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Asper Entrepreneur: Heidi Reimer-Epp

February 25, 2015 — 

Have you ever thought of starting a unique business that also saves our environment? Or structuring your business so that you leave a smaller carbon footprint? Or turning waste products into useful goods?

You may want to take a page from Heidi Reimer-Epp, president and co-founder of Botanical PaperWorks. The company is the world-leading producer of eco-friendly seed paper products that grow into wildflowers or herbs when planted. Botanical PaperWorks manufactures and sells stationery, invitations, wedding favors, and corporate and promotional products. All Botanical PaperWorks seed paper is made from post-consumer materials and helps keep unnecessary waste from reaching our landfills. The company also recently won two prestigious 2015 PPPC Image Awards in Toronto!

Heidi recently took the time to share her insights about being an entrepreneur.

What’s the best advice you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Make sure you have enough capital. Everyone says it takes more money than you expect to start a business, so take your projected needs and double that. Seriously, double it.

Get mentally strong. Starting a business tests you in ways you can’t imagine, in ways that the people around you won’t understand. To get mentally strong, implement good daily sleep and health habits. Find a business coach. Get some supportive friends.

Become a life-long learner. Entrepreneurship is one big learning journey, so create an enjoyable learning habit – books, videos, blogs, seminars, whatever way you learn best. Learn tactical skills like social media and finance; learn strategic skills like leadership and strategic planning. You’ll need these skills as the leader and as the coach of your team members.

Where did you graduate from? What was your major?

I graduated from the Asper School of Manager with a B.Comm (Hons) in Marketing.

What motivated you to become an entrepreneur?

At the time of starting Botanical PaperWorks, I was working for a biotech company in marketing and business development. My job was the perfect combination of numbers and people, the pairing that had drawn me to marketing in the first place. However, I dreamt of more.

I was completely motivated by the desire for freedom. I yearned for the freedom to call the shots, to craft a company that made me proud and to try out my big idea. Failure was very real possibility but that excited me. I was happy to say goodbye to office politics, to the changing whims of head office and to a sense of powerlessness as a junior employee.

Of course, I traded that all in for a company that sucked money for the first years, uncertainty with whether I could make a go of this and the tedium of working alone from my home office. Those early years were hard, but each step towards success was encouraging and very satisfying.

Tell us about one mistake you learned from the hard way.

In the early years, I’d receive advice from a trusted source (adviser, consultant, author, speaker) and go ahead and implement it without paying heed to the particular needs of my business. Now I know that just because someone says “This advertising outlet is going transform your business” or “This style of management is the only way to run a business”, I need to consider whether or not it applies to Botanical PaperWorks and if yes, how does it apply to our unique situation.

From these experiences, I developed a motto: “Learn from others, decide for yourself”. This motto reminds me to be open to new learning and then consider the relevance of its application before applying it to my company.

What’s the most important thing you do every day?

May I answer that first with the most important thing I do each week? Because it’s just as integral to the company’s success as what I do each day.

The most important thing that I do every week is check in on how the team is doing with achieving their quarterly goals. I only do this once a week for each manager because they don’t need me micro-managing them on a daily basis. During that weekly meeting, we review the quarterly goals and remind ourselves how they relate back to the annual goals. My job is to remove any barriers to taking the next steps in achieving the goals. I do a lot of listening and letting the manager tell me how I can help. After that, I get out of the way so they can be awesome.

On a daily basis, my most important thing is to spend the first 90 minutes of the day on Big Wins, my key projects that look out for the overall company and anticipate what’s needed next for future success. That’s my mission as President and CEO. And to have fun I’ve been in business long enough to know that I need to enjoy what I’m doing to stay motivated and interested.

Where do you see your business going in 2-5 years?

We will continue to grow our core product, seed paper, moving into new markets and expanding our product lines.

We’re also interested in using our extensive expertise in digital marketing, customer service and order fulfillment to partner with other businesses who have great designs and great products and need this type of expertise. The first of such partnership is with K.Barteski and we look forward to expanding this to other opportunities in the future.

Stay tuned for more Asper Entrepreneurs!

Find out more about the Stu Clark Centre for Entrepreneurship on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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