Switch to stonepaper!
We use paper every day, everywhere. All of it is made out of wood and the production of paper consumes large amounts of water. When Anne van Eijsden (29) found a more sustainable paper production method, she knew this would become her enterprise. On The Rocks now sells notebooks from ‘stonepaper’ at multiple places in Europe. Anne’s dream is to become the sustainable alternative for paper from wood, and I asked her about her experience changing the paper industry.
Growing up in a family of entrepreneurs, Anne had always wanted to start her own company. Thanks to her growing interest in sustainability, stonepaper took her attention. In a factory in Taiwan, stone was used as raw material for making paper. After making a single dummy book, she was ready to convince her customers-to-be. This turned out to be a bit more difficult than she thought, however. Most people don’t see any problems with the current paper industry and Anne had a tough job making people believe in her product. Paper from stone? Sure, but why?
Anne’s first lesson about making a change is to use your network. Anne asked people she knew to become ambassadors for her project. People who believed in her and who, by becoming part of On The Rocks, bring along their network as well. Slowly, more orders for the ‘rockbooks’ came in. “You need to be stubborn and posses perseverance if you want to succeed,” Anne told me. “Friends will tell you that you’re crazy and you need to invest a lot of time.”
Since stonepaper is something no one has ever heard of before, Anne brings the books with her everywhere she goes. Here comes Anne’s second lesson: Always bring the prototype of your product, and in the early stages of your career, give away your product for free. Sometimes she would go to a conference to speak about stonepaper, and people would show up with a rockbook they got somewhere for free! One of her ambassadors even told her that, in the first year, she had to give more books away for free than she sold.
Next to giving away the rockbooks to make people familiar with stonepaper, Anne always delivers all the books herself. By dropping by everywhere and showing your face, more people get to know you and you can keep in touch with your customers. After living in Berlin for some time, she has now returned to Holland to work for On The Rocks fulltime. Anne is visiting lots of events, contacting people and redesigning her project. She truly believes in stonepaper and hopes to become the sustainable alternative for paper from wood. And even though stonepaper is already more sustainable than regular paper, it is still not perfect; Anne is very clear about that. “Stonepaper can currently be disposed of as plastic waste, but we want to collect the paper separately in the future. If we can manage that, it could be fully recycled and become a truly circular product.”
Anne showed me that you need to be active in contacting others, that you should reach out to your customers to show your belief in the initiative, and that your personality can play an important role in your success. Anne believes in stonepaper, and now I do as well.
Sure, But How?
- Use your network
- Give away your product for free
- Go everywhere personally and show people who you are
- Be stubborn!