Heidi Reimer-Epp - CEO and Co-founder of Botanical PaperWorks
Based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and an employer of 50 people, Botanical PaperWorks are manufacturers of seed paper that grows
Experience in the manufacturing sector:
Making a difference:
Reimer-Epp is making a difference on several fronts. First, using her paper products mean people are not using plastic, which is helping the environment. From wristbands to notepaper to wedding invitations, all of which can be planted, Reimer-Epp’s products create new habitats for many species, including pollinators, such as bees and butterflies.
In addition, she has structured flexible work hours for her employees, many of whom are new Canadians who are able to work in clean, safe, manufacturing environment.
She mentors other women entrepreneurs as she tries to normalize the idea of women in manufacturing.
How she does it:
Reimer-Epp thought she was headed into banking. Her mind was changed after she spent a summer, just before her last year of her Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Manitoba, at a manufacturing company. She fell in love with what she describes as the “physicality of manufacturing” – walking through the plant, the smells and the sights and being able to see actual products being created.
In 1997, Reimer-Epp took an entrepreneurial leap. With her mother, Mary, an elementary school teacher who saw too much paper and construction paper being wasted in the classroom, an idea was sparked to make their own paper. Her mother had learned about papermaking, and Reimer-Epp jumped into the marketing role.
They took five samples to stores in Winnipeg and told themselves that if three out of the five placed orders, they were in business. They got orders from five out of five.
“I think it’s very satisfying having something tangible in your hands. I find that so much of our lives are in our heads and our thumbs on our devices. So having a job where we have a plant, you can walk around, you see people making things, you look at the products and you discuss and design … I really like that because so much of the rest of my life is in my head, sitting at a desk.”
Advice for your younger self:
“I think I would have said, ‘You are on the right track. This is the right track – you go for it.’ “
Reimer-Epp also wants others to know, especially young women, that there are choices: “Entrepreneurship is a fantastic career because you can create your own reality. In terms of coming up against glass ceilings in other traditional corporate environments, once you step off the track and stop fighting that, then you can go and create your own success. Especially for women entrepreneurs, you create all of the freedoms for yourself in terms of how you spend your time, where you put your money, who you spend time with and how you live your purpose.”
Outside of work:
Reimer-Epp likes to run; she likes to travel, and also spend time at the family cottage. She’s an avid reader, and into rug hooking and knitting.
Favourite podcast and book:
Reimer-Epp listens to the Inside Strategic Coach, a podcast for entrepreneurs, and for other leaders, she recommends the book, Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High. “Business is all about having difficult conversations. If you can master them, that’s your superpower,” she says.