We're getting ready to celebrate 14 years of Botanical PaperWorks this May, and so I thought I'd recount the story of how it all got started and how I went from working in a pharmaceutical company to running this great company.
Today is also International Women's Day, so it seems fitting to talk about becoming a woman entrepreneur and what that's meant to me and my family. So to begin...
It was the mid 1990's and I was working in marketing and business development at a pharmaceutical and biotech company in my home town. I pretty much enjoyed my job, or rather I really loved certain aspects (traveling internationally, speaking French, working with overseas distributors) and I really hated other parts (internal politics, long hours, pressure to sell more product because of an always elusive, maybe-next-month IPO).
At that time, my Mom was an elementary-school teacher who loved art and crafts. To set the stage, this was a time before recycling, before reducing and reusing. My Mom looked at the pile of garbage that left the class each day and became fed up with the mountains of paper that her students discarded, mostly unused. She decided that something had to be done and during her research, she stumbled on papermaking as a way to recycle the paper back into paper.
Using supplies from home, my Mom created a rudimentary papermaking set and incorporated papermaking activities into her language arts curriculum. With her help. the students made their own paper, bound the handmade sheets into a book and filled the book with their original creative writings - poems and stories of their own creation. The finished piece was very special and she still runs into students today who fondly remember those handmade paper books.
Around that time, I got engaged and I asked my Mom to make the wedding programs out of handmade paper. They were lovely and lots of people asked about where we had got them from. My Mom and I started saying things like "These were really popular, I wonder if we could sell them" and "Maybe we could make a business out of this".
But I was a busy newlywed, establishing my career and traveling to far-off places, and I didn't have time to fantasize about starting a business...