IN THE EARLY 1990s, Mary Reimer, an elementary school teacher in Winnipeg, watched in dismay as her students chucked mountains of perfectly good paper into the garbage. She soon incorporated papermaking – grinding up scraps of discarded paper with water in a blender to make fresh paper – into her language arts curriculum, encouraging kids to create lovely keepsake books for their poems and stories. Before long, she and her daughter Heidi Reimer-Epp, a recent marketing graduate, turned a quirky hobby into a serious business. “We’d always done crafting projects together when I was growing up,” recalls Heidi. “My mom’s good at coming up with ideas and I’m good at implementing them, so it was a natural partnership.”
In 1997, the two women launched Botanical PaperWorks, collecting post-consumer waste from local schools and businesses and recycling it into handcrafted stationery products. Two years later, while writing their first book, 300 Papermaking Recipes, they began adding leaves and flowers into their paper. Then came their ‘a-ha’ moment.
“It was a short leap in our thinking: if we could put flower petals and leaves in, why not try the seeds?” says Heidi, who spent the next few years developing proprietary processes to make and preserve seeded paper. Instead of tossing out a wedding invitation after opening it, people could simply pop it into some soil, where it blooms into snapdragons and poppies.
“We’re the only company of this kind and size in Canada producing this paper product,” says Heidi, adding that her mother’s early interest in recycling meant Botanical PaperWorks was ideally placed when eco-friendly trends came along. “Ten years ago, we were trying to source packaging that was bio-degradable or compostable, and there was nothing,” says Heidi. “Now, we can get what we want. It’s so wonderful to see the industry catching up.”
By 2000, Botanical PaperWorks was turning a profit and today, it boasts a staff of 30 and a stellar client list that includes Starbucks, TLC/Discovery, Sony and Time Warner. Heidi, her mother and sister-in-law Toni Reimer run a small storefront in their production facility, as well as a busy online venture.
Some popular plantable products include confetti, herbed wedding favours and thank you notes for brides; seeded baby shower invitations and birth announcements, an eco-calendar, and a corporate line of business cards, tags and postcards.
Wedding favours start at 75 cents each, while stationery items cost between $15 and $25. An order of 200 wedding invitations (including RSVP cards and thank-you notes) runs into several thousand dollars. “Some of our big corporate clients order tens of thousands of dollars of product at a time,” says Heidi.
Their products are also available at retailers across North America and in Belgium, Greece, the Netherlands and Mexico.
For more information visit botanicalpaperworks.com.
Published in ParentsCanada magazine, May 2010