Twenty-seven thousand trees globally are used each day to manufacture toilet paper. Ecoware founder James Calver, now owner and co-founder of Ecoroll, discusses starting a business in the hopes to change that, and shares his best advice for others looking to break into the world of business.
What does your business do?
Ecoroll is a tree-free alternative to toilet paper, which uses bamboo fibre, subscription-based delivered to your door. We launched the business a couple of months ago to combat two of the world's biggest environmental threats, which are deforestation and plastic pollution. We've created a tree-free product that is also plastic-free, with the goal to revolutionise the toilet-paper industry.
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At the moment, we have one product, that we've launched with and have had a pretty overwhelming response. In the last two months we've seen double digit growth month-on-month. A lot of the sales are coming from our website. So far, around 40 per cent of our sales are subscription-based.
What was the motivation for starting it?
I have two children. The subscription model was derived in my head from getting caught short at home, not just on nappies, but toilet paper and those essentials that you tend to run out of at the worst of times. I thought there had to be a better way to do it whereby being a subscription model we can forecast the number of people in a house and predict when the next toilet paper box would be required. With the global crisis, the purpose was to give people choice and use a brand that's better for the environment.
Is this your first business?
I originally founded Ecoware, a sustainable plant-based food packaging brand almost a decade ago. You can have a positive impact and change the world was something I took from that business to Ecoroll when I created it.
It took you three years to build Ecoroll prior to launch, talk me through that and the most time-consuming part.
Does this company have the answer to fast fashion's decline?
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The biggest thing was product development. I wanted to create a transparent and authentic supply chain, and I did this through using the Forest Stewardship Council's first-ever companies certified carbon-zero, so we basically manage and monitor all of our emissions associated with business activity right down to courier delivery. I joined up with the FSC to create bamboo pulp used to make our toilet paper, it is manufactured in China in our production facility. I went through a couple of different manufacturing facilities.
You always think something will take less time to create than it does. What I've learned from doing this is that the idea of timeframe you have it should be doubled - if not tripled. The reality is you're always going to come across road blocks and issues. Having started a business previously, I was aware of the importance of brand, and I really wanted to get that perfect. You are only as good as your product so I spent a lot of time developing that, right down to the textures on the paper and the way it tears apart.
What markets are you looking to expand into?
Australia is the obvious one. Britain has expressed some interest, and through Europe. Everybody talks about the United States, but I think as I build the product range we'll start to identify viable options. We're already getting quite a bit of interest from global distributors from our strong social media platform.
What are your long-term plans for the business?
We've launched with our two-ply bamboo toilet roll and I've got quite immediate plans to expand our toilet paper offering; three-ply and hopefully move into commercial jumbo rolls. From there, there are obvious channels around tissues for at home and paper towels we'd like to create. In terms of the tissue market, anyone who is using trees as its manufacturing input is where we want to move into. There are 27,000 trees per day being used globally to manufacture toilet paper. Bamboo can be harvested annually compared with 20 to 30 years for a toilet-paper tree, so it pays to make the transition.
What advice do you give to others thinking about starting their own business?
If you believe in it, you can do it. There's nothing that is impossible in this world. If you have the passion to do it then the world is your oyster.