Growing Paper: Female entrepreneurs sowing the seeds of sustainable empowerment
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead
It may be odd for kindness to lie at the heart of a business, but this much is true of Growing Paper, a proudly South African company that produces 100% hand-made, recycled, plantable and biodegradable paper products that grow into beautiful living herbs, vegetables or flowers when planted.
When founder Roxanne Schumann started Growing Paper on her family farm at the foot of the Paardeberg with the help of school friend Nileta Knoetzen in 2010, their initial aim was to create a sustainable product that would contribute to upcycling culture and bring a little beauty into the world. Little did they know that Growing Paper would become a source of permanent employment for 30+ individuals and provide paid upskilling opportunities for countless more who would be equipped to pursue future job leads.
The idea for their recycled seeded paper products came about in 2009 when founder Roxanne was at a family wedding and started thinking about all the lovely stationery going to waste. She developed the idea with the help of Nileta, bought some second-hand paper-making equipment and set to work. Before long they were creating beautiful greeting cards and gift tags using post-consumer wastepaper, embedding it with seeds that grow into flowers, herbs or vegetables once it has been planted.
These days the close-knit Growing Paper family has grown to include Charmaine Nolte and Christel Wessels, who drive creative development, as well as Franza Knoetzen, who is in charge of administration. They are supported by a hardworking team of permanently employed men and women from the local community who create bespoke recycled paper products for various commercial and artistic applications. This includes everything from wedding invitations, business cards, flyers, bottle neck tags and bookmarks, to confetti, lanyards, coasters and clothing tags.
Entrepreneurship remains close to the hearts of the original founders; whose collective aim is to stay innovative and create even more jobs as Growing Paper expands and gains an even larger foothold in the local and international market. Their team is invaluable to their efforts, and providing secure employment and a living salary for their employees is an essential component of their value system. This includes ongoing training and life skills workshops, as well as placing people in positions that they enjoy so they can excel in what they do.
Growing Paper also offers artists the opportunity to get their work printed on recycled seeded paper, enabling the receiver of a card to frame the front and plant the back to grow flowers, herbs or vegetables. This has led to amazing collaborations with the likes of Willie Schlechter, Marisa Du Toit, Anja Stoeckigt, Lize Beekman and Gemma Orkin.
They say in a world in which you can be anything, you should choose to be kind, and this is what Growing Paper is all about – being kind to the environment, the community and the strong, beautiful people that form a part of it.