Starter Series: Wrappily

Sara Smith reviews & interviews

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The Mamalode Starter Series is an exciting opportunity for us to introduce you to some of the amazing people we get to meet. Starting something takes enormous amounts of work, faith, help and community. Every week we'll share another story of starting. So, community of Mamalode, read up, get inspired and check out these wonder-folk.

Tell us a little bit about your business and how you started it.

Wrappily is a new concept in wrapping paper, we take great patterns and print them on 100% recyclable newsprint using local newspaper presses. Gift wrap accounts for nearly 4 billion tons of trash every year in the US alone. We hope to put a dent in that.

I originally had the idea five years ago. It’s inception was situational: I’d just left a demanding job of over eight years and I had no plan. My creative space was wide open. Simultaneously, it was a time when many in my peer group, myself included, were getting married and having babies. I was inundated with these heavy gifting events, showers, weddings, baby luaus (first birthdays are cause for big parties in Hawaii). The cumulative wrapping paper waste really burdened me. But, life got in the way. I had two kids and the idea was shelved. I assumed by the time I could get to it, someone would have already done it. Last year the idea, and the space to do it, appeared in a very strong, clear way. I couldn’t NOT act on it at this point.

To start, I’m printing and distributing in the islands. It’s been great using Hawaii as my beta market. The expansion plan is to duplicate this model in new markets as our economies of scale improve. At it’s core, Wrappily is all about creating a shorter, more localized supply chain. The concept of using newspaper presses to produce gift wrap comes down to the practicality that these presses are available just about everywhere. And of course, newsprint is so easily recycled everywhere, too. Stop and think about the resources consumed by conventional gift wrap printed in China then shipped around the globe. Multiply that times just about everything we use on a daily basis and it is ghastly! These goods are sold so cheap, but at such a great expense to the environment.

One of my early mentors warned, ‘prepare for a lot of painful personal growth.’ In reflecting on the last year, he couldn’t have been more right. The path of entrepreneurship is just a series of battling your own beasts, wether it’s insecurities, time management or inefficiency issues, or self-imposed limitations. All momentum is yours to make, but the rewards are yours, too. I actually see this escalating as the stakes get higher. I won’t lie—some days I think: Just kidding, I want to go back! Luckily, the second most surprising thing I’ve discovered is just how much help is out there. I’m continually amazed at how generous people are with their time and talent when they sense you are authentic and committed.

What do your kids think about your job?

My husband is a contractor and the kids have such a clear understanding of what he does: Daddy builds houses. Prior to launching Wrappily I was working in marketing and communications. The kids (ages 3 and 4) would ask what I do at work (have meetings! send emails! write letters!)—it was too abstract. Our conversations at the dinner table would taper off quickly when it came time for me to share the elements of my day. Now, at least, I have the paper—a tangible representation of my work. They get so excited when they see it at a store or being used somewhere. Christmas morning my son jumped up and down exclaiming, “Look! Santa uses Wrappily, too!” It was a wondrous moment.

Tell us about a total mom + biz fail.

Some of these moments are still pretty raw for me. Last November, I hustled to get Wrappily to market in time for the holidays. I did so by the skin of my teeth, launching the website on Thanksgiving and a crowd funding campaign two weeks later (seriously, what was I thinking?). The floodgate was opened, my phone was lighting up by the mili-second with notifications demanding my immediate response. I was soaring—until the social/parenting obligations of the holidays sent me into a fiery tailspin. My kids’ class Christmas party happened to coincide with one of the most stressful days of my life. As I sat there, I was one sideways glance or small-talk frivolity away from completely exploding of anxiety. (It must have been obvious because I was given a very wide berth!) I felt like such an ass, a bad cliche. My brain desperately cycled through all the familiar mantras, be present, be in the moment, enjoy the little things…but holy crap, I just needed to get out of there and back to work! I made it through and apologized to my kids later if I seemed “a little distant”…and then we repeated this scenario no less than five more times over the course of the month.

Share with us a total win (brag away!)

Back to said classroom, I was pink with pride when my daughter interrupted me to excitedly explain Wrappily to her friends and teachers. We’d decided to gift all the kids a pack of our Christmas Coloring Book wrapping paper, which is black and white on one side so kids can color it in themselves. She was so delighted to share the product and talked about it with such confidence and authority. It’s not like we’d been rehearsing, I was taken back by how much she’d been paying attention.

What's your relationship with Mamalode?

I’m a sympathizer, empathizer, sister-in-the-trenches, working mom hell-bent on doing it all. I get it; Mamalode gets us.

About the Author

Sara Smith

Entrepreneur, gardner, cook, mom, writer, hell-bent on doing it all, Sara Smith lives on Maui with her family. When she’s not wrangling her two kiddos, she’s hustling from her home office (or sneaking off to catch some waves.) She is founder and CEO of .

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