Botanical PaperWorks, The World’s Leading Supplier & Manufacturer of Seed Paper, Will Go Beyond Paper
Heidi Reimer-Epp, CEO, and co-founder of Botanical PaperWorks based in Manitoba, Canada, has a powerful quote on her desk at work that reminds her every day to see the impossible in a different light. A Walt Disney quote, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible,” motivated Heidi and her team when sustainability was not yet a thing over 25 years ago.
Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters named her one of the women in manufacturing making a difference. TrooRa magazine digs deeper into her leadership style in building Botanical PaperWorks from the past, present, and future and her views on running a business as a woman entrepreneur.
Planting a Small Seed idea in 1997
When Botanical PaperWorks was a startup, Heidi and her mom, as co-founders, went to a seminar at the Women’s Enterprise Centre called “Starting A Business.” When asked where they see themselves in 10 years, Heidi imagined that they saw their handmade paper company issuing its first IPO.
The audience thought that she was joking. She laughed along with the audience because it did look impossible to grow a startup to be publicly traded. Nevertheless, she was determined to become a self-sustaining and thriving business in 10 years.
Heidi was very honest about her dreams. She mentioned that the next 10 years were pure hard work, even to the point that it made her unwell. She said on her website, “I wasn’t a slave to the dream as much as I was a slave to the investment that we’d made in Botanical PaperWorks. To start a manufacturing company from scratch, one in which we were often inventing the equipment, was a huge, all-consuming challenge. A solid support system became vital. My parents, my husband, and my team were all committed to the task.”
“Over the last 25 years, we have created a company that employs over 40 people, makes a product by hand, uses waste inputs to create a product that leaves no waste, ships it all around the world, hires people from the local community, many who are newcomers to Canada or have barriers to employment. Botanical PaperWorks does it all profitably, year after year, within the context of a strong, stable, thriving company—Doing the impossible is fun!” Heidi shared with me about her entrepreneurship journey—a joyful one.
Leader of a Plantable Paper Maker
Looking back, Botanical PaperWorks was pioneering something new even before sustainable products were a conscious concept. Seed paper came to the co-founders’ minds. It is a plantable eco-paper made with post-consumer and post-industrial paper waste embedded with seeds.
Heidi explained in simple terms, “the process begins when the paper is planted in a pot of soil, the seeds grow, and the paper composts away. All that is left behind is flowers, herbs or vegetables, and no waste.”
The unique market positioning not only landed them as a supplier and manufacturer of plantable paper but also as the designer and printer of plantable paper products in Canada and across the world. Their products range from seal and send wedding invitations, eco-friendly wedding favors, seed paper business cards, bookmarks, greeting cards, memorial products, baby shower invitations, and so much more.
For more of their long list of offerings, the Botanical PaperWorks 2022 Catalog would give great insight into the magnitude of seed paper products to the world.
Botanical PaperWorks is unique compared to other seed paper companies. The company’s involvement with zero waste made with recycled materials, connecting people and the planet, supporting biodiversity, and becoming a certified women’s business enterprise has brought them to the center of sustainability.
Seed Paper being planted and watered
They have won more than 13 awards, including Best in Sustainability 2022 PPPC Awards and the Gold Award for Most Creative New Promotional Product 2018 PPPC Image Awards. More details can be found on their website. Botanical PaperWorks is also a diverse and inclusive company in employment.
Beyond Paper, Spillover as a Vegan Soap Maker
Sustainability is the cornerstone of Botanical PaperWorks. When the global pandemic happened, Heidi decided to look beyond her status quo. “At the start of Covid, I found myself thinking of ways to extend our support to customers beyond paper. We turned our product development attention to soap because it was a great fit with Covid times and all the hand washing we were all doing,” said Heidi.
She expressed that she loved the multi-sensory aspect of soap with the beautiful lather and scent. “And handmade vegan soap has many similarities to seed paper—it’s handcrafted, it’s appreciated by people who care about themselves and the environment, and it uses infrastructure that we already have in a place like our light manufacturing facility and skilled team. We use natural ingredients so that, like seed paper, you can feel good about its impact on the environment.”
As she looks ahead to 2023 and beyond, the company will add more natural products that touch the senses and contribute to sustainability and the circular economy. They recently added a line of beautiful handmade paper (with no seeds) and have other non-seeded products in their development pipeline as well.
Joyfully, Heidi explained, “I’m really excited about what’s coming in 2023!”
Heidi’s Advice on Women Entrepreneurship
Botanical PaperWorks is certified as a Women’s Business Enterprise by the Women Business Enterprises Canada Council (WBE Canada), Canada’s largest third-party certifier of businesses owned and operated by women. When asked to share her wisdom in her experience from over 30 years in the manufacturing industry, she noticed that many women entrepreneurs need to have total proof of concept before they launch a new product or service, whereas many male entrepreneurs will go ahead with launch and figure it out as they go. While there’s a balance to be achieved with enough prelaunch due diligence and post-launch iteration, waiting until something is perfect is a huge barrier to business success. Nothing is ever perfect, and the pursuit of perfection is a roadblock to business and personal growth. As women in business, we need to be bold and put our ideas, products, and services out there as quickly as possible, so that customer feedback comes quickly to drive continuous improvement.
“Along these same lines, I encourage women business leaders to join co-ed business organizations. Many women-centric organizations are doing good work, but in my experience, I grew up in my leadership when I was immersed in the Entrepreneurs Organization.” She observes that the diversity of leadership styles from both women and men was an education for which she will forever be grateful.
Another insight as an experienced female entrepreneur is seeing so many entrepreneurs fail when they run out of cash to grow or encounter an unexpected bump in the road and don’t have a cash buffer. She advises women to learn everything about strong financial management. She spoke about the need for hiring a team of accountants, bookkeepers, and advisors who will keep entrepreneurs laser-focused on building a strong financial foundation with strong financial processes.
“If you are a woman who grew up with a fear of money, do what you need to do to conquer that fear. Early on, to increase my knowledge and comfort and get over my money hangups, I hired my accountant to give me a couple of lessons on financial ratios where I could ask her anything that I wanted within a private, no-wrong-question environment.” Looking back, she is glad she did that because it was a big leap forward in her business capability to expand. Besides financial sense, she also mentioned that becoming a woman entrepreneur requires getting mentally strong and becoming a life learner, which she also mentioned in her interview with UM Today Alumni.
TROORA MAGAZINE | MAY 2023
WRITTEN BY NIZIE N. LOKMAN, FCIM
PHOTOS COURTESY OF HEIDI REIMER-EPP | BOTANICAL PAPERWORKS