With all that’s going on in the world, a local wrapping paper company is bringing you your “Wrappily” ever after–especially this holiday season. We talked story with our own Sara Smith, founder of Wrappily (Cohort 4), whose business idea blossomed from her passion for sustainability in the islands. The Maui mama of two has grown her business exponentially since she mustered up the courage to start her own business after a humble and surprising win at Startup Weekend Honolulu in 2013.
Today, Wrappily is still headquartered in Kula, Maui where Sara and her team handle marketing, fulfillment and some operations, while its products are milled, printed and packaged production in Washington state (an ethical decision made to scale her business and achieve the shortest supply chain possible). Read our Q&A with her to learn more about what ignited her passion for sustainability, plus she even shares creative tips on how to use Wrappily goods during the season of giving!
Mana Up (MU): How did you get the concept for eco-friendly wrapping paper?
Sara Smith (SS): I was at a time in my life where my friends and myself were getting married, having kids there were wedding showers, baby showers and other heavy gifting events. I found myself after every event, smoothing out ribbon, tissue paper and wrapping paper...It got overwhelming. I called around to recycling centers and no one recycled wrapping paper. It was a real burden and out of that was this idea that I wish wrapping paper was made at local newspaper printers.
MU: What made you start Wrappily?
SS: I had the idea but shelved it because I got married then had two babies, and a few years later at the encouragement of a friend on a Friday night, I flew to O‘ahu for Startup Weekend Honolulu. I came up with the name and pitch on the plane ride over. I thought of the idea that wrapping paper makes you happy so I came up with “Wrappily.” I won the whole weekend by having the best pitch! Although I didn’t receive anything, I got the courage to pursue my idea.
MU: You use newsprint for your wrapping paper. Can you share more about that?
SS: Newsprint is a very humble paper, and is a bit of a printing rockstar. The recycling stream doesn’t get contaminated [by it], and it doesn’t have glossy coating. The paper fiber can be recycled–newsprint can be recycled up to seven times! Wrappily is made with a premium newsprint that is whiter and a little thicker than your local newspaper.
MU: What about growing up in the islands has influenced your brand and designs?
SS: Being raised on an island is fuel to my passion for sustainability, without even rationally knowing it. I grew up in Lahaina and there used to be a landfill–it got full and closed, and I thought, “What?!” Being near our resource management and seeing it everyday...Wrappily wouldn’t have come about if it wasn’t for that reason.
To get patterns [for wrapping paper], I initially called people that I saw on Instagram or friends of friends to lend me some patterns or prints. I followed Jana Lam–she was so kind and open [to work with me]! Early on, Kealopiko was very supportive, and Andrew Mau was one of my very first artists. My prints started off as collaborations with local artists, and now I also work with artists all over the world from Argentina to the Netherlands and Japan.
MU: How does Wrappily ensure a better future for generations to come?
SS: I feel so heartened by the fact that consumers now are so much more aware and trained to ask questions about their products; there are consumers everywhere looking for eco-friendly household products. It drives me to want to explore more and the idea of using newspaper prints to print pretty patterns. Within the space of gift wrapping and party goods, how can we use more compostable materials? There's something they always say in Japan, which I love– “Will this go back to the earth?” I still have a lot to develop, and I’m just excited to bring more smart, sustainable products to market.
MU: How does Wrappily give back to the local community?
SS: During the holidays, I’m donating wrapping paper to the Salvation Army Angel Tree happening with the Maui Federal Credit Union. Families in need will receive the gift plus free wrapping paper. I also donate to different schools for their gift wrapping fundraisers, primarily around Christmas.
MU: What can we expect from Wrappily in the near future?
SS: We have a product development for a gift bag that’s been Wrappilified–it’s very on brand for us. I hope to have it out sometime next year!
Photo credit: Shiho Masuda of Paper Guru
MU: What are some fun ways that you can use Wrappily wrapping paper?
SS: You can wrap the whole box or do a band for a box, or you could use the paper as bows. There are different crafty things you can do with your wrapping paper. Since it’s reversible there are fun ways to use the two prints. If you’re giving a gift with two pieces, or even if you’re wrapping one large present.
MU: What do you encourage customers to do after unwrapping their gift?
SS: If it’s not ripped up or crumpled, you can reuse it. People’s lives are full, it would be great if you could put it in your recycling bin. At home we have a composting bin. People shred it and put it in their chicken coop. We burn it for our wood-burning stove. It’s a soy-based ink. People feed it to their worms. Newspapers are going to break down and biodegrade. Biodegrade in four to six weeks.
This holiday season until December 25, when you shop with us at House of Mana Up at Royal Hawaiian Center, you’ll receive three FREE sheets of Wrappily x Mana Up wrapping paper. Plus, when you shop our limited-edition Holiday Gift Sets, you’ll receive three FREE sheets of Wrappily x Mana Up wrapping paper. ‘Tis the season for gift-giving with aloha!
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