By Elisabeth Costanzo Stewart
When most cousins connect at family events, they share stories, play games, and lovingly tease their older relatives. When Jacob Kumpon (BA ’18 & ES’ 20) and his cousin, Jack Lamuraglia, gather at a family event, they find a quiet corner of the room and build an empire. Together Kumpon, a mechanical engineer, Lamuraglia, an electrical engineer, and friend, Tanner Wallis, a mechanical engineer, founded KLAW Industries. (KLAW is a combination of the founders’ initials.) All while still in college, these bright young men conceived a revolutionary company that simultaneously addresses two global environmental issues – how to repurpose post-consumer glass and how to sustainably lower the massive carbon footprint produced by the concrete industry.
A native of Chenango Forks, NY, Jacob Kumpon grew up in a happy home with his parents and his older sister, Mary. Deeply connected to his extended family, Jacob and his cousin Jack were often side by side. As teenagers in search of a fun and financially advantageous way to spend more time together, the cousins started a lawn care company. Their business flourished locally and sparked their ambition to branch out to bigger ventures in the future.
Kumpon’s early interest in entrepreneurship led him to participate in BOCES’ intensive New Visions Business Academy. Throughout his senior year, Kumpon balanced general classes at Chenango Forks High School, college-level business coursework through SUNY Broome’s Fast Forward program, and New Visions facilitated mini-internships with regional employers. Jacob’s packed senior year only solidified his desire to expand his knowledge of the principles of business. With several credits already under his belt, Kumpon enrolled in SUNY Broome’s Business Administration associate degree program and completed his degree in just one year.
Like many of our alumni, Kumpon saw the value of completing more than one degree at SUNY Broome. During his final semester as a business administration student, Jacob began his second SUNY Broome degree in the incredibly rigorous Engineering Science program. Engineering science is designed to lay the foundation for continued engineering study in disciplines such as aerospace, biomedical, civil, electrical, mechanical, systems engineering, and many more. As a mechanically minded student who always loved tinkering with machines and making processes more efficient, studying engineering science as a precursor to mechanical engineering was the perfect fit.
As engineering students, Kumpon at SUNY Broome and Lamuraglia at Clarkson University, the cousins decided that – in between studying for “Calculus III” exams and completing “Engineering Design” labs – they would start another business. While they didn’t know the specifics about what type of business they would create, they knew that whatever industry they tackled needed to meet three criteria. Their future business had to be headquartered in the Southern Tier to support their local region, but have the potential to scale globally. It needed to be sustainable and have an impact on the environment. It also needed to solve a problem. So how did they settle on revolutionizing the concrete industry? They read the newspaper.
“Over and over again, we noticed articles discussing the abundance of post-consumer glass waste overwhelming landfills across the world. So in between classes in the AT Building, I started cold-calling local recycling centers to ask if we could tour their facilities. During each tour, we asked the same key questions, most notably, ‘What are your biggest issues?’ and consistently the answer was the recycling of post-consumer glass,” said Kumpon.
Wondering what post-consumer glass is? It’s all of the empty wine bottles and jars of marinara sauce. These glass bottles and jars pose big problems for recycling centers. They are hard to sort and clean, hazardous for employees when broken, rough on equipment, and difficult to repurpose.
“Thanks to local partners like Taylor Garbage, we were able to identify our first problem to solve. How do we sort and clean post-consumer glass in a highly efficient, large scale, cost effective way,” explained Kumpon.
Now it was time to do some engineering. Over the following few months, Kumpon and his team developed a patent-pending, automated process to clean waste glass. Their next step was to figure out who needed large quantities of sparkling clean recyclables. Reading the paper again served as their best method of research.
“For the past few years, cement has been a very hot topic. There is a nationwide shortage of cement, which is a primary, active ingredient in concrete. Not only is cement in high demand, but it comes at a cost to the environment. Cement accounts for 8% of carbon emissions across the globe annually,” said Kumpon.
For the past fifteen years, university laboratories have been creating cement-like replacements with crushed glass. While structurally sound, the concrete industry was hesitant to pursue this alternative to fly ash or slag due to the high expense of glass. KLAW now had two problems that could be solved with one solution. KLAW’s sterilized post-consumer glass could serve as the raw, supplementary cementitious material so desperately needed by cement producers. Thus, their product, Pantheon™, was born. With a little plastic baggie of Pantheon™ in tow, Kumpon visited local concrete and gravel supplier Barney & Dickenson to discuss his cost-effective way to increase the compressive strength of concrete mixes.
The team at Barney & Dickenson was intrigued and wanted to see more. Suddenly, Kumpon’s little baggie of Pantheon™ would need to expand.
If this isn’t impressive enough, it is crucial to remember that this equal parts engineering innovation and business ingenuity process occurred between classes and during holiday breaks throughout the academic semester. But starting an empire during college has its perks. Robert Lofthouse, Associate Professor and Chairperson of the Engineering Science & Physics Department, was in awe of Kumpon’s side venture and connected him to a college administrator. The administrator then encouraged Jacob to access the resources offered through SUNY Broome’s floor at the Koffman Southern Tier Incubator, a collaborative workspace for entrepreneurs and startups. KLAW Industries found its first home. With the support of the Koffman Incubator, KLAW industries began to raise capital funding through grants. To date, KLAW Industries has leveraged over $1.24 million in grant funding. (Most notably, a recent award of $500k from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.)
Before seamlessly transferring to Binghamton University, Kumpon had one more SUNY Broome class he desperately wanted to experience. Like his sister and his cousin before him, Jacob wanted to participate in SUNY Broome’s beloved global service-learning course, Health for Haiti. A team of SUNY Broome faculty, staff, and students traveled to rural Grande Saline, Haiti, to provide holistic community development through health care, education, and clean water and solar energy resources. For ten days, Kumpon assisted a team with maintaining and troubleshooting a clean water system to support the community of Grande Saline. The experience was transformative.
“My time in Haiti solidified my hope to keep sustainability at the forefront of all of our endeavors. I was so honored to be included in the Health for Haiti course and will always appreciate this experience and the people that I was able to meet,” shared Kumpon.
With engineering degrees under their belts and a prototype of Pantheon™ ready to expand, the young men of KLAW Industries needed physical room to grow. Armed with a Broome County parcel map, grant funding, and a little bit of brute force, Kumpon began knocking on doors in search of a commercial space in the area. He stumbled upon a property on Griswold Street on the east side of Binghamton that perfectly matched their needs in order to scale Pantheon™.
While KLAW Industries is always looking to expand markets, they are most proud of moments where Pantheon™ can be used to sustainably support their backyard. Through a partnership with the City of Binghamton in 2022, Pantheon™ was used in the City’s massive curb and sidewalk upgrade project. Kumpon spent a lot of time beaming as he worked alongside the concrete teams in the field to ensure quality and success.
Though the past few years have been non-stop for Kumpon, he ardently believes that timing the development of KLAW Industries during college was a huge factor in its success.
“The best time to start a company is while you are in college. There are so many resources for student entrepreneurs. Specifically, there are hundreds of national competitions with large grant prizes solely designated for college student startups. If you have an idea for a business while you are in college, don’t hesitate to pursue it,” encouraged Kumpon.
Has the story of KLAW Industries inspired you to start your own business? Connect with SUNY Broome’s Entrepreneurship Assistance Center! The EAC offers a 60-hour program with one-on-one support for new entrepreneurs.
Read more encouraging and inspiring stories about SUNY Broome’s current and past students in the latest edition of BROOME Magazine!