Heidi-Reimer Epp, CEO and Co-Founder of Botanical PaperWorks in a Q&A for Women's Entrepreneurship Day

Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Q&A with Heidi Reimer-Epp

This week, on November 19th, it’s Women’s Entrepreneurship Day. A time to celebrate women-led businesses, highlighting their successes and the obstacles they’ve overcome.

There’s no denying it: women-led businesses contribute a lot to the economy. The average Canadian women-led business made over $470K in 2018, according to a She’s Next: Empowered by Visa Report. Just over the border in the US, women-owned businesses collectively make $1.8 trillion per year. Yet, women are still largely underrepresented in high-level positions.

In 2019, less than 7% of CEOs in Fortune 500 companies were women.

That’s why it’s important to shine a light on women in business leadership. In this Q&A, Heidi Reimer-Epp, CEO and Co-Founder of Botanical PaperWorks, talks about how she started and grew her business. Botanical PaperWorks is a Canadian Certified Women Business Enterprise. Since its launch over 20 years ago, the company has grown and worked with customers and clients worldwide.

If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur looking for business advice, Heidi’s got a wealth of information for you.

Read on to draw inspiration and advice from her experiences!

Heidi Reimer-Epp, CEO and Co-Founder of Botanical PaperWorks working in her office.

When did you know it was time to launch your business?

We created a line of greeting cards and envelopes made out of our handmade paper. We said, we’re going to go to five stationery and gift stores in Winnipeg, and if three out of five placed an order, then that was going to be a good sign that we were on to something. Well, all five placed orders. So we took a hard look at what we were offering. We said this is something that consumers want and other store owners want. It’s time to make a go of this!

What motivates you as an entrepreneur?

As an entrepreneur, I’m really motivated to try new things and to experiment and grow. I love the quote by Walt Disney that says “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”

That’s exactly how I feel with Botanical PaperWorks. There were people at the beginning that did not think it was possible to scale a business with handmade paper. Then we created the seed paper concept and commercialized that to where we are today. I’m always motivated by what’s the next big thing we can try? What’s the next kind of impossible?

We decided to get into producing handmade soaps because it was a great product to go along with our seed paper for the promotional product industry where we do a lot of business. So a logo seed paper band around a beautiful natural handmade soap bar that we make at Botanical PaperWorks. At first, that seemed impossible. How would we scale that, get the expertise, and set that up?

The challenge is what I find energizing, as well as when I share that vision of growth or what’s next or impossible goal with the team. That the team gets excited as well and that a big goal forces us to think outside the box.

Heidi Reimer-Epp and Mary Reimer, Co-Founders of Botanical PaperWorks seed paper company in a field of wildflowers

Who was your biggest supporter when you started your business?

My mom because we co-founded the company together! My mom, Mary Reimer, had the idea for handmade paper in the first place because she was a teacher, and she was using papermaking in the classroom as a way to use up the paper waste that her students were producing.

When she was making the handmade paper and went on to make the wedding invitations for my wedding, and people loved them, she and I started talking saying “I think there might be a business idea here.”

My mom was there from that moment saying, “we can do this.” She let me take the lead, I have always been the CEO, but she was right there by my side, offering seed papermaking advice and encouragement. I couldn’t have done it without her!

A closeup on a woman scheduling and budgeting for a project

What advice would you give to women who are just starting their new business? 

I have lots of advice because I’ve learned a lot on this journey. First off, it’s really important to make sure that you have enough money to launch because it takes money to build a product line, or build a service, and it takes a while before the sales start to come in.

So doing a budget, doing a financial forecast and making sure that you got your own money, or investors, or bank loans, that you’ve got enough cash to survive the first months or years of launching this business is important. Then, I would take whatever you’re estimating and double it because it takes more than you think when you first start a business.

The next thing is surrounding yourself with a great group of people. My dad was also huge in the business because he’s an engineer. He was able to consult and build a lot of our early paper-making equipment. We were trying to scale from a small papermaking establishment to one that could make thousands, if not tens of thousands of sheets regularly. My friends and husband were also cheering me on and could provide business advice. When starting a business on your own, the focus is very much in the day to day. Having people that are in business that are good advisors that you can go to, that’s invaluable.

Why does the world need Women’s Entrepreneurship Day?

Women are still underrepresented in the business arena. I think it’s an important day to highlight the successes that we are seeing in women-owned businesses. It’s also a great time to really focus on the women scaling their businesses because there is freedom and an impact from getting to the 1 million dollar mark. We can really expand our impact in terms of being an employer in Canada, in terms of being leaders and having a seat at the table.

I have daughters, and I want them to see women in leadership, women in entrepreneurship. This day is important in celebrating, equipping, and highlighting all the things we want to do to encourage growth with women entrepreneurs in Canada.

We hope you gathered inspiration from Heidi’s business start-up story and advice. Take time today to support and show appreciation for other women in entrepreneurship!

seed paper business promotional products

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