Paper Not Foil - The Dunedin Startup Changing Salons Everywhere

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New Zealand salons use enough tin foil to wrap around the earth once ever year. That’s 40,075 km. Extrapolate that internationally and there is a devastating global waste problem worth solving.

Paper Not Foil is a Dunedin based startup tackling this global problem, one salon at a time. Their sustainable alternative is made of construction waste stone and is reusable, recyclable, compostable and saves you money. This week we sit down with Paper Not Foil co-founder, Amanda Buckingham.


Was there a particular moment of frustration or an a-ha moment in which you came up with the idea for Paper Not Foil? What was that moment like?

While going through our rubbish bins in the salon I realised we were using 2km of tinfoil a month. This was all being thrown into the landfill. Even if it was recycled, it still required using high carbon emissions, toxic fumes and toxic dross to recycle and manufacture.

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What is the most common question you get asked about Paper Not Foil?

“Can you reuse it? Because that would be amazing!”

Of course the answer is yes!

What’s the most common mistake or misconception people have about Paper Not Foil?

That it is made from trees. It’s actually made of waste construction material (mostly stone). No trees felled here!

If you could recruit one famous person to Paper Not Foil right now, who would you recruit? Why?

David Attenborough! He’s so awesome. I love how his documentaries draw people in to listen and the amazing photography and videography.

Maybe he could do a documentary on Paper! I’d better hurry up though as he is getting older ;)

What has been the most frustrating part of building Paper Not Foil?

Pricing and distribution contracts, everyone wants something for nothing and on their terms. It’s a mind game sometimes.

If you could time-travel – what advice would you give yourself about starting Paper Not Foil?

Get your company values and processes in place before you start, spend hours on your value proposition and business plan - they’re worth their weight in gold. Read, learn, investigate who you are, where you’re going, who your client is and how you will exit.

Is there a particular action, thought or idea you remember as being crucial to your success so far with Paper Not Foil? If not, what do you think led to your success so far with Paper Not Foil?

Systems and processes! WE HAD NONE at the beginning.

We’ve now have applied the best systems to scale. We are still learning and have a long way to go - however, I always think that your business practices and business model are a living document, constantly changing. If you don’t have the right tools to gauge and document progress - you will find it difficult to grow.

What advice would you give startups considering the hair industry?

Have a desire and interest for it - your customers will see through you if you don’t love the world of Hair.

Investigate the industry, your client and your competition. The hairdressing industry is creative and built on relationships. Get to know the stylist, brands and key people.

Ask questions as our industry is very cut and dry and will say it straight. You will know if they want what your selling or not.

You were one of three applicants to be selected for the first cohort of the Startup Dunedin Challenger Series (2019 applications open now).
Why did you apply for the Challenger Series?

We needed some help in different aspects of our business - systems, scaling and investment.

Did you find the Challenger Series useful? Why?

I look at what we have done in a year and it’s massive. Challenger allowed that to happen.

Absolutely! We couldn’t have rolled out international distribution contracts without the help and resources we were introduced to. There wasn’t a single person involved that didn’t give us help and allow us to tick our boxes. Such valuable networking also. Gosh - I look at what we have done in a year and it’s massive. Challenger allowed that to happen.

Is there a particular moment or part of Challenger you remember when you think back? Or a particular aspect you’ve spoken to other people about a lot?

Our mentor and the other contestants. We built lifetime friends, colleagues and support systems.

When you’re going through those highs and lows, sharing with people that are on the same journey and those that have had success/failure with startups makes everything feel more normal. We were very grateful for the group debriefs! Wine, laughs and tears is what gets you through being a startup.

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Would you recommend Challenger to other startup founders in Dunedin?

Absolutely. When starting up, more than likely, you do not have the skills to cover all parts of your startup. Why not be part of a programme that can give you the resources you need? One of the best things about the Challenger Series was if you needed help, you got it, if you didn’t, you were able to move on to the next thing. Support and freedom, the best of both worlds.

Could you tell us a little about the Paper Not Foil team?

We’ve pulled together skill sets required in different parts of our business and use that range of expertise to make informed decisions. The breakdown is as follows:

  • Me (Amanda) - Founder, education, marketing and sales - Front of house.

  • Rhys - Finance, marketing and Logistics - Behind the scenes.

  • Stephen - Chairman - Has been on many boards and has great governance experience. Behind the scenes.

  • Lynda - Governance - Systems and processes.

  • Jorja - Customer service/PA - Looking after our clients.

Do you plan on hiring for Paper Not Foil at some stage? Any ideas on what roles you’re looking to fill?

Yes - International Brand Manager, Marketing/Digital and Product Innovation! A lot of this will be contracted.

What would you be doing if you hadn’t founded Paper Not Foil?

I believe I would of changed something in our industry! I have managed salons, owned a salon and have been contracted as an educator in our industry, winning many education and creative awards.

Being heavily involved in our industry allowed me to see things I could do differently. I just didn’t know how to do it at the start. All in all, I love my industry and the people in it.

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Any big plans or achievements for 2019 that you can share with us?

YES! We secured distribution of PNF with AUS, UK, EUROPE and launching in June - the US.

We’re very proud but there’s a lot more work to do until we are smooth sailing. I don’t think you can ever learn enough.

Plug to the people - what action do you want our audience to take?

I would love for you all to tell my story and make your network of friends, family and hairdressers aware that there is an alternative on the market that not only they can purchase but they can recommend to their hairdresser.


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