Entrepreneurs are like gardeners. A gardener can plant a seed of a creative idea and over time a seedling begins to sprout and reaches toward the sun. With the proper mix of a green thumb, ample sweat of the brow, and fertilizer, a gardener can turn that little seed into a thriving flowers patch and enjoy the fruits of her labour for many years to come. Despite our frosty climate, Winnipeg is a city of gardeners that have planted and grown many successful businesses over the years. I’d like to share a story about one such gardener whose business is literally blooming.
In 2000 Heidi Reimer-Epp, a graduate of the I. H. Asper School of Business and an international businesswoman in the pharmaceutical industry, and her mother Mary Reimer, an elementary school Language Arts teacher, started with the seed of an idea. Both women were entrepreneurial, eco-conscious, paper experts and were in the middle of writing a book entitled “300 Papermaking Recipes” that described methods for embedding flower petals and stalks in the paper itself. The question arose whether seeds could be embedded in paper products and actually be planted and grown. There was only one way to find out. The two planted an experimental batch of “seeded” paper and waited. A handful of days later the paper began to sprout! Heidi and Mary had created plantable paper. The seed of the idea had sprouted and the gardeners decided to grow their new business, Botanical PaperWorks.
Market acceptance of their product came quickly as five local retailers placed orders for their unique plantable paper. The Internet was just beginning to take hold in 1997 and through Botanical PaperWorks simple website consisting of only three pages, they began to export to the United States. E-Commerce and international expansion has been a key element of Botanical PaperWorks strategy ever since.
Design and manufacturing began in the home basement, but as demand rapidly outstripped production the operation was moved to an office at Portage Avenue and Smith Street in downtown Winnipeg, and later to the Exchange District where the company exists today. The game was always one of catch-up. As demand increased, production capacity was upgraded to fill the demand and then marketing had to be increased to drive demand to fill the excess capacity created by the production upgrade. Through their use of post-consumer waste from school and businesses Botanical PaperWorks prevents over 10 tonnes of waste from going to the landfill every year.
Today, Botanical PaperWorks is the world-leading producer of eco-friendly paper products that grow into flowers or culinary herbs when planted. With the help of their 30 employees, the company exports its diverse product line, from wedding invitations to calendars, to 30 countries across the globe. Their client list is a who’s who of Fortune 500 companies including Starbucks, Sony and Toyota and they have also produced paper for Brad Pitt, Martha Stewart and the Whitehouse. Botanical PaperWorks is regularly featured in Martha Stewart, Fast Company, the Wall Street Journal and the Huffington Post. And, if that weren’t enough, both Heidi and Mary are published authors with 3 books on paper making to their credit.
Heidi and Mary, thank you for planting the Botanical PaperWorks seed in the often frost covered ground of Winnipeg and showing the community that with passion, hardwork and the right resources you grow that seed into a garden that spans the globe!
For more information on Botanical PaperWorks, please visit www.botanicalpaperworks.com
Scott McCulloch is the Community and Alumni Relations Manager at the University of Manitoba and a member of the Yes! Winnipeg volunteer team. If you are interested in becoming a Yes! Winnipeg volunteer, please fill out the volunteer survey.
This posting was written by a member of the Yes! Winnipeg volunteer team. For more information on how you can get involved with the Yes! Winnipeg initiative, please contact our volunteer coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org