A year ago, Kareena and Jenny came into the co-working space I use for Do Good Jobs to test out their notebook designs, get feedback and validate their idea. Forward on one year and they have just listed a job on Do Good Jobs (woohoo!) to recruit a sales person to join their growing social impact enterprise – turning waste paper into beautiful notebooks.
I chatted with Kareena Harris and Jenny Buckler, the co-founders to hear about their journey.
What is Misprint all about?
Misprint is about re-purposing paper waste. We collect paper from business and schools and turn it into good-looking notebooks.
We’re about saving water, carbon emissions and waste from landfill while making awesome notebooks that are practical.
We’re also trying to create a close looped system within business to further enhance sustainability rather than just throwing single use paper into landfill.
How did Misprint come into existence?
We started it at Massey as part of the enterprise paper in our fourth year. We had to find a problem and come up with a design solution. We saw a lot of paper going into recycling bins around uni and thought there must be a way to use this. As designers, we’d often print out a concept that was a tiny square, yet took a whole piece of A4 paper. It was crazy because it was a perfectly good piece of paper that went in the bin. We did some dumpster diving and started out mulching the paper. But that didn’t work, it took three weeks to dry one piece of paper, and Jenny’s dog literally ate some of our assignment.
After that we started making notebooks with the designs already on the paper, direct from the recycling. Instead we focused on highlighting the designs we found on the existing pieces of paper and have the notebook tell a bit of a story.
Surprising people loved it. Over the past two years people have asked for more fun stuff in the notebooks, with some saying “this one’s too blank”. Our notebooks include designs, calibrations sheets, old donated charts, coloured paper and more.
Was does a social enterprise mean to you?
At Massey we first touched on the business model canvas and we kind of did some validation and research and focused on building a viable business. We got an A+ on the project and realised we could actually turn this into a business.
The overheads were so low that we could do it on the side, as we were making the books by ourselves. We spent the first six months doing this by hand and then went into the Lightning Lab, where we met with Wakefields Digital Printers who agreed to give us a sponsorship deal and to give our notebooks a more professional finish.
Through this accelerator programme we really honed our business model and learned more about financial and forecasting and all the things you need to create a viable business. That’s where we came up with the Ecoloop services, where businesses collect their own paper and get that turned into notebooks rather than us collecting paper from everywhere and then selling it. This has allowed us to keep growing.
What does social enterprise mean to Misprint?
For us, it’s about creating impact, while still being able to make profit to do more. We classify ourselves as a for-profit business with social and environmental impact at our core. We also don’t greenwash, we like to talk about how cool and fun our notebooks are, while in the background they are actually doing good things for the environment. The product speaks for itself.
What kind of things were important in your learning process?
Massey gave us a general view on business, and we learned how to validate and use the business canvas. In the Lightning Lab accelerator we learned things like break-even analysis, sales pipelines and channels to market. Lightning Labs was like a business degree in 3 months. It’s run by Creative HQ and it’s a programme for companies with ideas they have already started to validate. It offered lots of networking events to meet manufacturers, funders, product people and was a great way to build our networks and sales. Everyone gets a bit of seed funding as well.
We now sell about 800 books a month on average. We are recruiting a sales person too which we really hope will accelerate these numbers.
What has been your proudest moment so far?
When we were successful in our crowdfunding campaign last year in August raising $20,000 which was matched by $15,000 by Wellington City Council through the Low Carbon challenge.
It was amazing and meant we could take our business to the next level, and we could commit to it as a job. It was an intense process and was a good experience but exhausting!
What is the future for Misprint?
We have a really strong plan for the next 6 months. We’re going to get a really awesome sales person on board (through Do Good Jobs!). We are going to expand in Auckland and are also applying for a grant to create some customer-focused software. We’re also doing a re-purposing in schools project, creating a curriculum to be rolled out through Enviroschools as a way to teach students about the circular economy. We already work heavily with schools to collect their paper but are trying to make it more contextual for the students.
How do you keep a healthy work-life balance?
We are getting much better this year. We came back from our summer holidays and were both still exhausted. We are now working 9-5 wherever possible. We are also creating a fun card game about being in a start-up. Doing that for half an hour a day helps re-energise us too. Getting another person on board will also help a bit.
If someone wants to support you how can they contact you?
We sell online at misprint.co. We also have resellers at Sustainability Trust and Vic Books and if people want to be part of our re-purposing services, they can check out our website to get a box to put beside their printer to collect paper waste.
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