel the 12 pictures — featuring them doing everything from having a tea party or doing yoga at a job site, to studying at a library or attending summer camp, to having a slumber party or a fight in the kitchen — are a perfect way to celebrate the success of a female-dominated company that is kicking butt in a male-dominated industry.
Just ask its female owner.
“We use the calendar as a marketing tool not only for our customers, but to celebrate being women in these nontraditional roles,” Valerie Montecalvo said.
“We’re very proud of being a woman-owned business. We try to promote nontraditional jobs for women — young women coming out of college or women who might be interested in heavy construction and recycling.
“Usually, women think there isn’t a fit for them in these types of positions, so we welcome them with open arms.”
The calendar has become a calling card for Bayshore Recycling — a $63 million collection of six recycling operations within a 55-acre campus in the Keasbey section of Woodbridge.
The calendar is the brainchild of Montecalvo, the president and co-owner; Jennifer Solewski, vice president of regulatory affairs and corporate development; Nicole Montecalvo, director of public relations; and Jennifer Barton, marketing and advertising coordinator.
The four, along with a handful of others, star in the pictures.
They look like professional models. And they don’t apologize for it.
As long as we’re being honest, let’s include one more thing: The first mention of a calendar was not serious.
“When we first started talking about this, it started out as a joke,” Solewski said. “We said, we’re a (certified) Women’s Business Enterprise — we should capitalize on this with a calendar!”
The humorous idea took root in 2009.
And it wasn’t supposed to last.
“We really just thought it was a one-time thing, but people wanted more,” Solewski said. “When we skipped a year (in 2010), we were hounded.”
It has become a year-round project.
Planning for the 2017 calendar already is underway. It will be shot in the summer, but the ideas are being kicked around now.
The pictures, they all say, have purpose.
Despite the jest and humor in it all — which the women often heavily utilize in the photos — it’s also important that the calendar’s overall intent as a marketing tool is being realized.
Frank Montecalvo was 18 when he realized he did not want to work at his family’s Italian restaurant.
“His friend said he should buy his dump truck from him and he would teach him how to drive it,” his wife, Valerie Montecalvo, said. “By the time he was 21 — when I met him — he had four trucks and a loader. Every year, we just kept buying more equipment, adding more employees and learning new things.”
It was Valerie, however, who convinced Frank that they should start making stone for their own projects.
“I said to him, ‘It’s now or never — let’s try it,’” she said.
Within six months, Bayshore Recycling had outgrown the small Perth Amboy-based facility where Valerie and Frank had started it, and moved to a larger facility nearby.
In 2000, its current property — 55-acres in the Keasbey section of Woodbridge, Township — became available for sale.
“We bought it and repurposed it from a former brick factory into a megamall of recycling,” Valerie said.
What began as a company that serviced the heavy highway industry has now evolved into the $63 million collection of six distinct recycling operations, from the typical aluminum cans and plastics, to concrete, contaminated soil, metals, refrigerators, consumer electronics and more.
The company currently employs almost 200 companywide, depending on labor needs, and averages 25 to 35 percent growth each year.
Bayshore Recycling is also committed to working toward becoming operable via 100 percent renewable energy. Currently, the site gets 40 percent of its energy for its soil operation from a solar rooftop, while plans to add wind, additional solar, tidal and biomass energies are currently in the works.
“We try to tie the pictures in with what we do,” Solewski said. “(In February), for example, we’re in the kitchen — part of what one of our businesses does is remediate contaminated soil. We essentially cook dirt. … It puts a fun spin on it and brings it down to an everyday correlation.”
The tea party in front of the recycling pile pushes Bayshore’s metal recycling; the library picture celebrates paper recycling; the picture of them shopping touts that Bayshore is a megamall of recycling.
The G.I. Jane photo — complete with fatigues and ammo? Let’s just say it’s a tough business.
Of course, there’s always the bigger-picture impact of marketing women in a format that is not necessarily known as one for female empowerment.
“It’s sensitive — we take ourselves so seriously because we are women in a male-dominated industry,” Solewski said. “We are celebrating (diversity), but we also want to make sure everything is tastefully done.”
The women also try to pick a month in which they can support a cause, such as the photo in October 2012, which features the women wearing pink boxing gloves for breast cancer awareness.
Since 2012, each month also features a fun tagline that the women must come up with. For example, “You can count on us” was used during tax season, while “Cut the scrap” was used to bring attention to the canned waste produced during Cinco de Mayo.
Nicole Montecalvo, Valerie’s daughter, said the planning is arduous.
“We plan all year long,” she said. “The three of us sit down, go through everything and bring Valerie in for approval.”
Full disclosure … because we’re keeping it real.
All the photos are taken at the plant, but not all the photos are real.
Photoshop is used on occasion.
“We just put up a white screen in my office upstairs,” Nicole said.
Then it’s up to photographer Natalia Drulle to act as art designer and place the women in various spots.
Of course, you can’t use Photoshop for everything.
“We are really in the dumpster in that one photo,” Nicole said of a pic that has six women seemingly sharing a (Photoshopped) bubble bath. “Truck drivers were driving by wondering what was going on.”
The women themselves, however, are not retouched. In fact, they do their own hair and makeup before each shoot.
The whole process takes two to three days on the women’s part and about $5,000 of the marketing budget.
Roughly four to seven women from the marketing, sales and compliance departments volunteer each year to be photographed.
“The whole process of creating the calendar, shooting the photos and helping to craft the final proofs is one that promotes team building and comradery,” Solewski said. “It also boosts self-esteem and confidence for the women who interact with our customers on a day-to-day basis, which is so important for women in the workplace.”
In the end, there’s seemingly only one question a business person wants to know: Does the idea work?
Honest answer: Yes.
And in a number of ways.
At trade shows, Nicole said the calendar can be a major icebreaker, bringing in more potential customers.
It also demonstrates the company’s commitment to gender diversity.
Since Bayshore was established in 1995 by Valerie and her husband, Frank, Valerie has been actively recruiting and mentoring women to encourage diversity in the traditionally male-dominated industry.
Still, today, while more than half of the 40 employees in the office are women, there are only 10 women within the approximately 150 employees in the yard.
That’s why the calendar has become so important.
“It empowers other women — to know that, hey, these girls really work here, and we’re real people with real jobs who do the actual work,” she said. “It also helps make us more approachable and personable to our customers now that they know who they’re talking to every day.”
Potential customers — and potential hires — realize they are talking to women who really enjoy their jobs.
“You can obviously see that we’re having a great time,” Nicole said.
No matter what the outfit.
“We’re tough women,” Valerie said. “We will put work boots on and get out there.
“But we also like wearing makeup and getting dressed up when it’s appropriate to celebrate our femininity.”
In the true spirit of diversity, the company did try photographing male employees one year, too.
It wasn’t a hit with the customers.
And that’s the honest truth.
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