This is a follow up story for Paper Saver. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published over 3 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
My husband Jon and I started the Paper Saver as a side hustle - a reusable notebook designed to reduce waste by repurposing your used paper as pages to write your notes. The idea came to us as Jon works as an architect and is always printing draft designs for review, only for the paper to become obsolete almost immediately afterward, as soon as changes are made.
With his conscience pounding him, and the blank sides of the used paper begging to be better utilized before recycling, he designed the Paper Saver Reusable Notebook to easily and conveniently reuse all his paper, in an organized and stylish way.
As awareness of the need to address the sustainability of our environment continues to grow, we are all becoming more conscious of the impact of our everyday habits and lifestyle.
Our customers are these eco-aware consumers - not necessarily eco-conscious - just doing a little bit more when they can to reduce our waste and consumption habits, without compromising on what they’re used to already - something well-designed and eco-friendly at the same time. Hence, the Paper Saver Reusable Notebooks come in three styles in different colors:
- Classic (premium vegan leather covers available in five colors)
- Sparkle (canvas covers in two colors)
- Leather (genuine leather in one color)
We have also added accessories to accompany the Paper Saver Reusable Notebooks, such as an Organizer and Reusable Pens - all to write and organize in a sustainable, reusable way.
We decided to re-focus and re-invest in growing our business at the start of this year, and in the last 6 months alone, we have seen our sales increase by 469%; our website conversion rate is also up 126%.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to. Has the business been growing?
We made the conscious decision to re-invest in the business around 8 months ago - after burnout and disappointment from my day job, and I wanted the flexibility back for a work-life balance.
In the last 6 months through our online store alone, we have seen our sales increase by 469%; our website conversion rate is also up 126%. We’ve scored new wholesale customers organically as a direct result as well not only within Australia where we have focused our efforts but even in Iceland! We were so excited to have Paper Savers sent to a whole new country!
To increase website traffic and sales, I invested in a business consultancy agency that coached me through the fundamentals I needed to better understand my eCommerce business. It was amazing to see my business through a whole new set of lens, and through the wonderful team, I updated and optimized my website to be more search friendly; added more automated email flows to my database and understood better how to improve my social media ads to optimize conversions.
Seek help no matter how well you think you’re doing, the advice of someone looking into your business from a fresh perspective and different set of lenses always adds a breath of fresh air.
Since re-focusing on the Paper Saver and making these improvements, I have also been able to hire a social media manager to take over my organic content. It has freed up my time to focus more on other needs of my business (and social media is not my strength!).
Despite all the iOS updates, we have been able to ride through these and still manage the growth we have achieved which I attribute a large proportion to social media advertising. This was purely through my business coach and learning to better understand how these channels work to bring in the sales I needed.
Paid advertising on social media is still a very worthwhile channel to utilize to bring in sales from both new and existing customers. I also found it very interesting to note that Facebook is still a very relevant platform - 69% of my sales that come through social media come from Facebook.
We also just launched the Paper Saver Reusable Pens. If I’m going to be serious about my business, it was time to expand the product range, and reusable pens are the perfect accompaniment to reusable notebooks! We just launched yesterday (at the time of writing), and have had a strong response already from our community.
What have been your biggest challenges in the last year?
Understanding what worked in the past, i.e. working solo and relying on my business and marketing experience alone, and acknowledging that I needed someone external to help my business grow, was a challenge in itself. Finding and hiring a consultancy agency would also obviously be a large expense, but it was a necessary expense, and looking back now, it was worth every penny. It has taken my business to a whole new level.
Now and then, I do doubt myself whether I can take my business to the next level - seeing the overall results of the last 6 months is rewarding, but there are daily struggles when you have a slow day, or when quotes or business pitches I send out don’t come through. I tend to take it extra personally because the business is so close to my heart, but business is business and you have to take your learnings and move on each time.
