In this entrepreneur interview, we talk with Stephen E. Baker, the founder of Greenline Paper Company.
His environmentally-friendly company is doing great. We were curious to hear more about what he's doing and some of the lessons he's learned as he has grown the business.
Stephen, tell us more about your current business. What are you doing?
Greenline Paper Company is an environmental products office supply company.
Most of our business is mail order from our catalog and website. We sell recycled office paper, toner and ink, compostable products, tissue & towel products, kitchen/restaurant supplies and organic foods.
We are dedicated to providing only earth-friendly and socially responsible products. We do not sell any virgin paper products.
When did you start the business?
We started in June 1992.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
I was in computer sales. This is my third business and certainly the most successful.
Where did you get the startup money?
I used about $5,000 of personal money.
Who are your main competitors? How do you compete against them?
The chain office supply stores are our main competition like Staples, Office Max, Corp. Express and the like.
We compete against them by being dedicated solely to environmental products which mean our ethical standards are more consistent with the products we sell. They will sell anything that sells, regardless of the products environmental impact.
As our company grows we will demand that more and better green product be made by the paper industry, as well as keep a close watch on their manufacturing processes to reduce pollution and global warming impacts.
How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
Everything in business is usually harder to do that you think. The paper industry is highly stratified in distribution layers, it's taken a long time to establish business relationships that work to keep us profitable and bring high-quality green products to consumers.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
It took us a number of years to figure out that there was more opportunity in the national marketplace as oppose to the local one. Once we open up that opportunity things started to go much better.
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?
Our national products catalog has brought a lot of credibility and prominence to the company. It is a lot of work producing it every two years but it helps our customers to see and understand our product line. Now the website is becoming a major ordering center at www.greenlinepaper.com
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Pick a product line that is lighter in weight than paper!
That's great advice. Thanks so much for sharing your entrepreneurial experience with us, and good luck in growing your business. For those of you who want to visit Stephen's firm, you can find them here: Greenline Paper Company, 631 S. Pine Street, York, PA 17403