Papersac — standing firm against the giants in the drinking straw market

BY KELLARAY MILES
Business reporter
milesk@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, October 20, 2019

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Operating for just a little over 10 months, Papersac aims to stand firm and grow in the Jamaican drinking straw market.

The indigenous, eco-friendly company was started by The University of the West Indies (UWI) students Jahnoy Rutty, a geography major, and Jason Evans, who is studying law. The duo believe their company, through the products they offer — in particular their “not easily melted” straws — will be a game changer and product leader in the market.

Since the ban on plastic by the Jamaican Government late last year which took effect earlier this year, these young men, who said they have done the necessary market research and have taken account of the numerous complaints from fellow students on campus, have gotten to work in creating a finished product which they say will provide a solution to melting paper straws.

“The business was started as an opportunist venture. Sighting the plastic ban and its repercussions, we decided to take action in such a way that it may benefit not only us, but the wider Jamaica,” Evans stated.

The entrepreneurial duo also noted that outside of the straws, they also offer other eco-friendly products such as paper bags and cups, which were what they initially started the business with.

“I went to a popular mini mart on campus, while living on hall and they had no bags to give their customers — and that's when the idea to supply paper bags came in. We later moved on to paper straws when everyone was complaining about the current situation with the melting / soggy straws that are currently on the market,” Evans said.

Both Evans and Rutty said that careful thought was given to craft a design that would give them a finished product which would be strong and could stand up to competition.

“We did our research and ran our tests and came up with a solution to the problem with viable, water-resistant straws”, they said.

When the Jamaica Observer checked in with the young entrepreneurs at their home and distribution point in Kingston, they conducted what they said was a “hot water test” to provide a real-life demonstration and to prove the product's durability, during which the straws did manage to maintain posture and firmness after being doused with hot water.

“You can also leave this straw in your drink overnight and wake up in the morning and still use your straw. That doesn't mean that if you squeeze the straw, as it's paper, it won't bend. In fact, if you leave it in water or juice overnight and take it out for like five minutes, it re-hardens and maintains its shape and all,” Rutty added.

In speaking with Sunday Finance, they said that the straws are made from special paper, using a special method, which is the secret as to why their product has superior qualities, especially when compared to the “other regular straws” circulated on the market.

Noting that the straws are manufactured by an overseas company, contracted by them, and utilise an exclusive design, the young entrepreneurs cite their straws as being the “best of the best”.

“We didn't use any biochemicals or anything that will be harmful to the body. The product sells itself. It is the most incredible straw on the market; feedback from customers who have used our products are pleased with the straws being offered, as they are not melting, which is what drove us to do this. Prior to now they were complaining about the straws that existed, which were melting,” Rutty further stated.

They have also indicated that their aim is to acquire much-needed capital so as to be able to purchase their own production equipment and commence production locally. They believe that this will be very useful in allowing them to operate a fully functional and profitable business going forward; one in which they will be able to provide employment opportunities for other Jamaicans.

Citing lack of support among one of their biggest challenges, the duo hopes to get the larger Jamaican population to buy into their product, also hoping for the business bias and fraternisation to end.

“The avenue has been hard to get into the wider market, as we have to first get through to purchasing managers. A lot of the time when we leave samples with these purchasing managers, their feedback is that they are not getting complaints from customers about the straws they have been using or that they already have a supplier. This is sometimes disheartening, but we won't be daunted as we understand that there must be challenges. We will however continue to remain confident, as we know that we are only ones with this type of straw on the market so far,” Rutty also expressed.

“We want to get into the popular franchises such as Tastee, KFC, Burger King and all the others — even the hotel markets — but firstly, we just have to get that avenue to get through to them. For a start -up business, we are already challenging the giants in the industry. If companies want their brands on the straws, we can have that done,” he further stated.

Evans indicated that currently the business' main customers include grocery stores, restaurants (mostly Chinese), gas stations and commissaries on hall at the UWI.

Starting the business with a loan from their parents, the Papersac duo, who pride themselves as country youths wanting to do it big in town, Evans (a Munroe old boy) and Rutty (a Cornwall College old boy) said their aim is to dominate the market.

They expressed confidence that their business, if given the right support and development, will grow into an eco factory, giving much-needed service and quality products to the people of Jamaica.


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