Connect yourself with other like-minded people and find an entrepreneurial-spirited community that cheers you on no matter what with the right advice.
I’m also a mum to two young kids, and choosing to have my own business for the flexibility, yet to grow it, has meant consistent late nights working. I try to give myself time off over the weekend because otherwise, I will burn out. Even working till late Mondays to Fridays is very tiring, so this is hard, but a choice I made so that I can be there at school for morning drop-offs and afternoon pick-ups.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
Accepting that I needed help to take the business to new heights by getting a business consultant is my biggest lesson. As a marketer by trade, I thought I knew everything - but I don’t. That’s why in organizations, you have teams and not soloists. I needed the views and expertise of other people as well.
My business consultant also helped me prioritize and find my strengths and weaknesses. I was spending 10 hours a week getting content for organic social media - while essential, but something that didn’t directly bring in sales, nor was it my strength to take beautiful photos and write captivating copy. Hence, I outsourced it and can now focus more on other strategic needs of my business, which are my strengths.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
The Paper Saver aims to inspire customers to see how easy to turn everyday items that are normally single-use disposable items into reusables, for a more sustainable world.
In the next 12 months, I see my marketing efforts for Paper Saver continuing to be focused primarily on Australia. Within the next 5 years though, I would love to expand my efforts to the USA and Canada where we have a small customer base, but they deserve more attention from us!
The range for the USA is much smaller than what is available for Australia and most of the world as we all use A4-sized paper (8.25 x 11.75 inches or 210 x 297mm), while you guys use letter-sized paper (8.5 x 11 inches or 216 x 279mm)!! As our customer base is smaller in the USA and Canada, we can’t quite justify having a wider range of colors for you just yet, but we would love to when the demand is there :) Seeing our success so far in Australia, I don’t doubt for a second that we can see similar success in these two countries!
What’s the best thing you read in the last year?
My business consultant agency had a mindset coach, who I met and introduced me to the idea of a “mindset upgrade”, and how to manage a positive mindset consistently in the long term. You have to learn to genuinely believe in yourself, overcome the overwhelm, and persevere consistently. This mindset idea is also discussed in the book, “Mindset” by Carol Dweck.
Also, for the one-third of you out there who are introverts - I’m also actually an extroverted introvert - I love the company of my family and friends, but I also need my downtime to myself to focus and calm down. Now and then, I wished I was more extroverted to feel more confident about networking myself for new business opportunities.
But then, this TedTalk by Susan Cain about the power of introverts, which I have watched so many times pops up again on my YouTube recommendations, as though to remind me. Please watch this if you are an introvert, or even if you’re an extrovert! To quote Keanu Reeves: “I hate when people ask me, ‘Why are you so quiet?’ Because I am. That’s how I function. I don’t ask others, ‘Why do you talk so much?’ It’s rude.”
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
Seek help, especially if you are running the business solo, in the form of a business consultant or mentor - no matter how well you think you’re doing, the advice of someone looking into your business from a fresh perspective and different set of lens always adds a breath of fresh air.
I’ll also be forever grateful to the network of other small businesses I’ve built through my business consultant’s community - it helps so much to know there are other people like me with similar issues and challenges.
My close friends are wonderful and have always been supportive of my business, but because they don’t have their businesses, there is always a gap in how much they understand. They often nod, smile, and say some encouraging words, which is still much appreciated, but it makes such a difference to hear stories of what other entrepreneurs have experienced and rode through to success.
Surround yourself with people who believe in you and what you do with your business. Connect yourself with other like-minded people and find an entrepreneurial-spirited community who cheers you on no matter what with the right advice.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We just hired a brilliant social media specialist who is adding so much value to our content, and we are seeing our engagement increase as a result.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Paper Saver has provided an update on their business!
Over 2 years ago, we followed up with Paper Saver to see how they've been doing since we published this article.
About 1 year ago, we followed up with Paper Saver to see how they've been doing since we published this article.
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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